Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Jul 17 2018

Heitkamp, Young, Booker, Cotton Introduce Bipartisan Package of Bills to Help Americans Save for Retirement, Boost Economic Security

Over One-Third of Full-Time Workers Do Not Have Access to Workplace Retirement Plans, Nearly Half of Families Do Not Have Any Retirement Savings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced a bipartisan package of commonsense bills that would help boost retirement security for individuals and families during a time when nearly half of all American families do not have any retirement account savings.

More than one-third of full-time employees do not have access to a workplace retirement plan. On top of that, projections show that 44 percent of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers risk running short of funds for retirement. Additionally, 40 percent of American adults would be unable to come up with $400 for an emergency expense account without borrowing money or selling a possession. Across North Dakota, about 39 percent private-sector employees work for an employer that does not offer a retirement plan.

The senators’ bills would make needed reforms to improve retirement security for individuals and families, especially as the costs of health care, education, homeownership, and other expenses have continued to rise, squeezing families financially. The bills would:

  • Help workers set up short-term savings accounts to help with financial emergencies;
  • Expand access to workplace retirement plans by giving small employers more flexibility when setting up 401Ks for their employees;
  • Enable individuals to build emergency savings during tax time by allowing filers to save a portion of their tax refund for “rainy day” or long-term savings; and
  • Make it easier for savers to auto enroll into long-term savings plans and more quickly escalate their savings.

Click here for a summary of the bills.

Last year, Heitkamp and Cotton held their first hearing as ranking member and chairman, respectively, on the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs’ Subcommittee on Economic Policy, on the vulnerabilities and struggle too many rural and working American families face in saving and preparing for retirement.

“Every day, millions of Americans go to their jobs, work hard, and play by the rules to support their families and put food on the table each night,” said Heitkamp. “But far too often, they still struggle to get by each day, as they aren’t able to think about their futures and plan for retirement so that they are taken care of down the road. Our goal is to invest in workers throughout their lives by making sure they are able to save for retirement now so they will be set up for success in later years. That just makes sense. Our work on these bills shows a bipartisan commitment to improving economic security for workers and families, and I hope we can move them forward as they will make a difference for so many Americans who deserve to live with dignity both during their working years and after.”

These bills build on Heitkamp’s efforts to safeguard retirement security for North Dakota workers, retirees, and their families. She has been a vocal advocate to defend the pensions of 2,000 North Dakota workers and retirees who are part of the Central States Pension Fund and who race drastic cuts to their pensions through no fault of their own. Earlier this year, Heitkamp was selected to serve on a new 16-person bipartisan, House and Senate Joint Select Committee tasked with solving the crisis facing multiemployer pension plans across the country.

“This legislation will help lighten the burden Arkansas small businesses face in offering retirement plans to their employees,” said Cotton. “Making these few simple changes could make a big difference for Arkansas workers and help them retire with financial security and peace of mind.”

“Too many Americans working full time jobs lack adequate savings to meet even small emergency expenses, and find that the retirement they had worked so long and hard for is simply out of reach,” said Booker. “As everyday expenses—from drug prices to childcare to college tuition—continue to rise, these targeted, bipartisan bills are, together, an important step to providing more financial security for working families.”

“Americans work hard day after day with often little promise of economic security in the future,” said Young. “That is why I joined a group of bipartisan colleagues to tackle the growing problem of families not being prepared for retirement. Our bipartisan legislation would strengthen retirement security for hardworking Americans by reforming and improving access to retirement plans. By allowing Hoosiers easier opportunities to save for the days ahead, retirees can enjoy the fruits of their labor and the peace of mind of financial security.”

“We applaud the bipartisan work of these four senators in leading on the critical issue of retirement security,” said former U.S. Senator Kent Conrad and the Honorable James B. Lockhart III, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings. "These four bills take common sense steps to help more Americans gain access to workplace retirement accounts, save millions more for retirement, and build personal savings for emergencies.”

“We commend Senators Heitkamp, Cotton, Booker, and Young for turning this promising idea into smart, carefully crafted legislation,” said Ida Rademacher, Executive Director of Aspen Institute Financial Security Program. “By giving the green light for employers to automatically enroll their workers into short-term savings accounts, this bill has the potential to spur much-needed innovation, experimentation, and uptake – similar to what happened to employer-sponsored retirement accounts after the Pension Protection Act passed over a decade ago. Today’s working families need new tools to meet the unprecedented short- and long-term financial challenges they face. Sidecar rainy day savings may well do both – by building up an emergency fund while simultaneously reducing the need for premature withdrawals from retirement accounts.”

Background

For years, Heitkamp has stood with North Dakota’s workers and retirees and fought to safeguard their retirement savings, and she has specifically fought to protect the pensions of 2,000 North Dakotans who are part of the Central States Pension Fund from harsh cuts. If Congress doesn’t act to fix insolvent plans, these retirees and their families could see severe cuts to their retirement savings, and taxpayers could pay billions to bail out insolvent plans.

The new 16-person bipartisan, House and Senate Joint Select Committee – which Heitkamp was appointed to -- has been holding hearings. Heitkamp has also been meeting with workers and retirees in North Dakota. Workers, retirees, and businesses can send their suggestions and ideas for the Committee on the pension crisis via email to JSCSMPP@finance.senate.gov until September 30, 2018.

In November 2017, Heitkamp announced the Butch Lewis Act – a bill she helped write and introduce -- during a rally in Bismarck with over 100 workers, retirees, and their families. It would ensure the 2,000 North Dakotans and 400,000 retirees across the country who have paid into Central States Pension Fund can keep the pensions they earned.

Heitkamp joined retirees and workers at a rally in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in 2016 to push back against cuts to the Central States Pension Fund. In 2016, those workers and retirees faced pension cuts of up to 60 percent under a plan to restructure the multiemployer pension plan, which is no longer solvent. After pressure from Heitkamp and workers across the country, Kenneth Feinberg -- the then-Treasury official overseeing the restructuring of the pension plan -- announced that the U.S. Department of the Treasury rejected the proposed cuts, saying they were unfair for workers and retirees who would be impacted.

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Contact Senator Heitkamp's press office at press@heitkamp.senate.gov