By Grace Wyler
The House has approved legislation that would help Delphi salaried retirees with their health-care costs for an additional 18 months.
Under the proposed measure, part of a broader trade bill, the Health Coverage Tax Credit would continue to pay 80 percent of health- care premiums to workers displaced by trade and retirees over age 55 who are receiving pension benefits from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
The latter includes many of the 20,000 Delphi salaried retirees who saw their pensions cut by up to 70 percent when their plans were turned over to the PBGC during the federal government’s restructuring of General Motors.
“I am very pleased with this; it’s a huge step forward,” said Bruce Gump, chairman of the Warren chapter of the Delphi Salaried Retirees Association. “This keeps people from falling into poverty after the government forced GM into bankruptcy and treated some people fairly and others with disdain.”
Delphi terminated its pension plans to the PBGC during the GM bankruptcy in June 2009. GM agreed to “top off” pension losses for most of Delphi’s hourly workers but did not extend similar provisions for salaried employees.
“The Health Coverage Tax Credit extension will provide security for individuals who lost their jobs, health coverage, and retirement security through no fault of their own,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, a vocal proponent of the measure.
The tax credit is part of bipartisan legislation that reduces tariffs on imports of certain products from developing nations that do not provide direct competition to American manufacturers. The bill also would extend the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides job services and training to workers displaced by overseas competition.
The legislation, which must be passed by the Senate, has supporters across the political spectrum, including the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Gov. Ted Strickland joined nine other state executives in urging the Senate to pass the TAA extension in a letter sent Thursday.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, has asked colleagues to pass the legislation unanimously.
“For many Delphi retirees, the combination of no health insurance and a dramatically reduced pension spells serious financial hardship,” Brown said. “Delphi employees worked hard and were loyal to General Motors. They earned their pensions and health coverage — and then watched it all evaporate. While I will continue to put pressure on General Motors to do the right thing and restore Delphi retirees’ pensions, the [Health Coverage Tax Credit] program will help them afford vital health insurance in the meantime.”
If the legislation fails to pass, the health-coverage tax credit will cover only 65 percent of the eligible workers’ health-care premiums.
Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reported Thursday that the trade bill has been put on hold by U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who is seeking a tariff on sleeping bags from Bangladesh that compete with discount sleeping bags made at a factory in his state.