The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) and Treasury officials have delivered a new briefing on the special financial assistance (SFA) program for financially troubled multiemployer plans under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). During the briefing on July 22, 2021, PBGC officials walked through the e-filing process, application instructions, assumption changes and what to expect after submitting the application. A recording and slides of the briefing are available here. The following are some key takeaways.
Ross Marcelin, director, Office of Negotiations & Restructuring Plan Compliance Department at PBGC, began with a walkthrough of the PBGC e-filing portal where applications must be submitted. First, the filer should do all the prep work to fully complete the template checklist because the first screen of the SFA application requires the filer to enter the special financial assistance amount requested.
Following are the steps for you (the filer) to access the correct application in the e-filing portal. Once you have created an account and signed in, select filing type “Multiemployer Events,” then “Create New ME Filing.” Then, under “Financial Assistance,” select “Application for Financial Assistance—Special.”
The first screen of the application requires the following information:
- Plan name
- Employer identification number (EIN)
- Three-digit plan number (PN)
- Filer name
- Role of filer (e.g., actuary, attorney)
- Total SFA amount requested.
The second screen is the document uploading page. On this page, you must choose a file to upload and select a document type. There are 17 document types. The e-filing portal system expects you to upload and associate one document with each of the 17 document types.
Your roadmap for navigating this is the “Upload as Document Type” column within the template checklist. The checklist specifies what document type to use for each file required in the application. Examples of document types include:
- Special financial assistance checklist
- Latest annual return/report of employee benefit plan (Form 5500)
- Zone certification
- Historical plan financial information.
If there are any document types that you did not upload a file for (e.g., if there’s a document type that isn’t necessary for you to file or if you must upload a combination of document types in one file), then you must use the “Comments” box to explain why.
Please note that you will not be able to revise what you filed after you click “Submit” on the third screen.
Julie Cameron, supervisory actuary in the Office of Negotiations & Restructuring Actuarial Department at PBGC, presented an application walkthrough with a special focus on assumption changes. Cameron referred to the assumptions in the certification of plan status completed before January 1, 2021 as “original assumptions” or “pre-2021 zone status certifications.” In order to calculate the SFA amount, the plan or service provider must determine whether the plan has an assumption change that is different than those original assumptions from the pre-2021 zone certification.
Generally, all plans will have an assumption change, Cameron said, because zone certifications do not utilize assumptions for 30 years. For example, if a plan is projecting insolvency within eight years, then the assumptions in the zone certification are not being used post-insolvency. This plan would need a new assumption for a 30-year projection that is required for the SFA amount. This extension from eight to 30 years is considered a change in assumption. This example shows that PBGC considers using and extending an original assumption to be a change of assumptions, which means the plan has to provide all the information in 4262.5(c) summarized in the slide below.
“Guidance” refers to SFA Assumptions, PBGC SFA 21-02.
During the 120 Day Review
Ross Marcelin urged plans to be on the lookout for confirmation of receipt within two weeks. Be aware that PBGC staff may reach out to filers with clarifying questions or any issues with the uploaded documents within 120 days of the filing date. During the 120-day window, plans must notify PBGC about any facts or data submitted in the application that are no longer accurate. By day 120, PBGC will make a determination to approve or deny the SFA application.
Payment of SFA
An approved plan should expect the SFA payment to be made within 60 days of approval.
The automated clearing house (ACH) vendor or miscellaneous payment enrollment form is required when submitting the application. The form is used to enable the plan to receive an electronic transfer of funds. PBGC will use the ACH system for amounts up to $100 million.
PBGC will use the Fedwire system for transferring amounts over $100 million. Prior to the transfer, plans should get in touch with their bank to ensure that there won’t be any difficulties or obstacles for a very large transfer. Confirm the bank’s routing number and any other information necessary for a Fedwire transfer.
Assuming the application has been approved, and after the transfer of SFA funds, PBGC expects that communications with the plan will be infrequent. The next communication would likely be regarding the statement of compliance that is due to PBGC annually after receiving SFA, Marcelin said.
More Information on Special Financial Assistance
The July 22 briefing also includes a walkthrough of five sections of instructions, addendums for special events and eight templates; and Harlan Weller, senior actuary at the U.S. Treasury Department, talks about the IRS guidance for reinstatements and makeup payments.
PBGC and Treasury staff are expected to cover additional topics at a later briefing, including how a plan that received SFA must treat the plan’s SFA for purposes of minimum funding requirements for multiemployer defined benefit plans.
The International Foundation is following ARPA and will continue to alert members to any developments. Find updates on MPRA and other pension news on our multiemployer pension reform resource page.
Foundation members can also access on-demand the recently held webcast Financial Assistance Program Overview for Financially Troubled Multiemployer Pension Plans.
Jenny Lucey, CEBS
Manager, Reference/Research Services at the International Foundation
Developed by International Foundation Information Center staff. This does not constitute legal advice. Please consult your plan professionals for legal advice.
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