Senators introduce pension funding relief for charities, rural co-ops

Girl Scouts, other organizations, seek permanent relief from PPA funding regs

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Sen. Tom Harkin

Charities and rural cooperatives could get some pension funding relief under legislation introduced Tuesday by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and member Pat Roberts, R-Kan.

Mr. Harkin said in a statement that the Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act would allow those types of defined benefit plan sponsors to make permanent a temporary exemption from the Pension Protection Act of 2006. The proposed legislation would also freeze PBGC premiums until the agency can study the rate structure appropriate for the groups.

Senate co-sponsors include Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; and Al Franken, D-Minn.

The bill, which would affect an estimated 33 charitable and multiple employer plans, is endorsed by Girl Scouts of America, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, NTCA-the Rural Broadband Association, Christian Schools International and the Jewish Federations of North America. Representatives of those groups said they were hamstrung by PPA funding regulations aimed at preventing pension defaults that were not an issue for their plans, which are backstopped by multiple employers. The backers are pushing for swift action, saying in a statement that they have to make “multibillion-dollar decisions” on their benefit and operating budgets.