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President Joe Biden will visit Cleveland to announce final American Rescue Plan fix for troubled multi-employer pension plans

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WASHINGTON, D. C. — President Joe Biden will visit Iron Workers Local 17 Training Center in Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon to reveal the final details of an American Rescue Plan fix for multi-employer pension plans that will help roughly 1.3 million workers and retirees avoid benefit cuts as steep as 70 percent.

Biden will be joined by union retirees, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, White House American Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, among others, as he describes how the American Rescue Plan’s Special Financial Assistance program will keep more than 200 troubled pension plans from becoming insolvent.

An estimated 100,000 Ohioans participate in affected pension systems that cover pools of union members who work for different companies in industries like trucking, mining and construction. They include the Teamsters Central States Fund, the Iron Workers union and others for carpenters, bakers, confectioners, and musicians for performing arts organizations, including the Cleveland Orchestra, Playhouse Square Foundation, Great Lakes Theatre Festival and the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra.

The pension plans ran into trouble when their investments took a nosedive as retirements swelled and the number of active workers paying into the plans decreased. Some companies that paid into the plans went bankrupt, which increased the amount surviving companies had to pay. Coronavirus worsened the pension plans’ financial picture as more money-losing companies stopped contributing.

Retirees in Iron Workers Local 17 had their pensions cut by as much as 60% in 2017, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) has approved $48.9 million through the Special Financial Assistance program to shore up Local 17′s pension plan, which covers roughly 2,000 workers and retirees, according to Brown.

“The pension fix is one of the biggest victories for working people since I’ve been in the Senate – and really for the past 50 years,” said a statement from Brown.

“American retirees should never have to doubt their financial security after a lifetime spent building our great country,” added a statement from U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Niles-area Democrat who backed the legislation. Ryan won’t appear with Biden in Cleveland because of previously scheduled events for his U.S. Senate campaign, a Ryan spokeswoman said.

Before the American Rescue Plan’s passage, PBGC’s multi-employer pension insurance program was projected to become insolvent in 2026 because of the need to provide partial benefits to retirees covered by insolvent plans.

Sperling says the pension plan provision in the American Rescue Plan reflected Biden’s desire to have an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic that didn’t leave anyone behind, including the large pool of retirees who would have seen a dramatic fall in their living standards if their pensions were cut.

“The President was essentially saying, ‘Not on my watch, this won’t happen,” Sperling told cleveland.com.

Sperling said the fix Biden will announce in Cleveland will keep the pensions solvent through 2051. He said the final rule to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday reflects feedback from the multi-employer pension plans, the participating unions, and leading advocates for the pension fix, including Democrats in Ohio’s congressional delegation who spent years seeking a remedy. The legislation they included in the American Rescue Plan was called the Butch Lewis Act in memory of the former retired head of the Teamsters Local 100 labor union in southwest Ohio.

Biden is making the pension announcement in Cleveland because the area contains a large concentration of workers and retirees whose pensions will be salvaged by the legislation, the White House said. Biden hopes to speak with some of them personally.

Sperling said Biden will also discuss some of the “overall economic challenges” the nation faces, such as the impact of a global pandemic, the war in Ukraine and global inflation, but will focus on highlighting how the American Rescue Plan led to “record job growth, a great return to work, and through policies like this, fighting to provide dignity at work and dignity in retirement.”

He said Biden is “deeply aware” that despite record job growth, record drops in unemployment and perhaps the most equitable job recovery ever, American families “have not escaped the pain at the gas pump and grocery line of global inflation that’s hitting families across the world.” He said Biden is “focused every day, like a laser,” on doing everything possible to help lower prices, whether its calling for federal and state gas tax holidays, releasing fuel from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and backing legislation to lower prescription drug costs and keep shipping costs from being passed along to consumers.

“The President is also going to strongly point out how much the American Rescue Plan has done to help American workers, to help American working families, and to help ensure that we have the resilience to get through, to make the transition to more balanced growth with lower prices,” said Sperling.

Biden most recently visited Northeast Ohio in February to tout Great Lakes cleanup money in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He also visited Cuyahoga Community College in May 2021 to promote the American Rescue Plan and rib Republicans who voted against the stimulus package for promoting provisions iit contains, such as its restaurant revitalization fund and grants to community health care centers.

Biden visited Cincinnati in May to boost additive manufacturing and held a CNN town hall at Cincinnati’s Mount St. Joseph University in July 2021.





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