In 2000, after several frustrating years, the UFT, NYSUT and the rest of the state’s labor movement convinced New York State to provide an annual, permanent cost-of-living adjustment to retiree pensions.
The legislation, which was signed on July 11, 2000, provided a two-pronged approach to enhance and protect the retirement benefits of all current and future retirees. The first prong, a “catch-up” COLA, took effect in September 2000. It raised the percentage used to increase the base pension of longtime retirees whose benefits had been severely eroded by inflation.
The second prong, beginning in September 2001, was the permanent, automatic and annual adjustment of retirement benefits linked to the increase in the CPI. The COLA is based on 50 percent of the increase in the CPI from year to year (March to March). The annual increase is based on your pension if it is less than $18,000 per year, or on the first $18,000 of your pension per year.
Based on current CPI figures, the 2019 September COLA is 1 percent. The benefit is paid to:
- retirees who have reached age 55 and have been retired for at least 10 years; or
- retirees who have reached 62 and have been retired for at least five years; or
- retirees who have retired for disability and have been retired for at least five years; as well as
- the spouses of certain deceased retirees who are collecting benefits under joint and survivor options.