(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and a bipartisan group of 24 Senators, led by U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), sent a letter urging the U.S. Treasury Department to prevent the Board of Trustees of the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Plan (Central States Plan) from enacting drastic cuts to hard-earned employee pensions for thousands of retirees. The Treasury Department is required to review the proposed cuts by the Central States Plan and has authority to approve, deny or modify the plan.
“We understand the need to ensure the financial well-being of the Central States plan, but it should not come at the expense of hard working families…We firmly believe these families deserve to receive the full amount of benefits they have worked for, planned for and depend upon,” wrote Blumenthal and his colleagues. “As Congress works to address this issue, we urge Treasury to use its authority to ensure the Central States Plan to cut benefits does not place an unfair financial burden on beneficiaries.”
The Central States Plan has proposed benefits cuts as large as 50 to 70 percent. Many of these retirees already live on fixed incomes and could struggle to afford housing, medical care and other basic necessities if drastic cuts are approved. There are 24,000 Central State Plan members in Michigan and over 200,000 members across the country who would face an uncertain financial future if these benefits are cut.
The letter was also signed by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Jon Tester (D-MT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Robert Casey (D-PA), Richard Burr (R-NC), Rob Portman (R-OH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Maisie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN).
The full text of the letter is copied below:
February 2, 2016
Mr. Kenneth Feinberg
Special Master for Implementation
The Treasury Department
MPRA Office (ATTN: Deva Kyle)
1500 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Room 1224
Washington, D.C. 20220
Dear Special Master Feinberg:
We write today on behalf of thousands of retirees and families who could be negatively impacted by benefit cuts proposed by the Board of Trustees of the Central States, Southeast and Southwest Areas Pension Plan (Central States Plan). As you know, the Central States Plan has submitted an application to the Treasury Department to reduce benefits in accordance with the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014. We have serious concerns that these devastating cuts will bring severe harm to Central States retirees and set a dangerous precedent for other pension plans around the nation.
We understand the need to ensure the financial well-being of the Central States plan and other pension funds, but it should not come at the expense of hard working families. Retirees have earned their pensions over a lifetime of work. We firmly believe these families deserve to receive the full amount of benefits they have worked for, planned for and depend upon.
The proposed cuts by the Central States Plan will impact about 270,000 people nationally and include cuts as large as 50-70 percent. We are very concerned that a majority of these retirees are not financially prepared to withstand such steep cuts. Many of these individuals already live on fixed incomes and would have significant difficulty rejoining the workforce. Cuts of this magnitude would make it more difficult for them to afford quality housing, medical care and other essential needs. We cannot allow cuts such as these to become commonplace.
As Congress works to address this issue, we urge Treasury to use its existing authority to protect the benefits these individuals have worked for and were promised. They deserve our best efforts to ensure that promise is kept to its fullest potential.
Thank you for your consideration of our views. Please do not hesitate to contact our office if we can be of additional assistance