The Department of Labor (DOL) is offering $100,000 in grants to facilitate research into retirement plans for low-wage earners. The grants are being administered through the new Portable Retirement Benefits Planning grant program and are being overseen by the Women’s Bureau.
“These grants are a continuation of the U.S. Department of Labor’s ongoing efforts to support innovation aimed at increasing the availability of retirement savings options and making such benefits more portable,” says Sharon Block, senior counselor to the Secretary of Labor and principal deputy assistant secretary for policy at the DOL. “Such efforts are critical to ensure that more Americans can enjoy retirement security in this changing economy.”
The DOL notes that the program seeks to assist those workers who have traditionally lacked access to an employer-provided retirement benefits program (including independent contractors) or are otherwise less likely to have income from pensions or assets. Changing work arrangements in the high- and low-tech sectors place a greater importance on need for millions of workers – whether they are employees or independent contractors – to be able to take benefits from job to job to ensure greater retirement security.
The department will award two to four grants between $25,000 and $75,000 each to nonprofit organizations that will be charged with the task of assessing the challenges and barriers unique to low-wage earners with little to no retirement savings. The DOL also wants the organizations to research or develop new, portable retirement vehicles and identify legal constraints before implementing such retirement programs.
The DOL notes that one out of three workers do not have access to a retirement savings plan. Among workers at companies with 50 or fewer employees, half do not have access to a retirement savings plan, and more than three-quarters of part-time workers do not have such a benefit.