A segment of Detroit retirees are circulating a change.org petition asking for the City of Detroit to pay them a one-time check of $1,400.
“Retirees are having a hard time providing for their basic needs during the pandemic. Detroit’s elected officials could use some of the $826 million Federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to rescue Detroit’s General Fund Retirees,” the petition says.
“We have some retirees who worked for 40 years and they’re just getting by.” —William M. Davis, president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association
Listen: The president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association talks about how the bankruptcy has impacted him and his fellow retirees.
The City of Detroit has two separate retirement systems, one for police and fire pensioners and another general system for everyone else. The petition is specifically seeking funds for general retirees as they were hit hardest by changes negotiated during Detroit’s bankruptcy, which wrapped up in 2014. As part of the process, retirees had their pensions cut, forfeited future cost-of-living adjustments and gave up health care coverage. Police and fire retirees were not immune, however. They suffered a smaller reduction in their cost-of-living adjustments and also faced health care related cuts.
According to the petition, in 2020, there were about 11,000 general system retirees and they had an average yearly pension of $20,000.
“We have some retirees who worked for 40 years and they’re just getting by,” says William M. Davis, the president of the Detroit Active and Retired Employee Association and a retired Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant worker. “You should not have to choose between paying your rent and paying for your medical care that’s helping to keep you alive.”
The City of Detroit says it cannot grant the petitioners their wish and send pensioners supplemental checks.
“The issue of retiree pensions was extensively litigated in the bankruptcy. The retirees, represented by separate legal counsel, agreed to a settlement that limited the cuts but prohibited the city from increasing or decreasing the pension payments,” says Detroit’s acting Corporation Counsel Chuck Raimi. “The city would be in violation of the court’s order if the city were to provide an additional pension payment.”