March 5, 2024

To reassure frustrated voters, President Joe Biden will visit Ohio on Wednesday to highlight federal actions to support funding troubled pensions for millions of now working or retired people.

Biden’s speech at a high school in Cleveland lays out a final rule attached to last year’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. The rule allows the distressed pensions of multiple companies to be made financially complete, ensuring the full benefits of 2 million to 3 million workers and retirees.

Politically damaged by inflation at a 40-year high and the damage wrought by the pandemic, the president chose to get his message across in a case that was trending hard for Republicans, with Donald Trump carrying it twice as easily. This is Biden’s sixth visit as president as he seeks to personally reverse this electoral tide.

Details about Biden’s remarks were shared by two administration officials who insisted on anonymity to review his speech.

The 200 pension plans receiving assistance faced potential bankruptcy without government assistance. Without full benefits, workers and retirees may struggle to pay for housing, food, and other necessities. The financial support should help maintain the ability of pension funds to repay their debts for approximately 30 years, until 2051.

Many retirees said this is important.

Bill DeVito, 73, was an ironworker for nearly 50 years before retiring a decade ago. When his pension was cut by 40% in 2017, he said, “It was devastating.”

“The thing is, we’ve had a lot of politicians over the years saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to try to help you, and we’re going to do whatever we can, and nobody has done anything for us until Joe Biden comes along,'” he said. .

Jeffrey Carlson, 67, of the Cleveland suburb of North Ridgeville, said that a year before he retired in 2017, he learned that his pension would be reduced as well.

He said, “I’m grateful for anything we can get back. I know I earned it. I worked hard.”

Multi-employer plans are created through agreements between companies and unions, and are insured by the Federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC). In 2014, Congress passed the Multi-Employer Pension Reform Act that allowed plans, for the first time, to cut benefits for workers and retirees in order to ensure that pensions expected to run out of money could still be met.

The US bailout approved in March 2021 included a special financial assistance program that would allow distressed multi-employer retirement plans to apply to the PBGC for assistance. The final rule unveiled by the Biden administration is designed to make it easier for pension investments to get a higher rate of return.

Efforts to highlight a program to aid union workers come as Democrats hope for a seat in the US Senate in Ohio, where strong performance with working-class voters could play a pivotal role.

Republican Rob Portman is leaving the Senate after two terms. Democratic Representative Tim Ryan and Republican Representative J.D. Vance, author of the “Hilbilly Eligi” memoir, are vying for Trump’s endorsement during the primaries. Ohio voters supported Trump in 2016 and 2020, with a winning margin each time of about 8 percentage points.

While Biden boasts steady job growth – unemployment stands at 3.6% – Americans have been largely unhappy with the Democratic president’s handling of the economy as inflation continues to rise, interest rates rise and the stock market fluctuates. Only 28 percent approved of Biden’s stewardship of the economy, down from 51 percent a year ago, according to a poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research published last week.


Associated Press writer Julie Carr Smith contributed from Columbus, Ohio.

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