States Gather to Address Retirement Savings Coverage Gap After Congress Passes SECURE Act

Ruth McBain
(202) 687-4327

Illinois State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs recognized for leadership in helping meet the needs of workers without access to employer-sponsored retirement savings plans

Miami, FL, January 23, 2020 — Representatives of states and cities joined with industry experts at the 2020 State-Facilitated Retirement Savings Program Network (SRSPN) Annual Conference, hosted by the Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives (CRI), just weeks after Congress passed the SECURE Act and amid continued state legislative efforts to expand access to retirement savings.

Ten states and the City of Seattle have adopted new retirement savings programs for workers, with many more states creating task forces to study potential solutions or actively considering legislation. Oregon and Illinois alone have more than 100,000 accounts with more than $65 million in assets through their new plans. Rapid nationwide growth of these state-based accounts is forecast for 2020, with California’s plan recently launched in July 2019 and more to follow.

Some estimates suggest that the SECURE Act has the potential to initially add at least 700,000 new retirement savers. The legislation passed with little opposition and was signed into law on December 20, 2019. It incorporates meaningful but modest improvements that facilitate increased adoption of employer retirement plans and gives retirement savers greater flexibility in managing their savings.

“The SECURE Act helps, but with as many as 50 million workers lacking access to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan, the states remain critical to closing the coverage gap,” said Angela M. Antonelli, the Center’s executive director. “Individuals at small- and mid-sized employers in particular need more solutions that make saving easier.”

The conference recognized the work that state leaders have done to improve access to retirement savings. One of the pioneers in those efforts, Illinois State Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs, received the 2020 Distinguished State Leader Award from the Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives. The recognition cites the success of Illinois Secure Choice, a statewide retirement savings program that already has almost 50,000 new savers and more than $14 million in savings in just 14 months.

“Treasurer Frerichs advocated for Illinois Secure Choice as a state senator and implemented it as state treasurer. His leadership has been felt nationwide in the effort to expand retirement savings for all Americans,” said Antonelli. “Treasurer Frerichs’s prior success with multi-state collaboration for parents of disabled children as part of the ABLE program serves as a model as more states seek to improve retirement security.”

The Illinois program launched in November 2018 and now has 5,200 participating employers. It includes an automatic IRA provision that facilitates setting aside a portion of each paycheck in a savings account that the worker owns and controls.

“I’m honored to receive the inaugural State Leader Award from the Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives,” Treasurer Frerichs said in accepting the award. “Illinois Secure Choice and other state-facilitated programs will give millions of workers the ability to easily save their own money, into their own IRAs, through automatic payroll contributions. These programs limit the role and responsibility of employers and ensure a better and more financially secure retirement for hard-working people in Illinois and across the country.”

State and federal efforts to close the coverage gap are expected to continue throughout 2020. Topics explored at the Georgetown CRI states meeting included opportunities for inter-state collaboration and best practices and lessons learned in establishing these innovative retirement savings programs.


About the Georgetown University Center for Retirement Initiatives

The Center for Retirement Initiatives is a research center of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, one of the top-ranked public policy programs in the nation. Through its academic reputation and ability to engage with policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders, the McCourt School attracts world-class scholars and students who have become leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

The Center makes its research reports publicly available on its website at For additional information or media requests related to this meeting or the Center’s work, contact Ruth McBain at (202) 687-4327 or

About the Illinois Treasurer

As Illinois State Treasurer, Michael W. Frerichs is the state’s Chief Investment and Banking Officer and actively manages approximately $30 billion. The portfolio includes $13 billion in state funds, $11 billion in college savings plans, and $6 billion on behalf of local and state governments. The investment approach is cautious to ensure the preservation of capital and returns $42 to the state for every $1 spent in operations. Frerichs’s office protects consumers by safeguarding more than $3 billion in unclaimed property, encouraging savings plans for college or trade school, increasing financial education among all ages, assisting people with disabilities save without losing government benefits, and removing barriers to a secure retirement. The Treasurer’s Office predates Illinois incorporation in 1818. Voters chose to make it an elected office in 1848.