Last fall, I wrote about the Central States Pension Plan’s application to the Treasury Department to reduce pension benefits. This application is the result of a change in the law set forth by Congress in the Kline Miller Multi employer Pension Reform Act of 2014.
Following the passage of this new law, Treasury Secretary Lew appointed me as a Special Master to provide a dedicated, impartial and informed review of these applications in a process that is open and fair. This is a responsibility that I have taken very seriously.
Retirees have complained to me that they feel when Congress passed this law, it was done with very little public input. I have been committed to making sure they feel the opposite is true of our review of the Central States Pension Plan’s application.
Over the past several months, I have heard from thousands of retirees. We posted the Central States application online and extended the public comment period twice beyond the usual review timeframe, which allowed us to receive more than 2,500 comments. We are reviewing every single one. I have held a weekly conference call with retirees to listen to comments and answer questions about our review of the Central States submission. Hundreds of retirees have dialed into these calls every week.
In addition to two public hearings in Washington on Treasury’s regulations related to the Kline-Miller law, I’ve also been on the road to meet with retirees in their home towns. We’ve held public sessions on the Central States application in Columbus, Milwaukee, Greensboro, Peoria, Indianapolis, Detroit, Minneapolis, and Kansas City.
Through the comments we’ve received online, our weekly phone calls and these public sessions across the country, we’ve heard from a cross section of the approximately 400,000 plan participants in the Central States Pension Plan. Now I want to make sure that you stay in the loop on our next steps.
We are required to decide on the Central States application, in consultation with the Department of Labor and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation by May 7, 2016. Congress has given us a very specific task – review the application and determine if it meets the requirements set out in the law that Congress passed. If it does, we are required by Congress to approve it. We are in the process of carefully reviewing this application, including the public’s feedback, to determine if it is compliant.
While our weekly calls for public input on the application came to a close today, our team will continue to post updates on this process to www.treasury.gov/mpra. I’ve been honored to meet and talk to thousands of retirees over these past few months. Know that your voices are being heard and your input is integral to this process.
By Kenneth Feinberg