Poll: State and Local Government Employees Have Serious Concerns about Their Safety, Finances and Job Outlook

Despite Concerns, 61 Percent of Employees Value Serving Their Community During This Difficult Time, According to a New National Poll from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence and ICMA-RC

Center for State and Local Government Excellence

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to present many challenges to state and local governments, a new national poll reveals that public employees are deeply worried about their personal safety, family finances, losing their job, furloughs, and pay and benefit reductions.

Despite their concerns, the research finds that public employees value serving their communities during this difficult time and feel that working in the public sector during the pandemic is a source of pride.

These findings are contained in a new national poll recently conducted by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence and ICMA-RC. The research, Public Sector Employee Views on Finances and Employment Outlook Due to COVID-19, is available here. A supporting infographic summarizing the research is available here.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., the critical role that more than 19 million state and local government workers play has never been so visible and important. Workers like emergency medical technicians, nurses, public safety personnel, public health professionals, and teachers have kept the country running in person and virtually,” said Rivka Liss-Levinson, PhD, SLGE director of research and report author.

“As economies reopen and COVID-19 cases potentially spike in many states, it is imperative that state and local governments have a resilient workforce that can respond to these unprecedented and lingering challenges,” she explained “Already, we are seeing concerns that, if not addressed, could drive workers out of the public sector. We hope this research serves as a valuable tool for policymakers and stakeholders to support these essential workers.”

“As part of ICMA-RC’s dedication to providing the best retirement and financial wellness services for those incredible public servants who serve their communities, it is concerning that nearly 30 percent of respondents who are on the frontlines reported they are expecting to reduce the amount they are saving for retirement due to COVID-19,” said Orlando Cruz, ICMA-RC senior vice president. “Providing education, advice, and guidance is more important than ever, and we continue to evolve to meet the changing retirement saving challenges of those who serve our communities.”

Key survey findings are summarized below.

  • 83 percent of state and local public employees are concerned about keeping their family safe from contracting the virus, while 80 percent are concerned about contracting the virus at work.
  • 56 percent report that they and their family already have been negatively impacted financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the next year, 59 percent expect they will spend less than normal, and 26 percent expect they will reduce the amount they are currently saving for retirement.
  • About half of public employees are concerned about furloughs, pay and benefit reductions. Some 40 percent are concerned about losing their jobs at a time when state and local governments already were facing steep workforce challenges.
  • The vast majority of public employees (85 percent) agree that the pandemic has changed the nature of their work, with 74 percent now reporting at least some remote work and 70 percent saying that their job is at least somewhat risky in terms of their potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • 61 percent of public employees agree that they value serving their community during this difficult time.

The research is based upon a survey of 1,008 full-time state and local government employees. conducted by Greenwald & Associates from May 4 through May 20, 2020. The final data were weighted by gender, age, household income, and industry type to reflect the distribution of the state and local government workforce as found in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

The Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) helps local and state governments become knowledgeable and competitive employers so they can attract and retain a talented and committed workforce. SLGE identifies leading practices and conducts research on public retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, and labor force development. SLGE brings state and local leaders together with respected researchers.

Founded in 1972, ICMA-RC is a non-profit, independent financial services corporation with approximately $53 billion in assets under management and administration (as of March 31, 2020), focused on providing retirement plans and related services for over a million public sector participant accounts. ICMA-RC’s mission is to help public sector employees build retirement security. The organization’s mission is delivered through its RealizeRetirement® approach in which ICMA-RC representatives actively engage participants in their retirement programs, help them build their asset base, and help them realize their retirement goals through a comprehensive retirement planning strategy.

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