PREPA retirees call on governor to explain his plan for guaranteeing pensions
By John McPhaul
Electric Power Authority Retirees Association (AJAEE by its Spanish initials) President Johnny Rodríguez Ortiz sent a letter to Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia asking the governor to explain what his plan is to guarantee thousands of pensions, including those of colleagues who are about to start the retirement process.
Both the governor and Omar Marrero Díaz, the secretary of state and executive director of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, publicly stated that the government “will not endorse” an adjustment plan for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) if it modifies the pensions of that public corporation’s employees.
In the letter, Rodríguez Ortiz said that “according to the information provided by our Retirement System, in April 2023 our fund will be exhausted and we will stop receiving our pensions.”
“The retirees of our Retirement System and those who have already obtained the right to a pension, even if they have not exercised it, dedicate our youth and energy to fulfilling our duties at the agency,” the AJAEE president said. “That is why we vehemently demand our acquired right, because we buy and accumulate our pensions, thus fulfilling all the requirements to be beneficiaries of them.”
Rodríguez Ortiz also stressed that given their statements that PREPA retirees’ pensions would be “guaranteed,” they requested a meeting to “inform us what their plan is to ‘guarantee’ our pensions for life as stated in the regulations of our Retirement System.”
He added that Retirement System Board President José Rivera Rivera, along with the contracted firm, have presented a plan to save PREPA as the main sponsor of the retirement system. He stressed that it “was designed in tune with the necessary accounting, fiscal and actuarial information,” but that unfortunately “the plan has not been addressed in the government forum where it has been presented.”
Rodríguez Ortiz also reminded the governor that for retirees “it is of utmost urgency that our demands be addressed with haste,” taking into account that since the general hearing on the Title III Cases in September – when U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain demanded an adjustment plan from the Financial Oversight and Management Board by Dec. 1 in order to complete the debt restructuring process by June 2023.
Given the critical fiscal situation facing the PREPA Employees Retirement System, Rodríguez Ortiz lamented that retirees “are living in times of great uncertainty and anguish.”
Acknowledging that the crisis began in 2016, under the administration of previous Gov. Alejandro García Padilla, “when they unilaterally stopped making the corresponding contributions,” he reminded the governor that “you have been in charge for two years and you are not oblivious.”
“Therefore, we hope that, on this occasion, our proposals do not fall on deaf ears,” Rodríguez Ortiz said.