Government Watchdog Report Finds Employee Benefits Security Administration Grappling with Limited Resources

Agency’s Inflation-Adjusted Budget has Declined While Scope of Responsibilities has Grown

WASHINGTON – Today, Ranking Member Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03) announced the release of a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which assessed the management of priorities in the face of years of underfunding that has hindered the Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration’s ability to protect the health and retirement benefits of workers and retirees.

“Today’s report underscores the consequences of a decade of underfunding that has left the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) without the resources it needs to fulfill its mission to protect the employer-sponsored retirement and health benefits of millions of Americans,” said Ranking Member Scott.“Despite these findings, House Republicans’ extreme government funding bill proposes to cut $38 million from EBSA’s budget.  This is the last thing our nation’s employers, workers, retirees, and their families need.  As EBSA’s oversight responsibilities expand to advance our shared, bipartisan priorities, we should be making the investments in EBSA that reflect our commitment to ensuring access to affordable health care coverage and secure retirement benefits.”

EBSA is responsible for overseeing an estimated 2.8 million health plans, 765,000 private retirement plans, and 619,000 other welfare benefit plans, covering approximately 153 million workers, retirees, and their families.  This oversight helps ensure legislation is implemented as intended and benefits are delivered as promised.  However, according to a recent Department of Labor Inspector General (OIG) report, EBSA has the enforcement capacity of less than 1 investigator for every 12,600 plans at its current staffing levels.

According to the new GAO report, EBSA’s oversight responsibilities swelled significantly following the passage of bipartisan legislation, such as the SECURE ActSECURE 2.0 ActFamilies First Coronavirus Response ActCoronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and No Surprises Act. However, the report found that funding for EBSA remained flat from 2013 to 2021, resulting in a substantial decline in staff available to implement these laws.  Specifically, the dramatic decline in EBSA’s inflation-adjusted budget has reduced the number of its staff by over 18 percent from 2013 to 2021.  While EBSA has taken steps to accommodate its limited resources, the report provided recommendations for EBSA to adapt to its limited budget more systematically.

Read the full GAO report here.


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