Last week, we were able to win a small, but important victory for the 20,000 families of Delphi salaried retirees who lost up to 70 percent of their pensions because of the actions of the Obama Administration. I was able to secure an amendment in the Finance Committee that will extend the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC), legislation that will help Delphi retirees attain affordable healthcare.
Often the HCTC serves as an important bridge for older Americans who lost their pensions until they become eligible for Medicare benefits, covering 72.5 percent of their premiums. But on January 1, 2014, that tax credit expired.
Extending this credit is the least we can do for these families who lost everything as a result of the auto bailout. In the summer of 2009, as the government took GM into bankruptcy, the Obama Administration terminated the pension plans covering thousands of Delphi workers.
These 20,000 salaried retirees, ranging from shop-floor supervisors and salespeople to engineers and office managers, spent many years at Delphi, a major employer and economic engine in towns across Ohio from the Mahoning Valley to the Miami Valley. They earned their pensions the American way, through hard work and dedication. But instead of honoring the promises that had been made to these loyal middle class workers after 30-40 years of service, the Administration terminated their pensions, leaving them struggling to make ends meet.
When the HCTC expired in 2014, their circumstances grew even more dire, with these retirees seeing up to 50 percent of their remaining pension going to fund their health care premiums.
Fortunately, even during this time of dysfunction and division in Washington, we were able to gather bipartisan support on the Finance Committee to extend the HCTC. We couldn’t have done it without the efforts of citizen activists from Dayton, Youngstown/Warren and across Ohio who have played an important role in this process. The Delphi salaried retirees have doggedly called for the HCTC to be extended, and their tireless determination should be commended.
Now we have to continue to move ahead, and I look forward to seeing this legislation reach the Senate Floor where I hope it will receive the support it deserves.
But make no mistake – even if we are able to restore the HCTC and give these families some of the help they need, that won’t make them whole, and it won’t undo the damage done by Administration policies that picked winners and losers in the auto industry without regard to the consequences. We hear about everyone who has benefited from these policies, while people like the workers at Delphi are too often forgotten.
Moreover, these retirees are funding their own legal challenge to get their benefits back, scraping together pennies fighting a government that robbed them of their financial security. I am following this legal challenge – and the many congressional hearings on this issue that have already been held – closely. I was dismayed at the revelation that the Special Inspector General for the TARP program recently provided – that it was in fact the President’s Auto Task Force that was making the decisions regarding these retirees’ pensions, not Delphi or GM.
The workers at Delphi certainly deserved better, but the least we owe them is to ensure that policies coming out of Washington that have already left many of them facing foreclosure and bankruptcy don’t also threaten their health. The recent vote in the Finance Committee to extend the HCTC was the first good news they have heard in some time. Now we need to move forward to make this amendment the law.