6,700 Pennsylvanian Workers and Retirees Keep their Pensions Thanks to Biden’s American Rescue Plan

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., speaks at a rally by federal workers at the Philadelphia International Airport to end the government shutdown, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

By Sean Kitchen

July 5, 2023

“The promise of a pension is a promise we’re supposed to keep,” Sen. Bob Casey said in a statement. “Thousands of Pennsylvania steelworkers and auto workers can rest easy knowing that the benefits they’re owed will be waiting for them when they retire.”

Roughly 6,700 Pennsylvania workers and retirees will have their pensions protected thanks to funds from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Sen. Bob Casey announced last week. 

Most of those impacted are members of the United Steelworker (USW) and United Auto Workers (UAW).  

“The promise of a pension is a promise we’re supposed to keep,” Casey said in a statement. “Thousands of Pennsylvania steelworkers and auto workers can rest easy knowing that the benefits they’re owed will be waiting for them when they retire.”

A press release issued by Casey’s office stated that the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)—a federal agency tasked with protecting the retirement incomes of more than 33 million Americans in private sector defined pension plans—announced $860 million in relief to the National Integrated Group Pension Plan (NIGPP). The funds will benefit more than 48,000 workers nationally.

According to the PBGC’s press release, the NIGPP is based in Scranton and covers workers in the manufacturing industry. The plan was set to run out of money by 2034. But thanks to the infusion of funds from the American Rescue Plan, which became law in 2021, those workers’ pensions are now safe.

“These 48,254 manufacturing workers went to work with the promise of a pension when they retired. Today, the Biden-Harris Administration has fulfilled that promise,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security Lisa M. Gomez.

Prior to the passage of the American Rescue Plan, the PBGC was projected to become insolvent by 2026. But thanks to funding from the  law, the PBGC created a Special Financial Assistance Program, which will allow the agency to remain solvent through 2051. 

The PBGC states the program will provide an estimated $74 to $91 billion in assistance to allow eligible multiemployer plans to pay retirement benefits without reductions, protecting the pensions of two to three million workers and retirees who would otherwise face cuts to their pensions during this time. 

US Rep. Susan Wild (D-Lehigh) called the American Rescue Plan’s Special Financial Assistance Program—also known as the Butch Lewis Act— a “victory for working people.” 

Wild went on to honor Butch Lewis, a Teamster and truck driver who faced cuts to his pension and became a leader in protecting pensions for workers around the country.  

The Butch Lewis Act was a provision added to the American Rescue Plan that helps fund struggling multiemployer pension plans and it is responsible for saving the pensions of hundreds of thousands of workers around the country, including tens of thousands in Pennsylvania.

“It’s thanks to his advocacy, and the advocacy of countless more workers – who, when told that their pensions wouldn’t be what they had expected and what they had earned, stood up and said ‘hell no,’” Wild said.

Author

  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.

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