It’s full speed ahead for state-facilitated, auto-enrollment retirement systems for small employers, despite efforts by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to stop them, say advocates.

In May, the GOP-controlled House and Senate passed and President Trump voided Department of Labor efforts launched by President Barack Obama to spur the creation of the programs by state and local governments for the millions of small business workers who lack access to on-the-job retirement savings plans.

But the legal force of what President Obama did, and Trump reversed, was small, says AARP State Advocate Sarah Gill. All DOL did, says Gill, was to issue suggested arguments states could use in courts to defend their plans against lawsuits by businesses that could be required to offer the plans.

This year, at least 22 states and cities have introduced measures to address the retirement savings gap among private-sector workers, while nine others have legislatively approved plans in the works, according to the Georgetown Center for Retirement Initiatives. This year, California and Oregon are on tap to become the first states to start enrolling workers in their plans.

Angela Antonelli, the center’s executive director, says its’s baffling why financial services companies have been lobbying Congress to stop the programs when they stand to gain from states’ contracting with financial firms to run the systems. Also, she said, more employers will be going to financial firms for help setting up retirement offerings.

On the state level, Republicans are not among those pushing for the programs, but they aren’t trying to undermine them, either, says Hank Kim, executive director of the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems.

“Congress is out of touch with the states,” says AARP’s Gill, a self-professed retirement security fanatic.

Each state’s plans differ, but Gill is particularly excited about the program approved by Vermont’s legislature in June.

It will offer a multiple-employer retirement savings vehicle and, as an ERISA plan, it permits employer contributions, she said.

ERISA program also have a larger annual contribution potential: $18,000 versus $5,500 for non-ERISA plans, Gill said.

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