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Your Stories: Kodak Survivor Benefits End, Futures Uncertain

Updated: Tuesday, December 17 2013, 05:15 AM EST

Greece, N.Y. — When Donna Gutowski’s husband suffered his first heart attack, he started planning his wife’s financialfuture - just in case he wasn’t around one day. 

“He thought he had it all planned out,” Donna said. “He thought he had it taken care of. I'm sure he's rolling [in his grave]. He said to me, “You're going to be all right. Please don't worry about this stuff. You're going to be all right.’” 

In november, Kodak and the Office Committee of Retirees reached an agreement that Kodak could cease medical, dental, and life insurances, as well as survivor benefits. In exchange, the retiree group will be given a lump sum payment of $7.5 million, and an unsecured claim of more than $630 million.

According to George Conboy, president of Brighton Securities, retirees and survivors won’t receive that cash until after the bankruptcy process and the amount will likely be a lot smaller than what the retiree and survivor benefits are now. 

This week, Donna Gutowski received a letter in the mail confirming that the $500 check from Kodak she gets for survivorincome benefits will be no more. That, plus the loss of her health benefits means she will have to find $900 more each month. 

“I don't know how I'm going to absorb $11,000 a year. I really don't,” she said.

Donna works a part-time job as a waitress, but otherwise has been a homemaker her whole life. She says she collects Social Security benefits and is caught in a bind because of it. She wants to work more hours to make up for her lost benefits, however she says she can’t make more than $14,500 a year or else she will get taxed more. 

“I don't know what to do because the option of making more money is not an option. If I make more money, I lose money.” 

For now, she plans to get rid of the non-essentials in her life. Cable and her landline phone will be the first things to go. 

Donna says she had money set aside for retirement, but retirement seems to be a distant dream now. 

“A lot of my friends have retired and that's all I've heard is, ‘When are you going to retire?’ and I say to them, ‘Don't ask me that right now. That's not an option!'” 

Your Stories: Kodak Survivor Benefits End, Futures Uncertain

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Washington Times