Yesterday, we reported that Congressman Neal (D, MA) had introduced pension reform legislation titled Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 (EPPRA) on January 21st. We were also led to believe that the legislation bore similarities to the Butch Lewis Act (BLA). Having gone through the 37 pages of legislation several times, I’m sorry to inform you that it doesn’t. Not even close. In fact, apples and oranges have more in common.
Believe me, I am pleased that Congress is once again taking up pension reform, as millions of Americans are at risk of losing their promised benefits, but I would have hoped that a long-term fix was going to be part of any plan, especially since we already had terrific legislation passed by the House in July 2019 (BLA). I’m afraid that isn’t the case with this legislation. Don’t get me wrong, there are elements worth fighting for as participants that had benefits previously cut will be made whole, which is wonderful news. DB plans struggling to fund orphan participants will be able to partition (offload) those obligations to the PBGC and the maximum multiemployer benefit covered by the PBGC, which is now $12,870, will be enhanced. All good! But many of the current Critical and Declining plans are not going to return to health just through partitioning.
Why is it that the BLA isn’t the legislation of choice? The BLA would secure benefits for All Retired Lives. Instead of starting over by filing new proposed legislation in the House, why not push for the BLA to be taken up in the Senate? Both chambers of Congress are controlled by the Democrats, who passed the BLA in the first place. You would think that they would exert a little muscle and try to get their preferred legislation enacted.
We will continue to provide updates on this developing story. Stay tuned.