WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: Multiemployer Pension Plan Provisions a Necessary Component of COVID-19 Relief Package

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As the Senate prepares to vote on the parliamentarian-approved COVID-19 relief package, the need to address multiemployer pension plan failure is clear. COVID-19 exacerbated the multiemployer pension plan system’s funding problems, and there is broad agreement it must be addressed now for the sake of struggling small businesses, essential workers, and seniors.

Stakeholders support the multiemployer pension plan provisions:

“Hundreds of employers are facing bankruptcy and cannot contribute to multiemployer pension funds; employees have lost their jobs; and the sharp drop in interest rates hit plans hard. Senior citizens and essential workers are disproportionately impacted by both the effects of the coronavirus and the multiemployer pension crisis. As the United States looks to reopen and rebuild, maintaining the solvency of the multiemployer pension system will be key to economic recovery.” – International Brotherhood of Teamsters general president James P. Hoffa

“Multiemployer pension plans generally receive contributions based on the hours worked, so as hardworking Americans are unemployed, more employers are no longer contributing to pension plans. These lost employer contributions are devastating for all pension plans, but particularly for those plans in financial distress. […] Most employers in the multiemployer system are small businesses and the pandemic will continue to hurt their finances and their multiemployer pension plans.” – Executive Director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans Michael D. Scott

“As employers struggle to survive the pandemic, the adverse effects of the multiemployer crisis increase their obstacles for hiring and prospects for a strong recovery. […] Government-mandated lockdowns have impacted plans in the retail, entertainment, and food services industries. As plans have become more reliant on employer contributions (because of their funding status), the negative impacts from the pandemic are even more detrimental to their outlook. […] Allowing the system to fail will create disastrous economic outcomes. At least $20 billion will be lost annually in federal tax revenues and safety net spending, far exceeding the cost of the proposed relief.” – March 2, 2021 letter from more than 50 employers, including small businesses and national brands, to Senate leadership

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the decline of multiemployer pension plans by lowering interest rates and mandating work stoppages. […] These blue-collar workers showed up to keep grocery stores and delivery routes running during the most difficult moments of the last year, and now Congress must follow through and show up for them.” – Retirement Security Coalition

Democratic lawmakers support the multiemployer pension plan provisions:

“I’m pleased our pension protection package will remain in the critical relief bill. This economic crisis has hit already struggling pension plans like a wrecking ball, and the retirement security of millions of American workers depends on getting this package across the finish line.” – Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

“We thought going through reconciliation makes the most sense. It is, in our minds, very eligible, very relevant to this process of reconciliation because the system’s gotten much worse because of COVID. […] The whole system collapses. It won’t just be retirees who feel the pain. Current workers will be stuck paying into pensions they’ll never receive. Small businesses will be left drowning in pension liability they can’t afford to pay, workers will lose jobs, and businesses will be forced to close up shop.” – Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio

“We cannot allow more than a million men and women to lose their hard-earned savings when we have the ability to stabilize these plans.” – House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal, D-Mass.

Retirees’ livelihoods depend on the multiemployer pension plan provisions:

“Me, I’m pretty broken down physically, I’d hate to go back on the road, if anyone would even have me. But if it’s that or starve … what am I gonna do?” – Tim Chmil, a retired truck driver in New York who’s taken to collecting cans on the side of the road for money after his benefits were cut by well over 50 percent

“We know a lot of people who are not able to buy their medications, that are losing their homes. I actually worry about losing my home.” – Laura Caporino, wife of retired truck driver whose pension benefits have been cut by 70 percent

“With a cut in our pensions, you’re talking schools, churches, local businesses … if we don’t have money, we can’t support them.” – Hoyt, retired truck driver from Detroit

“My case is particularly hurtful because I was diagnosed with lung cancer in August of last year and was operated on, and large medical bills put me in danger of having to file bankruptcy and losing my home. This affects not only me, but nationwide and in Tennessee … but it’s hard for me to pay my medical bills, high blood pressure medicine, and pay my rent if I lose any more of my pension.” – Michael, retiree from Memphis