Biden highlights Democrats' work to protect union workers' pension benefits in Ohio

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The American Rescue Plan provides an estimated $94 billion in pension relief for millions of workers and retirees.

President Joe Biden visited Cleveland, Ohio, on Wednesday to announce a final federal rule that will provide pension relief for union workers that were facing cuts before the passage of the 2021 American Rescue Plan.

"With today's actions, millions of workers will have the dignified retirement they earned and they deserve," Biden told an audience of union workers and retirees at Max S. Hayes High School.

The Rescue Plan created the Special Financial Assistance Program, which will provide financial relief to multiemployer pension plans protected by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). In a release, the White House noted that prior to the Rescue Plan's passage, the government's pension insurance program had been projected to be insolvent in 2026.

The Rescue Plan provides an estimated $94 billion in assistance for the program. Through the federal rule announced by Biden, the program is projected to have the funds to protect pensions until 2051.

Workers will also receive retroactive payments for pension payments that were cut before the legislation's passage.

"This relief is the most substantial policy to strengthen the solvency of our nation's multiemployer pensions since the enactment of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) in 1974," the White House noted in a statement.

The Rescue Plan has saved 127,493 pensions so far, according to the House Education & Labor Committee. One of those is the Iron Workers Local 17 Pension Fund in Cleveland, in which 950 of its participants had seen their benefits reduced by an average of 30%. Those benefits will now be restored and the fund's 1,900 pensions will be protected going forward.

Ahead of Biden's trip to Cleveland on Wednesday, the Associated Press interviewed local union workers who benefited from the financial assistance program. One of those workers was Bill Devito, a retired iron worker who saw his pension cut 40% in 2017.

"The thing of it is, we had a lot of politicians over the years saying, 'Hey, we'll try to help you, we'll do everything we can,' and nobody’s ever done anything for us until Joe Biden come along," Devito told the news service.

The specific legislative language within the Rescue Plan that created the fix is the Butch Lewis Act, named for the former head of Teamsters Local 100 in southwest Ohio. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) put the provision into the bill.

Republicans in Congress including outgoing Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) voted against the bill.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who is running against Republican nominee J.D. Vance to replace Portman in the Senate, voted for the Rescue Plan.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.