After Years-Long Push, Brown Working to Secure Important Pension Win in COVID-19 Rescue Package Failure to Save These Pension Plans Would Have Drastic Consequences for Ohio Retirees, Workers, Small Businesses and Taxpayers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 4, 2021 – In a letter to Congressional leaders this week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s (D-OH) efforts to save multi-employer pension plans in the COVID-19 rescue package currently coming together in Congress. Earlier this week, Brown formally reintroduced the Butch Lewis Act, which builds on his years-long fight alongside Ohio retirees, workers and small businesses to save multiemployer pension plans. Brown is pushing for a version of the bill to be included in the COVID-19 rescue plan. The failure of these plans would have drastic consequences for the country’s economy, especially amid the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yesterday, Brown took to the Senate floor to underscore the need for a pension fix in the COVID rescue package. And a Toledo Blade editorial called Brown’s fix “a lifeline to faltering the multiemployer pension funds.”
· Read the letter from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce HERE.
“It is wrong to assume that because the multiemployer crisis began before COVID-19 it is unrelated to or immune from the effects of the pandemic. The economic drag on plans, employers, and workers is profound. If Congress’ priority is to strengthen the confidence of retirees, small businesses, and essential workers during these uncertain times, then it should pass multiemployer relief without further delay. To do otherwise would make the solution more expensive and more complex. We urge Congress to pass the multiemployer pension relief in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and support the more than 200,000 businesses and 10.9 million workers and retirees that contribute to, and rely on, the multiemployer pension system,” writes the Chamber of Commerce.
Specifically, Brown’s Butch Lewis Act would:
· Keep multiemployer pension plans solvent and well-funded for thirty years—with no cuts to the earned benefits of participants and beneficiaries;
· Restore full benefits for retirees in plans that previously had to take cuts and increase the maximum Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) insurance amount; and
· Require each plan that receives assistance to file regular status reports with the PBGC and Congressional Committees, in order to prevent recurrence and to protect retirees’ benefits.
Brown has led efforts to secure these pensions for Ohioans, touring the state pre-pandemic to stand with Ohio retirees and workers and co-chairing a Congressional Committee on the pension crisis in Columbus in 2018.
Last December, Brown stressed the need to include a multi-employer pensions fix in COVID-19 relief following the release of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s (PBGC) annual report. The report underscores why it’s critical that Congress act to solve the multiemployer pension crisis. According to the report, the Multiemployer Program remains severely underfunded with liabilities of more than $66 billion and only little more than $3 billion in assets. The PBGC is the arm of the federal government that insures pension plans, and the Multiemployer Program is highly likely to become insolvent by 2026 at the latest.
In August, Brown took to the Senate floor to call on his Senate colleagues to take swift action on behalf of more than a million American workers and retirees who are in danger of losing the pensions they’ve earned.
More on the Pension Crisis:
The pension crisis threatens the retirement of more than 1-1.5 million workers and retirees nationwide and could put small businesses across the country in jeopardy. These truck drivers, carpenters, bakers and others worked hard all their lives and gave up raises at the bargaining table in order to put that money toward retirement for themselves and their families. Now that retirement is at risk.
Numerous pension plans, including the Central States Pension Plan, the Bakers and Confectioners Pension Plan, and more are at risk of failure. Several other plans have already had to cut benefits. If nothing is done to help the plans, they will fail and retirees will face massive cuts to the benefits they earned over decades of work.
If the plans are allowed to fail, not only will they no longer be able to pay promised benefits, but taxpayers and small businesses would be at risk of having to pay billions because the PBGC would be on the hook for billions of dollars it cannot pay.
There are several causes for this crisis, including the fact that the economic collapse of 2008 devastated these plans and the people who depend on them. These retirees and workers who have done everything right did not cause this crisis, and Congress must not turn its back on them.