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June 21, 2024

State-sponsored worker retirement savings program surpasses $1M

Representatives from MERIT and Flowfold meet at the Flowfold shop. File PHOTO / TIM GREENWAY Elizabeth Bordowitz, executive director of the Maine Retirement Investment Trust, says Maine’s program for private-sector retirement savings builds on similar programs in other states. Flowfold’s Devin McNeill jumped at the chance to enroll his company in the pilot program last fall.

Six months since the launch of a state-sponsored retirement program for private-sector employees, Maine workers have amassed a total of more than $1 million in savings.

The Maine Retirement Investment Trust, or MERIT, launched in January after a pilot program last year. That program enrolled 16 employers — from a land trust to in Ogunquit to a day care company in Presque Isle — whose employees accounted for 169 funded accounts. 

The program now has enrolled 1,481 employers whose employees account for 4,662 funded accounts.

200,000 employees

MERIT was established by the Maine Legislature for employers that had five or more workers but didn’t offer a retirement savings plan. 

The trust was designed to be a low-cost, automatic, portable retirement savings program to workers without access to a savings program. The goal is to increase the number of Mainers saving for retirement. 

Vestwell, a digital 401(k) recordkeeping platform in New York City, in partnership with the Bank of New York Mellon Corp., serves as the program administrator, providing recordkeeping, custodial and administrative services to employers and employees. MERIT is overseen by a public board whose members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the legislature.

The program is anticipated to reach 200,000 Mainers, or about 40% of the state’s private-sector workforce. There is no cost and minimal administrative requirements for employers, and no requirement for an employer match.

After last fall’s pilot run, the full program rollout began in January with about 9,600 employers to enroll.

Million-dollar milestone

The million-dollar milestone came ahead of the June 30 registration deadline for all Maine employers that do not offer a workplace retirement plan.

“It is encouraging to see this rapid growth of employee savings,” said Henry Beck, Maine’s state treasurer. 

The program aims to offer an easy enrollment process. As MERIT grows, the focus remains on expanding access to retirement savings and educating employers and employees about the program's benefits. 

Rousseau Management Inc., of Brunswick, is one of the enrolled employers.

“More employees chose to participate than I anticipated,” said Lesley Davison, the company’s CFO.

MERIT maintains accounts and provides employees with investment options and a low-cost retirement savings program that can follow them from job to job.

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