Hundreds of active members of the NMI Retirement Fund trooped to the agency yesterday to submit applications to withdraw all their contributions.
As early as 9am yesterday, Fund staffers were swamped with the first batch of applicants, mostly from the Commonwealth Health Center.
The Fund started receiving refund applications yesterday and as of 3:46pm, a total of 327 applications have been taken and stamped by the agency. This effort is to terminate the defined benefit membership of the pension program.
Based on Fund records, there are an estimated 3,000 active members, or those in the defined contribution plan of the retirement system.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial recently signed into law Public Law 17-82, which addresses the many concerns of active members.
Under the new law, employees will be able to get back 25 percent of their contributions after deciding to withdraw within 30 days and the remaining 75 percent will be disbursed to them within 90 days.
In a visit at the Fund yesterday morning, applicants were assigned specific numbers where they can check the status of their applications from the agency's website. This way, staffers said unnecessary phone calls for check follow-ups will be eliminated.
Longtime government employee Glenn Dikito said he was relieved when the bill was finally enacted into law. Because of the ongoing uncertainties both at the government side and the Fund, he described his decision to take back all his contributions as the “wise” option to take at this time.
Dikito is an employee of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. for 21 years. He admitted to Saipan Tribune that he has no plan to transfer his monies to the Social Security Administration and would instead find other alternatives where he can put his hard-earned money to a safe investment.
A public safety officer for 25 years, James Bond Cruz, described the current status of the pension agency as “very scary” and admitted that he doesn't want to wait for the worst before withdrawing his money.
“This is my money and I need it now. With all that is happening in our broke government, it's very scary and I don't want to risk my investment because this is all that I have,” he told Saipan Tribune as he waited for his opportunity to be accommodated yesterday at the agency.
Cruz said he will use his money to pay some obligations and might put a portion of it to the Social Security Administration. The employee said he's estimating to receive about $90,000 in total contributions from the Fund.
Like the two employees, Margaret Prater was also grateful for the opportunity given to the active members to withdraw their contribution. Prater is an employee at the Northern Marianas College for the past 21 years. For many years that she contributed to the retirement system, she admitted that it was only at this time where she lost confidence on the program.
“If I will not get my money now, there is no assurance that I can get it in a later time considering the financial status of the Fund. The life of the program is very uncertain and I don't want to risk [my money]. Right now, I am still thinking where I can best put my money but certainly, I will be putting it to some investments,” she told Saipan Tribune.
Another police officer for 18 years and active member of the Fund expressed his relief upon signing of the new law.
“What's the use of putting our monies to the retirement program that can't give assurance of protection to members like us? It's better we get it back and make plans for ourselves,” the active member who wants to remain anonymous added.