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Meier: Treasurer’s Office tackles challenges from pandemic

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These are challenging times for all of us across the United States and in Wyoming. During the past six weeks, we have seen numerous businesses close their doors at least temporarily, thousands of employees furloughed and citizens hunkering down to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

At the Wyoming Treasurer’s Office, we have been following Gov. Mark Gordon’s guidelines to continue performing our normal duties while allowing as many individuals as possible to telework. We only have a handful of people in the office each day with the majority staying at home to work.

All the while, the state’s bills are being paid, checks continue to get deposited and all of our investments are being monitored and adjusted as needed. It may not be business as usual, but the results are the same.

Speaking of investments, the financial impact of the pandemic on a global scale has been widely reported. Most stocks have dropped during this time, with some funds losing more than 30 percent of their value in a short period of time. While Wyoming’s investments have also taken a hit, changes to the state’s in-house investments and the reallocation of funds to different managers at the end of 2019 helped keep these losses to a minimum. Preliminary numbers for the state show Wyoming’s portfolio lost 6.25 percent for the first quarter that ended March 31. By comparison, the Russell 2000 Small Cap Index dropped more than 30 percent, international equities were down about 23 percent and the S&P Large Cap was off nearly 20 percent.

As a result, Wyoming outperformed the benchmark by 200 basis points. If the state’s investments had mirrored the benchmark, Wyoming would have lost an additional $400 million.

I would like to commend our Chief Investment Officer, Patrick Fleming, for the job he and his team have done. Not only have they minimized the financial losses during this time, but we are also poised to recoup those losses once things get back to “normal.”

Our Unclaimed Property Division also remains open and has been busy processing claims and issuing checks to those coming forward to claim their money.

Did you know there is more than $91 million belonging to Wyoming residents, businesses and former residents currently being held by Wyoming’s Unclaimed Property Division? I would strongly encourage everyone reading this to go to www.mycash.wyo.gov and search the website to see if you are entitled to any of this money. Search for any names you may have had through the years – some of this money goes back to the 1980s and is just sitting there waiting for the rightful owner or heir to claim it.

Our office and the State Loan and Investment Board are trying to help local financial institutions with the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. We are also in the process of rolling out a new program to provide banks with additional funds, but nothing is definitive at this time.

Finally, I would like to update you on the Transportation and Infrastructure Task Force Gov. Gordon has put me in charge of in response to the pandemic.

This group has done a remarkable job. As a result of its efforts, the Governor has followed recommendations to issue executive orders on waiving size and weight permits, as well as providing an extension on driver’s license renewals.

The task force includes numerous experts in their fields, each one volunteering many hours during this time of need. I’d like to personally thank all of those who have helped from the Governor’s Office, Treasurer’s Office, Department of Transportation, Office of Homeland Security, Wyoming Trucking Association, Associated General Contractors of Wyoming, Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, Wyoming Airport Operators Association, the Nature Conservancy and the Wyoming Association of Rural Water Systems.

Extra thanks to all of those who have ensured the delivery of critical supplies – making special provisions such as expedited processing through Ports of Entry as well as ensuring transport during road closures. WYDOT has also made sure that COVID-19 test samples from around the state make it back to Cheyenne safely and in a timely manner. Their efforts are greatly appreciated.

While we have been confronted with some very difficult challenges, I believe there is hope for a bright future – one that is not far in the distance. I appreciate everyone’s resolve during this time and want all Wyoming citizens to know our office will continue to work hard for you. We are all in this together.

Wyoming Treasurer Curt Meier is a Goshen County native and previously served 24 years in the Wyoming Senate.

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