The Butch Lewis Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives with bipartisan support in July 2019, continues to languish within the U.S. Senate more than 12 months later. While our august Senators fiddle, the pensions of nearly 1.4 million Americans burn. The nearly 130 Critical and Declining pension systems for these Americans were already teetering on the brink of insolvency, but their lifelines have grown shorter as the impact of Covid-19 has destabilized the economy and markets.
Not much has been reported recently with regard to getting the Butch Lewis Act through the Republican controlled Senate, but it is safe to say that there isn’t any sense of urgency, as members of Congress have begun yet another recess despite many outstanding and critically important issues remaining open, including pension reform, unemployment benefits, aid to states/municipalities, etc. Unless the current logjam in negotiations is eased, we won’t see our representatives back in Washington DC before September 8th.
Despite the fact that progress related to pension reform remains painfully slow, there are many in our industry that continue to fight for the American worker. I found this article written by Donnie Blatt (US Steel) on the website Cleveland.com. Blatt argues that workers in these troubled plans are on the verge of losing everything that they were promised (and worked for) despite having nothing to do with the current funding crisis. He reminds us that they often deferred raises in order to make larger contributions into their retirement plans.
Anyone who follows this blog knows that we frequently highlight the economic benefit that monthly pension checks provide to the communities in which these participants live. The US government has the ability to provide these low-interest loans as a lifeline for these struggling plans. Let’s stop playing with people’s lives and livelihoods for the sake of political gamesmanship.