WASHINGTON (December 6, 1999) -- The National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) approved more than $3 million in supplemental grants to 17 religious orders December 6, more than twice the amount awarded in last year's supplemental grants.
The new grants are in addition to the $27 million awarded last June to more than 500 religious institutes, representing 42,117 senior members.
The total 1999 figure, which included use of some reserved funds, comes to more than last year's entire collection, $29,900,000, which was the top collection in the fund's 11-year history.
The Religious Retirement Collection is taken up each year to offset the $7 billion underfunded retirement liability facing retired men and women religious in the United States. Money for the fund comes through an annual collection taken up in parishes nationwide.
This year's collection is slated for December 11-12.
The fund also has been enhanced by almost $2 million in bequests.
Since its start, the Religious Retirement Collection has drawn in $286,369,750, and distributed $283,569,529 or 99 per cent of what has been collected.
The NRRO has operated on that other one per cent plus the earnings on temporary reserves.
NRRO rules guarantee anonymity to orders receiving Supplemental and Special Identified Needs Grants. In general, however, the 1999 supplemental awards were awarded to institutes in 14 states across the nation that needed immediate help to:
- Care for their sisters while their retirement facilities were being renovated.
- Combine cloistered monasteries into one facility.
- Assist orders in buying into Social Security.
- Establish contemporary accounting and bookkeeping systems.
- Pay for repairs due to an earthquake.
- Pay for home health aides.
- Pursue a skilled care nursing project to serve 16 religious institutes.
Supplemental Identified Needs Grants (SING) are awarded to groups identified by the NRRO as in need of assistance in planning for their future.
Money from the collection is distributed as basic grants to retirement programs of U.S. religious institutes according to a formula based on the ages, membership and level of retirement needs. Grants to individual orders have ranged from $880,000 to $1,000 in 1999.
Church officials launched the annual appeal when it became obvious that funds available to U.S. religious orders for retirement were insufficient. Simultaneously, the religious communities began to cut costs and raise additional monies by selling property, converting structures to maintain them more economically and developing inter-community efforts for cost-efficient care of their elderly members.
Signs of the crisis began to show in the early 1970s as health care costs skyrocketed and demographics of religious orders shifted, leaving more older than younger members. The resulting situation precludes wage earners in religious orders today from being able to support all their retired members.
Some religious collect Social Security. However, since members of religious orders were only allowed into the nation's Social Security system in the 1970s, they could not accrue significant benefits. The average annual Social Security payment to a retired religious is $3,329.41.
Nationwide, 171 of the country's 192 dioceses participate in the National Retirement Fund for Religious collection. Those which do not participate directly operate their own fund drives or had started local collections before the national appeal began.