Retirement security is firmly a part of the policy agenda for Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal.
The longtime proponent of retirement security legislation, Mr. Neal, D-Mass., said Congress must do "more to help American families, especially minority families, have a secure and dignified retirement," in a policy framework released Monday called "A Bold Vision for a Legislative Path Toward Health and Economic Equity."
To achieve that goal, Mr. Neal endorsed policy approaches to implement automatic individual retirement accounts and 401(k) plans; require automatic enrollment in 401(k)-type plans; ensure that small businesses can take full advantage of the start-up credit when participating in a multiple employer plan; and adjust the rules concerning part-time workers in 401(k) plans to require only two years of service before being eligible to make contributions, among other ideas.
Under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, a major legislative package Congress passed in 2019, 401(k) plans are required to permit part-time employees who work at least 500 hours for three consecutive years to make elective deferrals.
Mr. Neal and the committee's ranking member, U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, introduced the Securing a Strong Retirement Act in October. The bill, which would have to be reintroduced in the new Congress, would require, among dozens of provisions, 401(k), 403(b) and Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees — known as SIMPLE plans — to automatically enroll workers upon becoming eligible while giving employees the opportunity to opt out.
Also in the framework was a call to strengthen and improve Social Security benefits, particularly for low-wage workers, and protect Social Security disability benefits from "harmful regulations and other attacks designed to reduce access to benefits."
Mr. Neal referred to the framework as Ways and Means Committee Democrats' plan to make the nation a more just and equitable place. "As we begin the 117th Congress armed with our better understanding of these problems, we are now able to put forward more informed solutions," he said in the framework's foreword.
"There is no silver bullet to correct the inequities that are 400 years in the making and deeply ingrained in our systems, institutions, and laws," he said. "But we cannot allow the scope of these challenges to intimidate us."