Senator Says Pension Fix Will Bolster Retirement Security for More Than 1 Million Americans

WASHINGTON, D.C. [3/6/21]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed by the Senate today includes a key measure to bolster the solvency of the multiemployer pension system and prevent drastic cuts to pensions earned by more than 22,000 Minnesotans. The measure passed today stems from Sen. Smith’s years-long push to help the more than 1 million workers and retirees nationwide—including more than 22,000 Minnesotans—who had been facing deep cuts to their hard-earned pensions.

Sen. Smith said without the action from Congress, the more than 22,000 Minnesotans who paid into Central States Pension Fund, as well as a total of more than 1 million retirees nationwide who are part of various multi-employer pension funds, would have seen their pensions drastically cut, in some cases by up to 90%. The relief plan, passed Saturday, will help ensure that pension benefits for workers and their families will be fully protected and workers can enjoy the retirements they earned.

“The economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic hit already-struggling pension plans hard and threatened to upend retirement security for 22,000 hard-working Minnesotans who are part of the Central States Pension Fund. These workers put in long hours for many years, and were promised that when they retired, the pension funds that they paid into during their working years would be there for them,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Labor and Pensions Committee. “The COVID-19 relief package which passed today will not only help ensure that they have the secure retirement they’ve earned, but also that we shore up pension systems across the country that millions of working Americans rely upon.”

Senator Smith said the relief package would provide about $80 billion in direct assistance to more than 100 financially struggling pension plans through the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp (PBGC), which provides a safety net for the nation’s pension plans.

In 2018, Sen. Smith was one of just eight Senators named to a bipartisan committee on pension solvency, where she worked with Minnesota retirees to fix the struggling Central States fund and to improve the solvency of multiemployer pension funds across the country. She was also a key supporter of the Butch Lewis Act, a measure aimed at protecting the pensions of retirees in Minnesota and across the country. The pension fix passed Saturday was based on that legislation. After Senate passage Saturday, the rescue plan will be sent to the House, before it goes to President Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.