Every person deserves to retire with dignity and receive the benefits they earned through their years of hard work. Pensions are critical to the economic security of many retired workers and their families, who depend on these benefits to pay their housing and living expenses, medical bills and so much more. These benefits can mean the difference between a secure, well-earned retirement and, in many cases, poverty.
I know firsthand how important a pension can be to someone in retirement. My father was a union laborer for almost 45 years before retiring. His pension provided him a secure retirement free of worry, and that pension today still provides my mother that same security.
Today, I joined President Biden in Cleveland to announce the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s final rule implementing the American Rescue Plan’s Special Financial Assistance Program. This program represents the most substantial policy in almost 50 years to protect the millions of workers, retirees and their families served by our nation's multiemployer pension plans.
Before the American Rescue Plan, a wave of multiemployer pension plans were projected to become insolvent and leave millions of America’s workers without their full pension benefits. These were benefits their unions bargained for, and they earned. It was a deeply unfair and tragic situation that was going to leave these retirees and their families facing significant cuts to their pensions.
I’ve met with retirees and family members who have already experienced benefit cuts, and I know this program will change their lives. For the first time, these retirees who – through no fault of their own – had their pension benefits cut will have those benefits reinstated. For the next three decades, workers and retirees in plans who get help from this program are expected to receive full payment of their pension benefits.
As chair of the PBGC’s board of directors, I am proud that today’s rulemaking will increase retirement security for America’s workers and their families. The final rule includes changes that consider the comments received on the interim final rule, which was released last year. In particular, the rulemaking significantly improves plans’ ability to remain solvent and to be able to pay pension benefits through 2051.
Members and beneficiaries of these plans have been fighting for years for the benefits they have earned, and President Biden has made it a priority to stand with them and address the problem. The rulemaking is another milestone in the administration’s efforts to promote retirement security – and to help plans keep their promises to workers and retirees.
Marty Walsh is the U.S. Secretary of Labor.