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A Look Back at Pandemic Year Two: A Message from Treasurer Read

A Look Back at Pandemic Year Two: A Message from Treasurer Read

 Content Editor

January 27, 2022

Photo of Tobias Read, Oregon State Treasurer

Approaching the end of 2021, it was hard to avoid news of omicron variant and the continuing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, and easy to forget about anything not pandemic-related that happened throughout the year. But it’s worth taking some time to dwell on the positive—the successes and improvements the Oregon State Treasury team oversaw last year, and the momentum we’re taking into 2022.

Here are a few projects that come to mind:

A successful transition of Oregon’s Unclaimed Property Program to Treasury. This was a huge lift by a large team of employees from two state agencies—Treasury and Department of State Lands. But the work paid off with a seamless transition in July 2021 and impressive performance from our new team members out the gate. In the first six months of the program at Treasury, our Unclaimed Property Team returned more than $13 million to Oregonians. Over $80 million was reported in unclaimed property this fall—a record amount. Check to see if you have unclaimed funds here:

OregonSaves moves to a new provider. More behind the scenes work from our dedicated Oregon Treasury Savings Network team. This move will help improve the experience of employers and employees alike and was a successful next step after savers in the program reached a huge milestone—$100 million saved! —in April 2021. (Spoiler alert for next year’s message: we reached $150 million in early January 2022.)

Improving the materials that we provide on our investment portfolios. We heard from many Oregonians in 2021 concerned about our investments in coal, oil, and natural gas companies. Treasury is invested in these sectors. They represent a small percentage of our portfolio, and we use our seat at the investors’ table to push for change in board governance and reporting. But we know the fact that we’re invested at all is objectionable to some given the already devastating effects climate change is having in Oregon and beyond. Our fiduciary responsibility is to members of the Public Employees Retirement System—it’s their money and our job to manage it in a way that provides for a secure retirement. As we manage funds in a way that reflects the ongoing energy transition, in December we provided more details about our public portfolio and will provide updates annually along with the publication of Oregon’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

Continued support for state and local governments. The financial services we provide to state and local governments are critical, no-fail operations. We continued to our efforts to modernize processes like Electronic Funds Transfers and to build resiliency related to staffing and technology. In April 2021, we also completed a $620 million bond sale plus bond refinancing that will save the state millions of dollars.

The launch of new projects to advance financial education and empowerment. In 2021, we announced a new effort to recognize people and groups making a difference to Oregonians’ financial security via new annual financial empowerment awards. We also awarded our first Diversity in Leadership scholarships through the Oregon College Savings Plan and Oregon ABLE partnered with the state of Hawaii on that state’s new savings program for disabled individuals. Last but not least, we supported the push to slow the spread of COVID with $100,000 in higher education scholarships for young people who got vaccinated.

Nearing completion on a new, resilient Treasury headquarters. In the spring of 2022, Treasury will move to our new headquarters in Salem, which was built to ensure continuity of operations in the event of an emergency – such as a 9.0 seismic event, severe power outages, or ash from wildfires, to name a few. We’re excited about the many features this building will provide Treasury, now and in the future.

My team stayed busy in 2021, with tireless focus on doing our work consistently well on behalf of all Oregonians. I’m proud of their efforts and dedication and most of all their stamina as the pandemic continued to affect us all. As we look ahead to 2022, even with all the ongoing uncertainty from COVID, I know we’ll continue to prioritize our programs and services for Oregonians.

Tobias Read
Oregon State Treasurer

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