The goal is to offer access to the pension program.
DENVER – Because small businesses tend to exude a family atmosphere, Chris Strowmatt said that sentiment is literal for her employees.
“We just have so many long-term employees that, you know, we employ their brothers and sons and cousins and you know what I mean it’s just one big family,” Strowmatt said.
That’s why the general manager of Denver’s longtime Tex-Mex restaurant, Blue Bonnet, hopes the new state program will be a success for her employees.
“I was thinking about how we could go into a pension plan and it took thousands to get started, and thousands every year to maintain it, and it just wasn’t feasible for a small business,” Strowmatt said.
But this week, the state Department of Finance announced the official launch of a state retirement savings plan called Colorado SecureSavings. The state said it was a program that would provide access to the pension plan for private sector workers, including those who work part-time, are self-employed or are seasonal.
However, the program is not intended to replace or compete with 401(k)s or other qualified retirement plans, but as another option for employers. Employers who offer a qualified retirement plan can certify an exemption from the program.
As of January 19, 549 companies have been registered, of which 353 are exempt because they have their own plan, according to a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance.
Strowmatt was able to get a head start on the program because he participated in a pilot program for him.
“We couldn’t have offered that ourselves and yet these employees are like family to us so we want to make sure that if they’ve worked for us this long, they have something you know, they can go to when they retire at the end,” Strowmatt said.
How does it work
A spokesperson for the Department of Finance explained that all Colorado businesses with five or more employees who have worked for more than 180 days must participate in the SecureSavings program or offer their own retirement savings plan for their employees, if they don’t already offer a plan.
According to their data, approximately 115,000 companies fall under the requirements and will have to enroll in the SecureSavings Program or offer their own pension plan.
The program should be structured like an IRA.
The default savings rate for a Colorado SecureSavings account is 5% of one’s gross pay (the amount you earn before taxes or any other deductions). Although the employee can change his savings rate at any time.
A spokesman said enrollment would be phased in, with eligible employers with 50 or more employees notified by email and post on January 15. They must register by March 15.
According to the program portal, employers with 15 to 49 employees have until May 15, and employers with 5 to 14 employees have until June 30.
Hope for the future
Strowmatt said that of about 48 employees, 16 signed up during the pilot.
“We have a lot of long-term employees, especially in the kitchen, who have worked here for 20, 30 years,” she said. “And for them, they were one of the first to jump in because they don’t have anything that came from us that they can use.”
She said it’s hard to say whether or not she believes it could improve job retention because of how long some employees have stayed, but she hopes it could help the industry at a time when hiring is a challenge.
“If someone is coming for a job, that’s one more thing we can offer them that you know maybe other places can’t offer yet,” Strowmatt said.
WITHRECOMMENDED VIDEOS: The latest from 9NEWS