This entry is part of a series of blog posts that looks back and commemorates the agency's work.
We hit the "Door" running
We had no time to hang photos, adjust chairs or figure out how to dial long distance. Visualize the rush on department store doors on Black Friday — well, that was much like what greeted us when we opened our doors for the first time in Silver Spring, Md., in 1974.
More than 200 urgent cases waited for us before the first pot of coffee was brewed.
Two days later our Board met for the first time and 21 days later we mailed our first premium forms. And it has not slowed since.
Initial annual premiums were $1 per plan participant in the single-employer program and 50 cents per participant in the multiemployer program. Thus began our march together with workers and employers seeking to preserve pension security for hard-working Americans.
When President Ford signed the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) on Sept. 2, 1974, which included creation of PBGC, he gave us our charge: "Today, with great pleasure, I am signing into law a landmark measure that may finally give the American worker solid protection in his pension plan," Ford said.
"May" is the word we looked at hard and carefully. In a sense, we want to make the impact of that word as minimal as possible and — ideally — change "may" to "will."
We are not there yet.
In a recent Pension and Investments opinion column, former PBGC executive director Bradley Belt addressed what needs to happen to keep PBGC from a federal bailout. Belt cited PBGC's Projections Report, which notes the improved condition of the single-employer program. However, the multiemployer program has "deteriorated alarmingly," Belt said.
A federal bailout is avoidable, according to Belt, provided three changes are made to current law: An overhaul to the premium structure, a change in the agency's governance, and a greater ability to determine financial solutions.
Disclaimer: This column does not necessarily represent the views of PBGC or any of its executive leaders and managers.
PBGC runs two insurance programs that safeguard retirement benefits in different ways.
Lately, you may have heard about multiemployer plans and the financial troubles that some of them are having as described in our Projections Report. Currently, PBGC insures more than 10 million workers and retirees in about 1,400 multiemployer plans.
PBGC doesn't take responsibility for multiemployer plans; instead, we send financial assistance to plans that have run out of money to pay promised benefits. During FY 2013, PBGC paid $89 million in financial assistance to 44 multiemployer pension plans covering the benefits of nearly 50,000 retirees. An additional 21,000 people in these plans will receive benefits when they retire.
The news isn't good for 1.5 million people across the country in a swath of multiemployer plans. According to PBGC's Projections Report, released last week, these plans are likely to fail putting the retirement benefits of current and future employees in jeopardy. Not only that, but if those plans fail it may bring down the entire system and with it the retirement security of the 10 million people within it.
Right now, there are more than 10 million people and their families covered by about 1,400 multiemployer plans in industries like construction, mining, supermarkets, transportation, and hospitality. Massive losses during the economic slowdown in 2008-2009, left many plans seriously underfunded. The economy has improved significantly, but for the plans most in trouble, the improved economy was not enough. These plans responded by increasing contributions and reducing future benefits but it still wasn't enough.
Despite substantial economic and market gains, multiemployer pension plans covering about 1.5 million people are severely underfunded, threatening benefit cuts for current and future retirees, according to the FY 2013 Projections Report released today by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. By comparison, the financial situation for private single-employer plans, which cover about 30 million participants, is projected to improve.
As required by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, PBGC annually provides an actuarial evaluation of its future expected operations and financial status. The FY 2013 Projections Report (formerly called the "Exposure Report") released today provides a range of estimates of the future status of private pension plans and their effect on PBGC's financial condition, drawn from hundreds of economic scenarios.
If PBGC is responsible for your pension benefit, the easiest way to transact business with us is through MyPBA, our secure online service.
MyPBA is fast, free, and available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Your online transactions are safe and confidential. You can change your address, sign up for direct deposit, designate your beneficiary, print out your IRS Form 1099-R, and view your payment information.