The COVID-19 pandemic has blunted the momentum that association retirement plan stakeholders had cultivated in recent months, but efforts persist.
"It's tough when businesses are applying for a loan to keep the lights on to be starting a new benefits program at the same time," said Brian Williams, founder and president of Northshire Consulting LLC, an investment advisory firm in Southington, Conn.
In late February, the Southington Chamber of Commerce launched an association retirement plan with Northshire Consulting serving as plan adviser with 3(38) fiduciary responsibilities. Two businesses, including the Southington Chamber itself, enrolled in the program upon its launch when Mr. Williams went to the other roughly 300 member businesses to educate and solicit sign-ups.
Mr. Williams met with some local restaurant owners shortly after the launch and all signs pointed to a few more businesses enrolling in the plan, which offers participants 22 investment funds and 12 target-date funds. The plan currently has zero assets; the two businesses enrolled, the other being a home health-care provider, didn't have retirement plans previously and will make their first payroll deductions later this month.
Then the shutdown orders came.
"There was a lot of interest there but the next week they're laying off employees and their dining rooms are shut down," Mr. Williams said.