DETROIT (WWJ) – Detroit retirees who took a hit to their pensions because of the city’s bankruptcy may be eligible for some financial assistance.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday reminded low-income Detroit pensioners that they have until the end of the year to apply for special assistance from the Income Stabilization Funds established as part of the bankruptcy settlement.

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Attorney Ron King said 4.5 percent cuts for 12,000 retirees would likely kick in by March 1 as a key part of Detroit’s bankruptcy. Detroit police and fire retirees are exempt from the cut.

Free assistance with the one-time, one-page application is available from the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) and the Accounting Aid Society (AAS) in coordination with the Michigan Department of Treasury.

The targeted funding is available to help ensure no pensioners, or their beneficiaries, fall below the poverty line as a result of any bankruptcy-related pension changes. But if pensioners don’t apply by Dec. 31, they will lose the opportunity to ever get assistance.

“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,” said Snyder, in a media release. “This program is geared to further assist pensioners and their families. Please don’t delay applying, or spreading the word to friends, family and neighbors. And heartfelt thanks to these organizations and their members for stepping up to helping ensure no pensioner or beneficiary misses out on this important opportunity.”

Added Retirement Systems for the City of Detroit (RSCD) Executive Director Cynthia Thomas: “Our primary concern is taking care of our pensioners and we welcome all extra help to meet their needs. 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. We greatly appreciate MICPA and AAS joining us in this effort.”

Eligibility for these supplemental benefits is determined by age and income. Applicants must be 60 years of age or older (or under 18 for beneficiaries) on the effective date of the city’s Plan of Adjustment (Dec. 10, 2014), and be at 140 percent of 2013 federal poverty income levels – $16,338 for an individual or $33,390 for a family of four.

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MICPA and AAS volunteers are now staffing the “Detroit Income Stabilization Application Assistance” hotline to aid city pensioners or beneficiaries who have questions or need help. The number to call is 313-879-4771. The hotline will be available from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., through Dec. 30, excluding holidays.

“Members of both organizations were quick to step forward and volunteer their time and expertise,” MICPA President & CEO Peggy Dzierzawski said. “We are very pleased to be able to assist qualifying Detroit pensioners in securing this additional funding.”

Each organization has recruited accountant volunteers to staff the call center.

In addition to the call center, two information sessions have been scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 17 by the Retirement Systems of the City of Detroit:

•2-4 p.m. at Fellowship Chapel, 7707 W. Outer Dr. in Detroit.
•6-8 p.m. at Renaissance Unity Church, 11200 East 11 Mile in Warren.

Staff from the Retirement Systems will be on hand to answer questions and assist retirees in filling out and submitting applications.

The MICPA has also produced a “how-to” video, designed to walk pensioners through the application and filing process. (The video and other materials to help with the application can be found at www.rscd.org).

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[Detroit Bankruptcy: Complete Coverage]