Welcome to the latest edition of This Week in Pensions!  We have gathered this week’s top stories about pensions and retirement security all in one place. This is the news you need to know in the fight for a secure retirement.

In Case You Missed It…

It’s been quite a year for public pensions. Check out our newest blog, Year-End Review: Assessing the Evolving Pension Landscape, to catch up on the top pension developments of 2023 and get a leg up on what to expect in 2024. 

From Alaska to North Dakota and several places in between, the pension landscape in America experienced several major shifts, but what does that mean for the year to come? Read more here

Public Services in Alaska Continue to Wane

Alaska’s public staffing crisis continues to take its toll on state residents. A lack of workers to issue building permits in Anchorage has created a backlog, delaying homebuilders in the state’s most populous region. Anchorage’s permit division has been operating with only four of eight positions filled and is anticipating the departure of another employee before the end of the year. The backlog, which has been ongoing and slowing economic activity for months, is only expected to grow worse when building season gets busier in the spring. 

Vulnerable residents across Alaska are also dealing with a backlog and delay in receiving SNAP benefits again. This time last year, Alaskans were waiting up to three months to start receiving critical assistance from the short-staffed Alaska Division of Public Assistance (DPA). After initial progress earlier this year, the department is once again experiencing significant delays in benefit review and disbursement to more than 12,000 residents in need. Heidi Drygas, director of ASEA/AFSCME Local 52, the union that represents DPA employees, said, “We advocated to the department to increase pay and benefits, work on improving recruitment and retention strategies and just generally trying to treat employees with more respect,” she said. “What the department and the division ended up doing is something that seems to be this administration’s playbook: They contracted out 75 positions outside of Alaska.” One DPA employee spoke to the Alaska Beacon, saying, “We’re getting desperate. And we’re pushing people through training too quickly so that they’re not able to grasp the concept of certain policies and they’re screwing up on cases… people are going without benefits because of it.”

IBM’s Switch to Defined-Benefit Still Making Waves

When IBM announced a decision earlier this month to end its 401(k) match and move employees into a defined-benefit retirement plan, the company made a big splash in retirement news. The corporate giant’s 2006 decision to ditch pensions for employee-managed 401(k)s was a bellwether for private-sector pensions, launching the decline of corporate pension plans everywhere. IBM’s new retirement redevelopment was due in part to employee demand but is also a fiscally intelligent move for the company. As news of the decision continues to resonate, the consensus that employee sentiment lies heavily in favor of secure, defined-benefit retirement options continues to grow, signaling a major shift. For more about this, check out our in-depth look at IBM’s decision to return to DB

Reason Foundation Takes Another Swing at Public Pensions

The Reason Foundation, notable pension opponents, came out swinging against public pensions this week, with an article that recycled the tired, old, opposition-developed “sky is falling” myth. We continue to monitor Reason and their relentless attacks on public pensions. The Reason doom and gloom is in direct contrast to a Pew report released last month stating that “no state is at risk of insolvency and the majority have stabilized their pension debt.” 

Be sure to check back next Friday for the latest in the fight for a secure retirement! For now, sign up for NPPC News Clips to receive daily pension news from across the country directly to your inbox.