WASHINGTON — (AP) — Seeking to bolster his standing with frustrated blue-collar voters, President Joe Biden will use the backdrop of a labor training center in Cleveland on Wednesday to tell workers that his policies will shore up pension funding by difficulty for millions of people now on the job or retired.
Politically hurt by inflation at a 40-year high and the damage wrought by the pandemic, the president anchors his message to working people in Ohio’s former election beacon. Buckeye State has had a strong Republican streak with Donald Trump easily wearing it twice, and this is Biden’s fourth visit as president as he personally strives to turn that election tide. .
Biden’s speech at the Iron Workers Local 17 training center is timed for the announcement of a final administrative rule related to his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package from last year. The rule allows multi-company pensions in difficulty to be financially complete, guaranteeing full benefits to 2 to 3 million workers and pensioners.
Details of Biden’s remarks were shared by two administration officials who insisted on anonymity to preview his speech.
The approximately 200 assisted pension plans risked insolvency without government assistance. Without full benefits, workers and retirees could struggle to afford housing, food and other essentials. The financial support is expected to maintain the solvency of pension funds for around 30 years until 2051.
This is important, said several retirees.
Bill DeVito, 73, was an ironworker for nearly 50 years before retiring ten years ago. When his pension was cut by 40% in 2017, he said, “it was devastating”.
“The thing is, we’ve had a lot of politicians over the years who said, hey, we’ll try to help you, we’ll do whatever we can, and nobody’s ever done anything for us until ‘until Joe Biden arrives,’ He said other Democrats from Ohio to Washington were also continuing to push.
Jeffrey Carlson, 67, from the Cleveland suburb of North Ridgeville, said a year before retiring in 2017 he learned his pension would also be cut.
“I’m grateful for everything we were able to recover,” he said. “I know I earned it. I worked hard.”
Carlson, a longtime Democrat, said he knows public opinion has turned against Biden, but he still supports the president.
“I think he’s doing his thing and trying to make the most of it, and I think he’s watching, as a whole, on our side, for the worker.”
Multi-employer plans are created by agreements between companies and a union, and are insured by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). In 2014, Congress passed the Multi-Employer Pension Reform Act which, for the first time, allowed plans to cut benefits for workers and retirees to ensure pensions that should run out of money stay solvent.
The U.S. bailout passed in March 2021 included a special financial relief program that allows struggling multiemployer pension plans to apply for help from the PBGC. The final rule unveiled by the Biden administration is designed to make it easier for pension investments to receive a higher rate of return.
The effort to highlight a program to support union workers comes as Democrats hope to clinch a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio, where a strong presence of working-class voters could play a pivotal role.
Republican Rob Portman leaves the Senate after two terms. Democratic Representative Tim Ryan and Republican JD Vance, the author of the “Hillbilly Elegy” memoir who won an endorsement in Trump’s primary, are vying to replace him. Ohio voters backed Trump in 2016 and 2020, with his margin of victory each time around eight percentage points.
As Biden boasts of steady job growth – unemployment sits at 3.6% – Americans are widely unhappy with the Democratic president’s handling of the economy as inflation continues to rise , interest rates rise and the stock market falters. Just 28% approve of Biden’s handling of the economy, down from 51% a year ago, according to an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll released last week.
Biden has made significant commitments to boost Ohio’s economy. But its efforts suffered a recent setback as Intel postponed the July 22 inauguration of a computer chip factory near the state capital of Columbus. The decision came after a planned investment of more than $50 billion in the semiconductor industry was blocked in Congress.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Twitter last week that he would block the computer chip bill if Democrats in Congress push through their budget and national agenda as planned in the face of the Republican opposition.
Biden has highlighted the computer chip factory project as a commitment to American manufacturing, part of the message he hopes to underscore by helping plant workers’ pensions.
Its efforts to fund struggling pensions would extend the solvency of the government’s PBGC multi-employer insurance program from 2026 to 2055. Full benefits would be restored for 80,000 workers and pensioners whose benefits were cut.
Biden has often highlighted his administration’s efforts to support union members, who are an important part of his political identity. The president likes to proclaim that the middle class built America and that “unions built the middle class.” In an April speech to unionized workers in Washington, he offered his support for Amazon employees in Staten Island, New York, who had voted to form a union, saying, “By the way, Amazon, here we come. Look.”
In May, at a conference of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Biden mocked Trump, calling him a “great MAGA king,” mocking the former’s “Make America Great” campaign slogan. president who resonated with many blue-collar voters in the industrial Midwest. .
He repeatedly hits out on an economic theme against Republicans ahead of November’s midterm elections, saying the GOP, despite all its criticism of it, has few tangible solutions to the major political problems facing the country. is facing, including soaring inflation.
AP writer Julie Carr Smyth contributed from Columbus, Ohio.
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