Standing in front of the Maine Labor Mural, MSEA-SEIU retiree members and state legislators spoke May 7 at a news conference urging the President and Congress to repeal the federal laws known as the Social Security Offsets. These laws are formally known as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). The laws penalize public workers and retired public workers in Maine and 14 other states for dedicating their careers, or even a portion of their careers, to public service.
State Rep. Chloe Maxmin, at podium above, introduced a resolution to the Maine Legislature demanding repeal of the Offsets that unfairly penalize public sector workers, including state workers and public school teachers, who have dedicated their lives to public service. The legislative resolution urging the President and Congress to repeal the Offsets is HP 1204, Joint Resolution Memorializing the President and Congress of the United States to Support the Reform of the Social Security Offsets of the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.
MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Jane Gilbert: “(Fellow MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member) Jim (Betts) and I have talked to people moving into poverty. If they’re entitled to Social Security, they should be getting part of that, and they’re not. Their pensions, contrary to popular belief, are not enormous. People need everything they can get to survive in retirement. And that’s why MSEA-SEIU is enthusiastically supporting this resolution (demanding the repeal of the Social Security Offsets).”
MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Jim Betts: “I worked 26 years in the public sector and they’re (the federal government) taking Social Security away from me. I only get a portion of it. Same thing with my wife, and because she’s a state employee, should I pass on before her, she will get zero Social Security benefits, survivor benefits. This is not right. I estimate close to $1,000 we’d lose and being on a fixed income, that’s a lot of money.”
MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member and State Rep. Donna Doore explains how the Social Security Offsets have diminished her family’s retirement security.
State Senator Shenna Bellows: “I have more retired state workers in my district than any other district, except maybe for the Augusta district. And all over my district and indeed across the state, people who are over the retirement age are really struggling on fixed incomes with ever-increasing expenses. And this problem is particularly significant for retired state employees, our dedicated teachers, government workers, law enforcement, who have paid into Social Security in the private sector, and paid into the pension fund under MainePERS (the Maine Public Employees Retirement System), but are now seeing their income in their retirement unfairly diminished because of an outdated policy (the federal Social Security Offsets). What happens now is if you’re receiving any amount of state pension, no matter how small, the amount that you receive under Social Security is cut. That’s not how it works for retirees with 401Ks or other retirement savings accounts. It’s not how it works for people with company funded pensions…..The system we have unfairly and disproportionately hurts lower and middle income families, people who dedicated a significant portion of their careers to public service in those careers that are helping careers — helping teach our kids, helping keep our wonderful state buildings running, and operating our state agencies and keeping the public safe. The idea is that a retiree who is receiving money from both a pension and Social security should be financially stable, but the reality is just the opposite and many state workers…they just don’t have enough money to get by on state retirement….Call on Congress to fix these outdated federal laws. It’s past time that we worked together to fix our retirement system.”
MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Beth Cousins tells how the Social Security Offsets are harming her retirement security by reducing her Social Security benefits.
MSEA-SEIU Retiree Member Jerry Quirion stands in support of repealing the Social Security Offsets.
State Rep. Chloe Maxmin listens as MSEA-SEIU retiree members speak in support of her resolution urging the President and Congress to repeal the Social Security Offsets. The full text of her resolution:
WE, your Memorialists, the Members of the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth Legislature of the State of Maine now assembled in the First Regular Session, most respectfully present and petition the President of the United States and the Congress of the United States, as follows:
WHEREAS, under current federal law, individuals who receive a Social Security benefit and a public retirement benefit derived from employment not covered under Social Security are subject to a reduction in the Social Security benefits; and
WHEREAS, these laws, contained in the federal Social Security Act, 42 United States Code, Chapter 7, Subchapter II, Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Benefits, and known as the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision, greatly affect public employees, particularly women; and
WHEREAS, the Windfall Elimination Provision reduces by a formula the Social Security benefit of a person who is also receiving a pension from a public employer that does not participate in Social Security; and
WHEREAS, the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision are particularly burdensome on the finances of low-income and moderate-income public service workers, such as school teachers, clerical workers and school cafeteria employees, whose wages are low to start; and
WHEREAS, the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision both unfairly reduce benefits for those public employees and their spouses whose careers cross the line between the private and public sectors; and
WHEREAS, since many lower-paying public service jobs are held by women, both the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision have a disproportionately adverse effect on women; and
WHEREAS, in some cases, additional support in the form of income, housing, heating and prescription drug and other safety net assistance from state and local governments is needed to make up for the reductions imposed at the federal level; and
WHEREAS, other participants in Social Security do not have their benefits reduced in this manner; and
WHEREAS, to participate or not to participate in Social Security in public sector employment is a decision of employers, even though both the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision directly punish employees and their spouses; and
WHEREAS, although the Government Pension Offset was enacted in 1977 and the Windfall Elimination Provision was enacted in 1983, many of the benefits in dispute were paid into Social Security prior to that time; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED: That We, your Memorialists, respectfully urge and request that the President of the United States and the Congress of the United States work together to support reform proposals that include the following protections for low-income and moderate-income government retirees:
1. Protections permitting retention of a combined public pension and Social Security benefit with no applied reductions;
2. Protections permanently ensuring that level of benefit by indexing it to inflation; and
3. Protections ensuring that no current recipient’s benefit is reduced by the reform legislation; and be it further
RESOLVED: That suitable copies of this resolution, duly authenticated by the Secretary of State, be transmitted to the Honorable Donald J. Trump, President of the United States; the President of the United States Senate; the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States; and each Member of the Maine Congressional Delegation.