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Photo: Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images

General Electric said it will freeze pension plans covering about 20,000 U.S. employees and make other moves to help cut its debt and reduce its retirement fund deficit by $5 billion to $8 billion.

What it means: A pension freeze means employees no longer build up retirement benefits to reflect higher pay and additional years of employment. Employees stop earning some or all of their benefits from the point of the freeze onward.

  • However, a company "cannot take away any benefit that employees have already earned up to the point of the freeze," according to the Pension Rights Center.
  • U.S. employees facing the pension freeze will be moved to a defined-contribution retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan, in 2021, the company said.

The big picture: The move is expected to help offset increases in GE’s pension obligations — among its biggest liabilities and underfunded by about $27 billion as of the end of 2018, according to Reuters. It's the latest step by CEO Larry Culp to raise cash and reduce the company's $106 billion debt.

  • Culp, the first outsider to helm GE in its 127-year history, also cut GE’s quarterly dividend to a penny and has sold off major assets to focus on a core of power plants, jet engines and windmills.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

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