After more than two years of waiting, The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) will hear by the end of September about a federal pension plan ruling that could determine its prospects for survival.
The federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has informed CWLA Executive Director Christine James-Brown that it would make a final decision on whether the government would assume responsibility for the group’s pension obligations.
PBGC insurance protects thousands of private-sector pension plans that cover more than 44 million Americans. It insures the plan, and in the event that a plan is terminated, the agency takes over as trustee and pays out at least some of the benefits owed to pensioners.
But it is not as simple as just announcing a plan’s termination. A company or nonprofit must apply for a “distress termination” of its pension plan, and prove to PBGC the organization could not continue to operate and service the pension obligations.
When the distress termination was made in the summer of 2011, obligations to the pension plan cost the organization nearly $1 million per year. This occurred as membership and revenues both sharply declined. According to its most recent tax return, from fiscal 2011, the organization is $3 million in debt and operated at a $2.1 million loss from 2010 to 2011.
James-Brown described CWLA, a 93-year-old membership organization representing public and private child welfare agencies, as “challenged and energized,” and said that the organization reduced its membership dues to reach smaller organizations.
“We’re still here, you’re talking to us,” she said in late July, during an interview about CWLA’s new National Blueprint on child welfare.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change