Thousands of retired government workers will have to get by with less starting later this year, after the leaders of San Bernardino County's retirement fund voted Thursday to end an account that has paid special benefits to retirees for more than a decade.
A sharply divided San Bernardino County Employees' Retirement Association board voted 5-4 in favor of ending the so-called General Subsidy. County Treasurer-Tax Collector Larry Walker and members appointed by the county Board of Supervisors voted in favor, while members elected by retirees and current county employees voted against.
Those in favor said ending the subsidy would shore up the financial stability of the county's pension fund, while those opposed said the subsidy - which was set to expire in a few years - is vital for many retirees and doesn't cost that much.
"It was a blow to a lot of people who depend on the subsidy," said Sue Shuey, president of the Retired Employees of San Bernardino County.
The vote came after more than two hours of discussion and public comment, during which nearly two dozen county retirees - of the more than 100 who attended the meeting - told board members how losing the subsidy would hurt them.
The subsidy provides between $115 and $230 per month for more than 7,000 retirees.

"I make less than $1,000 a month. Take this away and I'll make less than $700 a month," said Dorothy Lueking, a retiree who started working for the county in 1954 as a clerk in the county library system. She said the board looks at money as one lump sum, while "retirees look at each dollar representing a blood pressure pill or part of a loaf of bread."