Advocates want Hochul to resolve closed hospital pension crisis
SCHENECTADY – Angie Stewart, a longtime nurse who retired from Ellis Medicine in 2018 at age 62, said she spent 30 years at the old St. Clare Hospital and was entitled to ” a very nice pension “which was to represent 40 percent of it. retirement income.
Stewart said she had just started receiving payments when they abruptly stopped in 2018. Stewart said she was now forced to rely on Social Security benefits and an IRA that she hoped would only hit. later in life.
“It was devastating,” said Stewart.
Supporters of restoring pension payments to retirees of closed Catholic health facilities, including St. Clare Hospital, have launched another effort now that the state is ruled by a new governor.
In a bipartisan move, State Assembly Member Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, State Senator James Tedisco, R-Glenville and Mary Hartshorne, president of the St. Clare’s Pensioners Recovery Alliance, wrote to Governor Kathy Hochul on Friday to ask him to think about the matter.
The letter from lawmakers said the pensions of more than 1,100 New Yorkers “evaporated in the snap of a finger, through no fault of their own.” This is no way to treat healthcare workers, they said.
“These are people who have returned to work, even as they go through this crisis, even as they face the situation they find themselves in,” Santabarbara said in an interview on Saturday. “Even if they see their savings disappear, they just disappear, in circumstances beyond their control. “
Linking the crisis to the country’s efforts to bounce back from the financial devastation of the pandemic, Santabarbara said, “We are helping our communities recover in different ways, so there is funding (for pensions). There are opportunities for people to partner with us.
St. Clare Hospital operated from September 1, 1949 until it closed in 2008, citing insurmountable financial pressures.
On October 18, 2018, St. Clare retirees were informed that their pension had abruptly ended.
The St. Clare operations were absorbed by Ellis Medicine. The former Catholic hospital stood on the site of the McClellan Street Health Center.
St. Clare’s was closed following a demand by the state’s Berger Commission, whose mission was to “properly size” New York health care facilities.
Because federal law allows for a religious exemption, the St. Clare pension fund does not have benefit guarantee insurance because federal law allows for a religious exemption, the letter from lawmakers to the governor says.
For reasons that are not yet fully identified, lawmakers said, the state has not provided enough funds to cover the costs of the St. Clare pension fund.
The pandemic has made the economic situation of retirees even more precarious, Santabarbara and Tedisco said.
Jerry and Kathy Adach, who worked a total of 59 years in administrative positions at St. Clare Hospital, said they owed a total of $ 27,000 in annual pension funds, or about a third of their earnings. estimated retirement.
The couple met at St. Clare Hospital.
Jerry Adach said he was interviewed for a job at another hospital in 2000, when word got back to his CFO. “He called me into his office the next day and he convinced me to stay because I would hurt my pension based on my years of service there, ”Adach said. “He was showing me examples of how it would hurt me in retirement. He convinced me to stay and I did.
Kathy Adach said she was also interested in leaving the organization around this time, but also ended up staying for what turned out to be the bogus promise of a pension.
In making their case before the new governor, lawmakers cite Hochul’s incoming commitment to restore confidence in government and foster a culture of greater transparency.
“I join my fellow Assembly member Santabarabara in a bipartisan effort to reach out to our new governor who I hope can meet with us and give him a fresh look so we can find common ground for the common good of our constituents, ”Tedisco said in a statement.
Santabarbara noted that he and many retirees had gone to Albany to meet Cuomo outside his office. But they were ignored each time, to which Santabarbara said he found insulting.
“These are my constituents,” Santabarbara said. “TThese are people who work in the health field, and if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is how important the many caregivers in the health field are to the health of our community, to the success. of our community and how vital they are. “
Hochul’s office has received the letter and the governor will review it soon, a spokeswoman said on Friday.
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