Detroit retirees with slashed pensions can seek aid, but face Dec. 31 deadline

DETROIT, MI — City pensioners who are absorbing benefit cuts as a result of the city’s bankruptcy case and debt adjustment plan face a Wednesday deadline to apply for aid from the state.

Detroit retirees and employees voted earlier this year to accept losses that were far easier to swallow than the 30-percent cuts that were being threatened if they persisted in fighting pension reductions.

Retired cops and firefighters agreed to take reduced annual increases to their pensions, while while non-uniformed former employees accepted a 4.5-percent cut to their monthly pension checks.

Some could lose up to 20 percent of their checks to pay back some of the money they made if they invested in annuity funds that were determined during the bankruptcy case to be overly generous and too costly for the city.

Retirees over 60 who are at risk of falling below the poverty line could be eligible for an aid program established when the state agreed to add $194.8 million in aid for Detroit’s pension systems to $466 million contributed by private donors.

Those funds were pledged in exchange for pensioners dropping their challenges and agreeing not pursuing the sale of the Detroit Institute of Arts collection.

Retirees received notices and applications for aid along with recent pension checks.

“There is a concern that some or many retirees will not pay attention to the extra document in their envelope,” said lawyer Ryan Plecha, who represented retirees in the bankruptcy, in an email to reporters.

“… This is a one-time opportunity to apply for this income support program and we really want to get the word out.”

A list of frequently asked questions on the aid can be viewed here.