House Democrats to Introduce Legislation to Protect Retirees’ Pensions Amid COVID-19 Crisis

January 20, 2021
Press Release

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC  Tomorrow, House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-1), Congresswoman Haley Stevens (MI-11), and Congressman Joe Morelle (NY-25) will introduce legislation to shield workers, retirees, employers, and taxpayers from the devastating consequences of the multiemployer pension crisis. The Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 (EPPRA) would prevent the imminent collapse of failing multiemployer plans and fully protect the hard-earned retirement benefits of more than one million Americans.

“Through no fault of their own, more than a million Americans—truckers, construction workers, industrial bakers, grocery store workers, and others—are in danger of losing everything they worked so hard to save.  Participating employers are already being hurt by this crisis,” said Chairman Scott. “Time is running out for Congress to act. That is why the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act is among the first bills I am introducing this Congress. I will keep fighting for a solution to the multiemployer pension crisis that fully protects retirees’ benefits. Doing nothing is the worst and most expensive option on the table.”

Many multiemployer pension plans are rapidly running out of money to pay the benefits owed to retirees. Worse still, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), which insures private sector pension plans, is on the brink of collapse. If left unaddressed, this crisis could nearly eliminate retirees’ pensions, devastate active workers and employers, and cost taxpayers over a hundred billion dollars. According to one estimate, the collapse of the multiemployer pension system would cost the federal government at least $170 billion over ten years in lost tax revenue and increased spending on social programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic is threatening to further exacerbate the multiemployer pension crisis as some failing plans cover delivery workers, grocery store workers, and other essential workers. 

“I participated in the multiemployer pension system for 37 years, as both a rank-and-file worker and a negotiator. I know that millions of workers have earned their pensions and deserve safe, secure retirements,” said Congressman Norcross. “Pensions are deferred wages that are relied upon, especially during this pandemic, allowing people to pay their bills and put food on the table. We need to be there for the millions of workers who followed the rules, did their part and earned their pensions – that’s why I’m joining Chairman Scott in introducing the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act. There is too high a cost to do nothing – we must act to support our workers and retirees.”

“Without Congressional action, over one million Americans are at risk of losing their hard-earned pensions,” said Congresswoman Stevens. “The Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act will address the multi-employer pension crisis once and for all, protecting retirement benefits for thousands of Michiganders while saving taxpayers billions of dollars in the long run. I am thrilled to join Chairman Scott and Representatives Norcross and Morelle to introduce this bill, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

“Americans should never have to live in fear that their hard-earned retirement benefits could slip away,” said Congressman Morelle. “Especially in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis, we must take action to safeguard the essential benefits workers and their families deserve. I’m grateful to Chairman Scott for prioritizing this important legislation and look forward to working alongside my colleagues to restore peace of mind for older Americans everywhere.”

The EPPRA would provide urgent relief for failing multiemployer plans and stabilize other multiemployer and single employer plans to help them endure the COVID-19 public health crisis.  The legislation also includes two key priorities: (1) repealing part of the regressive law enabling multiemployer plans to apply to cut participants’ hard-earned benefits and (2) doubling the guarantee for participants in multiemployer plans. 

For a fact sheet on the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, click here.

For a section-by-section of the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, click here.

For the bill text of the Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021, click here

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