CLEVELAND (AP) — Reassuring frustrated blue-collar voters, President Joe Biden on Wednesday visited Ohio iron workers to highlight federal action to shore up troubled pension funding for millions now on the job or retired — and to make his political case that he’s been a champion for workers in the White House.
Biden’s speech at a Cleveland high school showcased a final rule tied to his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package from last year. The rule allows troubled multi-company pensions to be made financially whole, ensuring full benefits for 2 million to 3 million workers and retirees.
Hurt politically by inflation at a 40-year high and damage wrought by the pandemic, the president chose to deliver his message in a state that has been trending strongly Republican, with Donald Trump easily carrying it twice. In his sixth visit as president, Biden looked to personally reverse that electoral tide, touting the rule to help multi-company pensions as one of the most significant efforts to support union workers’ retirement funds in the past 50 years.
“A lot of politicians like to talk about how they’re going to do something about it,” Biden said. “Well, I’m here today to say we’ve done something about it.”
“We’re turning a promise broken, into a promise kept.”
The roughly 200 pension plans receiving assistance faced possible insolvency without government aid. And without the full benefits, workers and retirees could struggle to pay for housing, food and other essentials. The financial support should help keep the pension funds solvent for roughly 30 years until 2051.
That’s important, several retirees said.
Bill DeVito, who introduced Biden, said “it was devastating” when his pension was cut 40 percent in 2017 after his lifetime spent as an iron worker.
“The thing of it is, we had a lot of politicians over the years saying, hey, we’ll try to help you, we’ll do everything we can, and nobody’s ever done anything for us until Joe Biden come along,” said DeVito, 73. He said that other Ohio Democrats in Washington kept pushing, too.
Jeffrey Carlson, 67, of the Cleveland suburb of North Ridgeville, said that a year before he retired in 2017, he learned his pension would be cut, too.
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