AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Retired Texas school employees should have received their 13th check from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. The one-time supplemental check of up to $2,000 applies to all eligible members who are retired as of the end of 2018.
“We feel very grateful to the legislature for making that possible,” TRS Executive Director Brian Guthrie said. “They made changes to the contribution rate this last legislative session that made that possible. They also provided the funding for that 13th check, so we’re very grateful for what they’ve done and our members are very grateful for receiving the check.”
Senate Bill 12 increases state contributions to the Teacher Retirement System over the next five years. The goal is to pay off debt and make the pension fund financially healthy.
The Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers says it surveyed 1,154 retired school employees between August 18 and Sept. 13 about the supplemental check. According to the group, about three in 10 retirees are using the funds to cover outstanding credit card debt, one in four are spending it on medical debt, more than one in five are paying for home repairs and around one in five are putting it towards doctor visits. Responses generated by the survey point to a need in a cost-of-living adjustment, Texas AFT says.
Guthrie says in order to provide a benefit enhancement, it must be funded and the system needs to be actuarially sound. That’s what happened with the supplemental check during the 86th Legislature.
“I think that moving ahead, the legislature really did address the pension fund this session,” he said. “I think next session, we’ll be talking about healthcare again.”
TRS administers two healthcare programs – one for active members and for retirees.
“That retiree healthcare program is an ongoing issue that we have talked with the legislature about over the course of the last decade and I think we’ll continue to have those conversations next session,” he added.