Roberts works to protect cooperative and charity employee pensions

Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) recently introduced bipartisan legislation that would make it easier for charities and cooperatives to continue to offer pensions to their employees.

Harkin, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Roberts recently unveiled the Cooperative and Small Employer Charity Pension Flexibility Act of 2013. The proposed bill would ensure that rural cooperatives and charitable associations are not swept into the Pension Protection Act of 2006 funding rules.

Most cooperatives and charities provide employee pensions through defined benefit multiple employer pension plans known as Cooperative and Small Employer and Charitable plans. The plans allow small, community-focused employers to pool their resources to achieve economies of scale otherwise only available to large employers. The 2006 law temporarily exempted organizations that operate on CSEC plans as well as charities deemed eligible by the Pension Relief Act of 2010 from having to comply with its funding rules. The temporary exemption is set to expire soon.

“The PPA was meant to protect employee pensions, but in the case of rural cooperatives and charities, it could jeopardize plans for employees,” Roberts said. “Our bill recognizes these unique plan structures by creating greater flexibility that enables employers to offer stable futures for their workers without passing the cost on to rural communities through increased costs for services.”

The bill has endorsements from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Girl Scouts of America, NTCA and the Rural Broadband Association.