Deadline approaching for Detroit pensioners to apply for assistance as part of bankruptcy plan

Associated Press

The state of Michigan on Tuesday urged Detroit pensioners whose benefits will be reduced by the city's bankruptcy restructuring plan to apply for funding if it's necessary to keep them from dropping below the poverty line.

Some pensioners and their beneficiaries could miss out on getting help if they fail to apply for the supplemental benefits by Dec. 31, Gov. Rick Snyder said in a release.

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Detroit, which officially emerged last week from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, is shedding about $7 billion in debt under its restructuring plan.

As part of that, retirees in Detroit's general retirement system — not police officers and firefighters — will see their pensions cut by 4.5 percent. Members voted earlier this year in favor of the cuts.

Eligibility for the supplemental benefits is determined by age and income. Applicants must have been 60 years or older on Dec. 10 — the effective date of the city's restructuring plan — and be at 140 percent of 2013 federal poverty income levels. Those levels are $16,338 for an individual or $33,390 for a family of four.

"The city of Detroit has exited bankruptcy better, stronger and we thankfully were able to dramatically minimize impacts through Michiganders coming together in unprecedented ways, but not without tough choices and contributions of city retirees," Snyder said.

A hotline has been established to offer free assistance with the one-time, one-page application. The effort is being coordinated with the state Treasury Department.

Two informational sessions are scheduled Wednesday for retirees with questions about the program and the process.

"This is an uncertain time for many people and our goal is to provide them with the information and assistance they need in the most expedient way," said Cynthia Thomas, executive director of city retirement systems.