Thursday, February 26, 2009

Senate Aging Committee Takes on Older Worker Issues

Following the release of GAO's report of federal government hiring of older workers, Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, joined by several other Senators, has introduced three bills to make it easier for older Americans to either reenter or remain in the workforce. In addition, the Committee has held a hearing to examine how the poor economy is affecting those nearing retirement.

The proposed legislation includes: (1)"The Older Worker Opportunity Act of 2009," which would diminish the barriers to part-time work for older workers, such as loss of health coverage and decreased pension benefits, by providing a tax credit for employers that employ older workers (age 62+) in flexible work programs, (2) a bill (S. 469/H.R. 1198) to make it easier for the federal government to rehire federal retirees part-time, without forcing the employee to reduce their salary by their pension amount, as under current law, and (3) a bill to allow phased retirement for federal employees under the Civil Service Retirement System. In addition, Kohl has reintroduced the "Health Care and Training for Older Workers Act of 2009" (S. 281), which would extend COBRA health insurance from the time of retirement (ages 62 and up) until seniors become eligible for Medicare at age 65.

At the Committee hearings on "Boomer Bust? Securing Retirement in a Volatile Economy," testimony was provided on "the economic downturn’s effect on retirement security, particularly for those who are on the brink of retirement. Witnesses at the hearing offered insight into the myriad factors that are affecting the ability of baby boomers to retire, including the weakened performance of 401(k) funds, the instability of housing values, and the challenges of the labor market for older workers, all of which are contributing to diminished prospects for a secure retirement."

Sources: U.S. Special Committee on Aging Press Release (February 24, 2009); Press Release (February 25, 2009)

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