(Photo: AP)

The federal government may be backing off from helping Americans without a retirement plan gain access to one, but not so the city of Seattle.

Tim Burgess, mayor of Seattle, signed legislation that establishes a Seattle Retirement Savings Plan, making the program the first city-facilitated retirement savings plan administered by an outside private party in the country.

According to Seattle Weekly’s report, the program will automatically enroll the estimated 200,000 Seattle workers without workplace retirement savings opportunities into the plan, which will be managed by a third party provider. Workers have the option to end their enrollment in the plan at any time.

Not only will workers be able to keep the plan throughout their careers, even when they change jobs, but participants will contribute a percentage of their pay into the plan and will choose how their funds are invested. The yet-to-be-formed Seattle Retirement Savings Plan Board will select the investment products to be offered.

The plan is expected to take effect in 2019 or 2020.

According to a 2016 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, about 40% of employees in the Seattle metro area lack access to workplace retirement plans.

The report says that Burgess proposed the plan in late September after advocating for such legislation for more than a year. Last year, when he was still a council member, Burgess joined with Philadelphia and New York officials to lobby then-President Barack Obama’s Department of Labor to allow large cities to create city-operated retirement savings plans. The repeal by congressional Republicans of the Obama administration’s rule change last March stalled the plan, making it unclear if cities had the legal authority to create such a program.

However, the report cited Angela M. Antonelli, Georgetown University’s Center for Retirement Initiatives executive director saying that following legal guidance and discussions with other cities and states interested in automatic retirement plans, Burgess decided that there was strong legal ground to move forward with the legislation anyway.

In the report, Antonelli said that the plan could encourage other cities and states to move forward with similar legislation. “For Seattle to enact a program of this nature would put it at the forefront of a handful of cities and now several states that are determined to help their citizens be able to have greater access to and save for retirement,” she is quoted saying.