In an effort to save pension plans from insolvency, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act of 2019 (H.R. 397).
The Act would allow the federal government to make grants and loans to multiemployer pension plans that are insolvent or facing insolvency. To accomplish its purpose, the Act proposes to establish the Pension Rehabilitation Administration, an agency within the Department of Treasury that would be authorized to issue bonds to finance loans to the insolvent pension plans. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if H.R. 397 becomes law, the Act would cost $48.5 billion in the next 10 years. A similar version has been introduced in the Senate, but that bill has not progressed beyond introduction.
Approximately 10 million people participate in multiemployer pension funds. Between 10% and 15% of multiemployer pension fund participants are in funds that are projected to become insolvent within the next 20 years, according to the Congressional Research Service. Supporters of the Act consider it necessary to prevent a loss of benefits to retirees. Opponents believe the Act is a waste of money because, although it may temporarily infuse money into struggling pension funds, it does not include provisions requiring the structural changes necessary to solve the problems that led to insolvency in the first place.