Measure to pay retiree death benefits goes to Torres
The House of Representatives passed last Friday a measure to pay deceased retirees’ remaining loved ones the rest of their debt during the collapse of the NMI Retirement Fund.
Prior to the implementation of the settlement agreement between the government and the NMI Settlement Fund, the Retirement Fund provided the survived loved ones of retirees $1,000 as death benefits.
“Since the settlement, the beneficiaries have only since been receiving 75 percent of the $1,000 death benefit,” said Rep. Angel A. Demapan (R-Saipan), author of House Bill 20-141. “This bill would provide the statute needed to pay for it as well as the funding source for it.”
According to Demapan, the funding source of the legislation is the Retirement Fund, which he said that, according to Finance Secretary Larissa Larson, has adequate funding for such a purpose.
According to the settlement agreement, the CNMI government would shoulder the 25 percent remainder of the agreed 75 percent Settlement Fund responsibility for retirees. With this, according to the bill, the Settlement Fund has taken the position that the 25 percent payment for death benefits should be paid to the Settlement Fund by the Commonwealth government even though it is an obligation of the NMI Retirement Fund, which is a separate entity.
According to paragraph 8.2 of the settlement agreement, it states that, “All liabilities of the CNMI Fund shall be transferred to the CNMI and are assigned as the liabilities of the CNMI except for the benefits payable to the Settlement Class Members as provided herein.”
Also, upon discovery that several families of the retirees have been on standby for the remaining 25 percent owed them from the death benefit, H.B. 20-141 was drafted.
The House last Friday accepted the Senate’s amendments.
The bill contained a retroactive clause, so those who have been affected by the 25 percent lack of death benefits may expect the remaining balance if H.B. 20-141 is enacted into law.
“…The bill would take care of families who only received 75 percent; it would take care of them retroactively and…would ensure that nobody else has to worry about not getting 25 percent of that benefit,” said Demapan.
According to Demapan, the CNMI government owes about $50,000 retroactively.
“We hope that when it gets to the governor it would get his favorable consideration because this bill would really go a long way to helping retirees’ beneficiaries in dealing with funeral expenses and other collateral expenses that come with the passing of a family member,” said Demapan.