On Wednesday, January 17, Biden-Harris Administration officials convened a listening session on workplace emergency savings programs and employer matches for employee student loan payments, two initiatives that the Administration has championed following the December 2022 passage of SECURE 2.0 as part of its larger efforts to improve the financial resilience of American workers and their families.

Representatives from public policy groups and the business community reviewed these programs’ demonstrated benefits for workers. Public policy groups that have pioneered emergency savings programs observed how emergency savings improve financial resilience and wealth accumulation in vulnerable communities, while providing a vital lifeline for the many Americans each year experiencing a financial emergency. Several large employers that have been earlier adopters of these programs shared their positive experiences. These workplace benefits, the companies reported, enjoy high rates of enrollment and retention among young and old workers alike. They have also helped employers retain their workforces and increase productivity.

Representatives of the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Labor (DOL) reported on their efforts to provide interpretative guidance for SECURE 2.0 provisions authorizing new tax-advantaged programs for both kinds of benefits programs. Within the past week, the IRS issued new guidance for employers on setting up pension-linked emergency savings accounts within a tax-qualified retirement plan, while DOL released Frequently Asked Questions addressing these types of accounts. Officials discussed forthcoming guidance on both emergency savings and student loan matching contribution programs and solicited input from participants on needed clarifications and how future guidance could help reduce the complexity and administrative burden of establishing and maintaining these programs, while ensuring they have adequate consumer protections.

Representatives from a number of financial services firms – providing recordkeeping, asset management, and consulting services – discussed their plans for developing and supporting new benefit programs for small, medium, and large employers. Generally, participants noted rising levels of employer interest in offering these programs. Several commented on how partnering with FinTech firms can facilitate offering these benefits, the importance of providing different benefit packages that serve workers and employers’ diverse needs, and how regulatory clarity is vital for small businesses establishing these programs. Participants agreed that SECURE 2.0 offered valuable new options for employers and greatly increased market awareness of the importance of emergency savings and student loan matching contribution programs. 

The Listening Session is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s larger efforts to improve the financial resilience of American families. The Administration has strengthened protections for retirement savers by proposing to close loopholes and ensure that the financial advice retirement savers receive is in their best interest. It has provided historic relief to protect the hard-earned pension plans of millions of union workers and retirees. The Administration has also provided historic student loan relief, including by fulfilling the promise of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and establishing the most affordable income-based repayment plan ever, SAVE. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has cracked down on junk fees in banking and credit cards, which cost Americans tens of billions of dollars each year.

Outside Participants

Anne Ackerley, BlackRock
Shai Akabas, Bipartisan Policy Center
Kevin Barry, Fidelity
Jeff Cimini, Principal Financial
Lynn Dudley, American Benefits Council
Tim Flacke, Commonwealth
Phil Goldfeder, American Fintech Council
Brian Graff, American Retirement Association
Fiona Greig, Vanguard
Demi Hannon, Boeing
Ryan Igleheart, Humana
Kendra Isaacson, Mindset
Kelli Keough, SoFi
Diego Martinez, Abbott Labs
Ida Rademacher, Aspen Institute
Josh Rubin, Betterment
Josh Rundle, Transamerica
Aaron Schumm, Vestwell
Chantal Sheaks, Chamber of Commerce
Amy Vaillancourt, Voya
Nancy Weis, AutoNation
Brant Wong, JPMorgan Chase

Government Participants

Lily Batchelder, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, U.S. Department of Treasury
Howell Jackson, Senior Adviser, White House National Economic Council
Elizabeth Kelly, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, White House National Economic Council
Ali Khawar, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor
Rachel Levy, Associate Chief Counsel, Internal Revenue Service
Jordan Matsudaira, Chief Economist and Deputy Under Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
Helen Morrison, Benefits Tax Counsel, U.S. Department of Treasury
Caroline Ratcliffe, Senior Economist, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau


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