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Former St. Clare's employees to meet on endangered pension plan

Former St. Clare's employees to meet on endangered pension plan

Funds running out to pay more than 1,000 beneficiaries of former Schenectady hospital
Former St. Clare's employees to meet on endangered pension plan
The former St. Clare's Hospital, seen in 2014.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

ALBANY — Former employees of the old St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady will gather next week for an update on their endangered pension benefits.

But one of the retirees leading the effort to preserve the benefits said she doesn’t see a lot of progress at this point.

The meeting will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 19, at Albany Law School, said Lori Daviero, a retired radiologic technologist. It will provide a chance for retirees to hear about efforts to protect their pensions and ask questions.

The last such meeting, about six months ago in Rotterdam, drew a crowd of 200 or so, she said.

The Schenectady hospital ceased to exist as an independent entity in 2008, when Ellis Hospital absorbed it to become what is now known as Ellis Medicine. The old St. Clare’s campus was renamed the McClellan Street Health Center and was converted to a nursing home and outpatient care/short-term rehab facility. 

In early 2017, the 1,129 retirees or future retirees vested in the plan received written notice that the money to pay their benefits will run out somewhere between 2024 and 2028. 

Most pension benefits are at least partly guaranteed by the federal government, but church-owned entities can seek exemption from the guarantees and reporting requirements of the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act. St. Clare’s, which was operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, sought and received the exemption in the 1990s.

With the hospital no longer operating, there is no source of money to replenish the pension fund, which is gradually depleting itself with payments to retirees.

Daviero said she and four other pensioners, each from a different department, are spearheading the effort to protect the payments they receive for their years of service to St. Clare’s.

However, she said, David Pratt, an Albany Law School professor assisting the group, has not yet identified a way to turn the situation around, though he does feel there still is some hope for doing so.

Daviero said Pratt is working with the group at no charge and using it as a teaching experience for students at the law school.

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