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St. Clare's retirees exploring all options to fund pensions

March 27, 2019 06:00 PM

SCHENECTADY - Former employees of St. Clare's Hospital are considering their remaining options after learning the new state budget won't include money for people whose pensions were terminated.

NewsChannel 13 first brought this issue to light back in October 2018.

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The retirees met with Bishop Edward Sharfenberger on December 20 to discuss the issue.

They met with both Bishop Scharfenberger and lawmakers on February 8, but they didn't come up with a solution.

This week, it was announced that there would be no money in the state budget to help.

To make matters worse, on Tuesday a petition was filed in Supreme Court in Schenectady County to dissolve the St. Clare's Corporation. The move comes as the group "has completed winding up its affairs."

The St. Clare's Corporation reportedly paid out about $30 million in benefits to over 1,100 pensioners when terminating the plan this past February.

The corporation then gave about another $500,000 to be distributed to eligible plan participants. The remaining $51,000 was donated to Catholic Charities of Albany. That money is to be used as a relief fund for St. Clare's retirees.

NewsChannel 13 spoke with Mary Hartshorn, a retiree and pension committee member Wednesday afternoon. She said she's remaining optimistic about the situation, but also understands it's extremely difficult to be patient at a time like this.

"That notice yesterday really hurt people hard you know," Hartshorn said. "You have to understand that these people are losing a great deal of money and that means mortgage, rent, health issues medical bills, whereas it's your medical bills. That's huge for people that live paycheck to paycheck and many of us did."

Fortunately, Hartshorn said they've been getting suggestions and advice from attorneys and other pensioners in similar situations.

Hartshorn said they'll look into fundraising efforts soon, as it's estimated an additional $56 million would be needed to make the 1,100 retirees' pensions whole again.

Hartshorn is still holding out hope that the money will come from the Mother Cabrini Fund.

The Albany Roman Catholic Diocese said it's an ongoing process and Bishop Scharfenberger is pursuing all avenues to find funding.

"The Cabrini Foundation -- I'm sure there are specific things that they want or need before they give the money out and I think he's exploring all of those," Hartshorn said. "I honestly do not think he's going to abandon us, I don't. I firmly believe he'll come through."

Though it's a last resort, attorneys advising the pensioners said they could have a case against the St. Clare's Corporation for designating the pension plans as "church plans." That allowed the corporation to avoid paying pension insurance premiums.

One attorney advising the group said it's a tricky game, because they'd like to see what happens with the Mother Cabrini Fund. However, the longer they wait, the longer some pensioners are without assistance.

Stay tuned to NewsChannel 13 for updates on this developing story.

Credits

Emily Burkhard

Copyright 2019 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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