The Democrats in the 117th Congress are pressing the Butch Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act of 2021 in two phases. The first phase, the American Rescue Plan of 2021, is moving through the reconciliation process in the House and Senate (not subject to filibuster in the Senate). It would provide funding to enable the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to pay full benefits for plans in critical status (with a funded ratio below 40% and an active to inactive participant ratio of less than 2:3). Funding would also be provided to help critical and declining plans, and those plans that have already cut benefits (or have applications pending) under the 2014 Multiemployer Pension Reform Act (MPRA) benefit suspension procedure.
Plans would have until December 31, 2025 to apply for assistance. Estimates are that the amounts required to fund the program will come to some $85 billion and could extend to as many as nearly 280 plans by the expiration of the eligibility period. The payments from PBGC to eligible plans are to pay benefits for 30 years. The payments are grants – they are not loans and are not repayable. As of the end of Plan Year 2020, it is estimated that some 15 United Association (UA) plans would be eligible for PBGC payments.
As of this writing, the Senate Parliamentarian reconciliation judgments relating to the pension proposal have not been settled, and the House passage is still pending. All the other non-budgetary policy aspects of multiemployer pension reform – including the adoption of Composite Plans for trustees to consider – remain subject to regular order legislative procedures later in this year.