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RPEC Weekly Newsflash, September 15, 2023

RPEC Weekly Newsflash, September 15, 2023

State Treasurer Holds Future of Retirement Security Seminars

In July and August, Washington State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti hosted five retirement security town hall meetings across the state to address a looming retirement security crisis: 83% of workers ages 55-64 have saved little or nothing for retirement in defined benefit or defined contribution pension plans. As traditional pension plans have mostly disappeared from the private sector, employees are left without secure, reliable, and easy ways to save for retirement.

RPEC Government Affairs Coordinator Emmett Mills, State Treasurer Mike Pellicciotti, RPEC Executive Board member Carol Dotlich, and RPEC Chapter 18 member Donna Albert.

Joining Treasurer Pellicciotti in discussions were April Sims, President of the Washington State Labor Council, Aaron Keating, Managing Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute, Cathleen MacCaul, Advocacy Director at AARP Washington, and Dulce Gutierrez, a Community Organizer for the Washington State Labor Council.

RPEC Executive Board member Carol Dotlich, WSLC President April Sims, and Ch 10 President Robert Devlin

The panelists discussed potential policy solutions, including implementing a program that would automatically deduct a percentage of workers’ pay and forward it to a state-facilitated not-for-profit IRA. This “auto-IRA” system has already been implemented in seven states.

RPEC members attended the town hall meetings held in Port Angeles, Everett, and Steilacoom. Many spoke about the important role that defined benefit pensions, the type participated in by most public employees, play in their retirement security.

Prominent state legislators also attended the town halls, including Senator Steve Conway, one of the legislature’s foremost pension experts.

Robert Devlin, Senator Steve Conway, Emmett Mills, and Carol Dotlich

Public employee pension plans in Washington State are among the best funded in the nation. Pellicciotti oversees their management in his role as State Treasurer and in his service on the Washington State Investment Board.

DRS Hosting Seminar for RPEC Members

One of the perks of being a member with RPEC is the diversified partnerships and affiliations the organization has with other entities and organizations. These connections allow us to offer a variety of news, training, and support for our members. An exciting opportunity for RPEC members is an upcoming seminar hosted by the Department of Retirement Systems (DRS) in which they will address a variety of topics that are most relevant to current and soon-to-be retirees. The DRS manages and administers pensions for members of PERS, PSERS, SERS, and TRS retirement plans.

Please join us on November 3rd @ 1:00 PM for an opportunity to hear directly from the experts about topics relevant to you and your pension. There will be a brief presentation given by an administrator from DRS followed by a Q&A session. Whether you’re a new retiree, soon to be retired, or have been retired for quite some time, there will be relevant and valuable information for you.

Register in advance through Zoom for this meeting:
https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZcrcumgqDkjEtSTFcGFh1SE3Ur15LsLERpK 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. A reminder will be sent prior to the meeting.

RPEC Delegates Contribute to WSARA Convention

RPEC was well represented at this week’s annual convention for the Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans (WSARA). Our delegation included:  Kandy Kraig (Executive Board, Chapter 13), Debbie Haigh (President, Chapter 30), Martin Rollins (Chapter 2), Ida Ott (Chapter 30), and Executive Director Laurie Weidner.

Left to right: Ida Ott (Chapter 30); Debbie Haigh (President, Chapter 30); Jackie Boschok, WSARA President; RPEC Executive Director Laurie Weidner; Kandy Kraig (Executive Board, Chapter 13); Martin Rollins (Chapter 2).

The Convention kicked off with an outstanding presentation on the federal policy landscape by Rick Fiesta, Executive Director of the national Alliance for Retired Americans. The programming also included a panel on digital organizing, focusing on how WSARA member organizations can use social media to better reach and mobilize retirees for legislative and policy action. The program finale featured a presentation by Jackie Boschok, WSARA President, discussing ageism and how retiree organizations can actively combat it.

When the discussion shifted to official business, RPEC’s delegates caucused and chose Executive Director Laurie Weidner to represent RPEC as a Vice President on the WSARA Executive Board. She will serve a three-year term.

