August 23, 2021

Weekly Column: Building On Bipartisan Retirement Law To Make It Easier For Idahoans To Save For Retirement

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The pandemic put a great deal of economic stress on workers and retirees, and some had no choice but to withdraw money from their retirement accounts to make ends meet.  As the economy continues to bounce back, we have a chance to build on the success of the Setting Every Community up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act of 2019 in a bipartisan way to help make it easier for Idahoans and all Americans to save for retirement.   

 

In 2019, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the SECURE Act to improve opportunities for Americans to save for retirement.  The law improves access to multiple employer plans (MEPs) that enable small employers to work together to obtain more favorable and less expensive pension investment options.  The law provides for the creation of a tax credit of up to $500 per year to employers to help with startup costs for new retirement plans that include automatic enrollment.  The law also better enables long-term, part-time workers to participate in 401(k) plans and more.  

 

Private retirement savings and retirement security are issues in the Senate Finance Committee’s jurisdiction that have a history of bipartisan cooperation.  I serve as Ranking Member of this Committee that recently held a hearing to discuss how Congress can build on that bipartisan track record.

 

In 2015, under then-Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), I co-chaired the Finance Committee’s ‘Savings and Investment Tax Working Group’ with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).  That working group examined a host of proposals to increase access to retirement plans, increase participation in plans and preserve retirement savings.  Many of the findings from the working group—including open multiple employer plans and provisions to help long-term, part-time workers—were the precursor to the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA) and ultimately the SECURE Act.

 

The range of ideas put forth in Congress to build on these past laws and improve the retirement system are all important, but my focus is on three points that are the most pressing for Idahoans and Americans across the country:

 

  • First, Congress should enact policies that encourage workers to save so they can enjoy a secure retirement.  One survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor found that while 71 percent of civilian workers had access to retirement benefits, the participation rate for that same group was only 55 percent.  This survey was conducted only months after the SECURE Act was enacted, so I will be interested to see updated studies and surveys in the future.  But, the concern remains about whether enough workers are saving for retirement.

 

  • Second, I frequently hear from small business owners in Idaho who tell me how expensive and cumbersome the rules are to offer their employees a retirement plan.  These employers want to provide retirement benefits, but it is just not economically feasible.  I am interested in considering what Congress can do to make it easier and cheaper for the smallest businesses to offer retirement plans for their employees.

 

  • Third, our economy is constantly evolving.  People are working longer, workers are changing jobs more often and the number of ‘gig workers’ is on the rise.  Our retirement system must adapt with this changing landscape so every worker has a chance to save for a secure retirement.

 

There is no better time for Congress to consider further retirement legislation that will meet these needs.  I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress as we consider steps to increase retirement savings opportunities for Idahoans and all Americans.

 

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