The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) announced today that it has approved the plan application for the Idaho Signatory Employers-Laborers Pension Plan (Idaho Signatory) in Portland, Ore. The plan covers 682 participants in the construction industry and will receive $13.9 million in special financial assistance, including interest to the expected date of payment to the plan.
Union-friendly members of Congress and senators, in particular Sherrod Brown of Ohio, pushed the team of President Joe Biden to incorporate a relief plan for federally guaranteed pension plans that would provide (forgivable) 30-year federal loan along with other support.
The cost of the bailout was estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be about $86bn, of which $82bn would be spent in 2022. If everything worked out, that would have been a good talking point for Democratic candidates during the midterm elections next year, especially in the hotly contested rust-belt states.
But rather than specify the actuarial details of how the rescue would work, the congressional sponsors and the administration left this job to the experts at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, a US government agency. They may regret that decision.
Even before then, the unions and employers who act as trustees for the multiemployer funds are probably facing legal troubles if they accept bailout money. As the committee went on to point out: “Trustees of such [troubled] plans who decide to take SFA face the risk of litigation from active employees, while those trustees who elect not to seek SFA risk being sued by retirees.”