The SECURE Act includes dozens of provisions that proponents say will help Americans save for retirement, but the most time-sensitive provision centers on amending non-discrimination rules for closed defined benefit plans, said Kent Mason, a partner with law firm Davis & Harman LLP in Washington.
Under current law, IRS regulations force some employers with closed pension plans to freeze them to avoid running afoul of non-discrimination testing rules. Those rules become harder to pass each year, as participants in closed plans get older and more highly compensated, so employers will freeze the plan and participants will stop accruing benefits.
The act — the Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 — eases those non-discrimination testing rules and rules for make-whole contributions to defined contribution plans, with certain conditions.
At least 450,000 Americans are at risk of losing future pension benefits this year if a solution is not reached soon, according to the most recent estimate from the American Benefits Council.
In late July, Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Ben Cardin, D-Md., both members of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the provision as a stand-alone bill — the Retirement Security Preservation Act of 2019 — in order to "send a message about its urgency," Mr. Portman said in a statement following the bill's introduction. "Older workers in these affected closed defined plans deserve relief before it's too late."
Mr. Cardin echoed a similar point. "While I maintain my belief that the Senate should pass the SECURE Act now, we have an obligation to act immediately to prevent a further loss of benefits for workers affected by this provision," he said in a statement. "Congress must act immediately to give workers, especially those closer to retirement, the certainty they need to make decisions and plan their lives — be it passing the SECURE Act or passing this stand-alone bill."