WASHINGTON – The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation’s (PBGC) Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Annual Report, released today, shows a record deficit of $65.2 billion in its Multiemployer Insurance Program at the end of FY 2019. This increase from $53.9 billion at the end of FY 2018 was mostly due to interest rate changes that drove up the value of PBGC’s future payments to failed multiemployer plans. The Multiemployer Program, which insures the pensions of 10.8 million Americans, is highly likely to become insolvent during FY 2025.
“The multiemployer pension system faces a crisis that threatens the retirement security of millions of American workers, retirees, and their families. Without reforms, PBGC’s Multiemployer Insurance Program will run out of money. That will leave about 1.5 million participants and beneficiaries in already-failing plans with much less than the PBGC’s guaranteed level of benefits. The alarm bells are ringing, and legislative changes are necessary,” said PBGC Director Gordon Hartogensis. “The Administration stands ready to work with Congress to protect retirees in multiemployer plans, prevent the collapse of the multiemployer pension system, save the PBGC backstop, and prevent this crisis from recurring in the future.”
In contrast to the Multiemployer Program, the financial condition of PBGC’s Single-Employer Insurance Program continues to improve, although significant potential risk remains. The program’s positive net position of $8.7 billion as of September 30, 2019, is an increase from $2.4 billion at the end of FY 2018. The improvement is primarily due to premium and investment income and a continued low level of losses from plan terminations.
Multiemployer Program Continues on a Trajectory Toward Insolvency
The Multiemployer Program had liabilities of $68 billion but only $2.9 billion in assets as of September 30, 2019. This resulted in a deficit (negative net position) of $65.2 billion, compared to $53.9 billion a year earlier. The $11.3 billion deterioration is primarily due to lower interest factors used to measure the value of future payments to failed plans. The ongoing financial decline of a number of multiemployer plans newly classified as probable insolvencies because they either terminated or are expected to run out of money within the next decade also contributed to the program’s deterioration. These new liabilities for probable insolvencies were partially offset by plans that are no longer probable claims.
During FY 2019, the agency provided $160 million in financial assistance to 89 insolvent multiemployer plans, up from the previous year’s payments of $153 million to 81 plans. In the coming years, the demand for financial assistance from PBGC will increase rapidly as more and larger multiemployer plans run out of money and need help to provide benefits at the guarantee levels set by law. Absent a change in law, the assets and future income of PBGC’s Multiemployer Program are only a small fraction of the amounts the agency will need to support the guaranteed benefits of participants in plans that are currently insolvent as well as those expected to become insolvent in the future.
Single-Employer Program Continues Improvement
The Single-Employer Program had assets of $128.1 billion and liabilities of $119.4 billion as of September 30, 2019. The positive net position of $8.7 billion reflects an improvement of $6.2 billion during FY 2019. The improvement in the Single-Employer Program is consistent with PBGC’s recent projections, but the program remains exposed to a considerable amount of underfunding.
The agency paid over $6 billion in benefits to more than 932,000 retirees during FY 2019. The agency also became responsible for 51 single-employer plans that terminated without enough money to provide all promised benefits. These plans cover more than 103,000 current and future retirees.
About PBGC’s FY 2019 Financial Report
PBGC’s financial statements are prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles in the U.S. For FY 2019, PBGC received an unmodified audit opinion on its financial statements, as well as an unmodified audit opinion on internal control over financial reporting. CliftonLarsonAllen LLP performed the audit under contract with PBGC’s Office of Inspector General, which oversaw the audit. Separately, PBGC publishes a Projections Report each year that illustrates the possible future financial condition of the agency’s two insurance programs.