The COVID-19 pandemic underscored just how important health care workers are to maintaining nearly every aspect of our society. Over the past two years, we’ve rightly praised these heroes for their hard work and dedication in protecting our communities even when they placed their own health at risk.
Unfortunately, these words of praise ring hollow for over a thousand retired local health care workers from the shuttered St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady. St. Clare closed its doors in 2008, and ten years later abruptly cut off pension payments to over a thousand of their former health care workers. Because federal law permits a religious exemption, the St. Clare’s pension fund doesn’t have benefit guarantee insurance. Even when the state stepped in with $28.5 million to help cover pension related expenses, it was still not enough.
To make matters even more frustrating for pensioners, a 2019 investigation by Attorney General Letitia James showed that the trustees of the St. Clare’s Corporation voted to buy the insurance that could have prevented this pension collapse but ultimately didn’t follow through.
This callous and unfair treatment of health care workers would be unacceptable in any situation, but it is especially shocking under current circumstances. The pandemic has placed even more of a strain on these retirees’ dwindling resources, and we can’t afford to delay any longer. These hardworking men and women, who spent years caring for our most vulnerable, have seen their promised savings vanish in the blink of an eye and through no fault of their own.
I’ve met with St. Clare’s retirees personally, and I’m disappointed with the state’s lack of action on this critical issue. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s just how important health care workers are to the safety and success of our communities. That’s why I partnered with state Senator James Tedisco and St. Clare’s Pensioners Recovery Alliance Chair Mary Hartshorne to write a letter urging our new governor, Kathy Hochul, to come to the table and work with us to find a solution for St. Clare’s pensioners.