PA Rep. Proposes Steel Benefit Fund

April 25, 2002 ( - A new bill from a Pennsylvania Republican congressman sets up a federal trust fund to help beleaguered US steelmakers fund their legacy retirement benefit payments.

The bill, from Representative Phil English (R-Pennsylvania), imposes tariffs on imported steel and a tax on domestic steel to raise trust fund money, according to an Associated Press report.

The English bill is aimed at helping steelmakers with pension and health costs owed to former employees at bankrupt steel companies. Those costs are expected to dramatically increase as the US steel industry closes plants to stem oversupply, the AP said.

Bill Aimed at Steel Deals

Under the bill, the federal government would pay some retirement benefits for retired steelworkers of:

  • any company that has closed since January 1, 2000
  • steelmakers bought by another US steelmaker
  • steel companies that reduced production within five years after a merger

Steel executives say they have to participate in mergers to survive, but that they can’t afford to pay retirement and health benefits to workers laid off as part of merger deals.
In fact, according to the AP, US Steel has pending deals with four bankrupt companies that hinge on a government bailout to help pay benefit costs.
PBGC Coverage

Retirees’ pensions would be covered under the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and health benefits would be paid with a new Treasury Department fund.
The fund would be created with the 8% to 30% tariff on foreign steel and a $5 per ton surcharge on steel made by merged steelmakers.

The bill would also create a new board that would rule on antitrust concerns from steel mergers.