A bill aimed at addressing the retirement gap and bolstering women's financial security was reintroduced Thursday in the Senate and House, respectively.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chairwoman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., reintroduced the Women's Retirement Protection Act of 2021.
The bill, which was last introduced in 2019, includes a set of provisions that target some of the challenges that disproportionately affect women as they plan for their financial futures, according to a news release.
Though the Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement Act, known as the SECURE Act, allowed part-time workers to participate in an employer's retirement plan after three years, the Women's Retirement Protection Act would reduce that timeframe to two years. "This change will be especially helpful to the more than 27 million workers who work less than full-time, most of whom are women or caregivers," the AARP said in a news release supporting the bill.
Moreover, the bill would expand existing spousal protections for defined benefit and defined contributions plans to prevent one spouse from making decisions that might undermine a couple's retirement resources without the other's knowledge and consent.
It would also provide grants for community-based organizations to help provide information and financial tools to women who are of working or retirement age. Lastly, the bill would look to support women with low incomes and survivors of domestic abuse seeking retirement benefits by providing grants to assist these women obtain qualified domestic relations orders, the legal instruments that allow for the division of retirement benefits.
"COVID-19 has upended the finances of families across the country and led to severe job loss, especially in sectors like child care that disproportionately employ women, particularly women of color," Ms. Murray said in the news release. "Inequities, like investments, compound over time — which is why it is so critical we take action now to address how this pandemic and other challenges are undermining women's financial futures."
Added Ms. Underwood in the news release, "As women strive for economic equality in this country, we need to make sure they have the opportunity for stable, secure retirement."