RPEC was also awarded WSARA’s annual Senior Champion Award for spearheading and leading the Public Employees Benefits Boards Stakeholders’ Medicare Coalition. Awards were also given to Senator Karen Keiser and the Washington Education Association-Retired (WEA-R).  The Senior Champion Award is the third honor earned by RPEC for its advocacy leadership. In June, RPEC’s Executive Director was recognized as WEA-R’s Advocate of the Year. In July, RPEC, in concert with coalition partners, earned the coveted Mother Jones Group Award from the Washington State Labor Council.

WSARA is a long-standing partner of RPEC. Jackie Boschok, WSARA President, serves on the Public Employees Benefits Board Stakeholders’ Medicare Coalition, which is led by RPEC. Moreover, AFSCME Retirees Executive Director, Ann Widger, serves on the Executive Board for the national Alliance for Retired Americans.

RPEC Resolutions Receive Unanimous Approval at WSARA Convention

On Tuesday, September 12th, delegates to the Washington State Alliance for Retired Americans (WSARA) Convention considered two resolutions advanced by RPEC’s Executive Board from their August 22nd Executive Board meeting.

The first resolution focused on support for a recurring cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retirees in PERS/TRS Plan 1. The resolution was modeled after another, advanced by the RPEC Executive Board last year, which was unanimously approved by the Washington State Labor Council. Ida Ott (Executive Board, Chapter 30) addressed delegates sharing her personal story to reinforce the urgency for a recurring COLA for the state’s oldest retirees.

The second resolution urged support for increased employer contributions to off-set healthcare premium costs for the plans administered by the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB). Currently, state law provides retirees with the Medicare Explicit Subsidy of 50% of the monthly premiums capped at $183 per month. With premium costs rising on January 1, 2024, on all the PEBB-managed plans, expanding employer contributions and eliminating the $183 Medicare Explicit Subsidy will allow retirees to remain in their plan of choice and provide more disposable income for medications, healthcare out-of-pocket costs, etc. RPEC Executive Board member Kandy Kraig (Executive Board, Chapter 13) spoke in favor of the second resolution. Executive Director Laurie Weidner testified PRO on both resolutions. Both resolutions pertain to long-standing RPEC Legislative Priorities, approved at RPEC’s biennial Convention.

Both resolutions passed with unanimous approval. The COLA resolution will be sent to the Select Committee on Pension Policy (SCPP) to convey the need and urgency for a recurring COLA. The second will be used in conversations with legislators serving on Senate and House healthcare committees.

Expanding Access to the Internet

The Washington State Department of Commerce has announced $14.5 million in grants that will fund expanding access to digital navigator services for Washingtonians. Digital navigator services are defined as “trusted guides who assist community members in internet adoption and the use of computing devices.” The grant money will provide one-on-one technical support, devices, and subscriptions necessary for those who are in need.

Please share with fellow RPEC members, family, and friends who need internet access, a computer, and/or technical support and training for learning how to use a computing device and navigate the internet. Included in these services is a digital navigator hotline for scheduling technical support, the distribution of internet-capable devices, and skills training.

To learn more about Commerce’s Internet for All in Washington initiative, visit https://www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-statewide-broadband-act/internet-for-all-wa/.

Upcoming Events:

Please refer to our calendar page for more information about each event, including links to Zoom meetings, if available.

  • Sept. 18 – Senior Lobby (10:00 am)
  • Sept. 19 – Select Committee on Pension Policy Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Sept. 22 – Pension Policy Workgroup Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Sept. 28 – Healthcare Workgroup Meeting (3:30 pm)
  • Oct. 6 – Legislative Committee Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Oct. 6 – Monthly Legislative Update Call (2:00 pm)
  • Oct. 12 – Healthcare Workgroup (3:30 pm)
  • Oct. 17 – Select Committee on Pension Policy Meeting (10:00 am)
  • Oct. 19 – Senior Lobby Fall Conference

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