- Tucked in President Joe Biden's first big stimulus package was a provision to help fund pensions.
- Previously, there was a multiemployer pension crisis looming, with some potentially unable to pay out.
- But the money from the American Rescue Plan Act propped up 350,000 more workers' pensions.
Your grandparents' retirement fund might have just been saved, thanks to President Joe Biden's sweeping stimulus package two years ago.
The American Rescue Plan Act, which cost a whopping $1.9 trillion, had a slew of provisions tucked into it to help battle the fallout from the pandemic and plug holes in the social safety net. One of them is the Butch Lewis Act. That legislation was meant to shore up the finances of multiemployer pension plans, which are responsible for providing benefits to retirees who were part of unionized workplaces, where different employers across the same industry join the same plan to administer benefits.
Before the ARPA, many plans were in "financial crisis," according to the House Committee on Education and Labor. They warned that "failing plans will be unable to pay out the benefits owed to retirees," and that the coffers of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)— which insures these plans and can step in to keep them running — were running low. According to the White House, that insurance program was estimated to become insolvent by 2026, leaving millions without the benefits they had accrued throughout their careers.
"These workers paid into the fund for years or even decades, and faced cuts through no fault of their own," a White House fact sheet said. In the latest cash infusion from the ARPA, $36 billion went to the Central States Pension Fund, safeguarding 350,000 Teamsters workers and retirees, including truck drivers and warehouse workers, from cuts to their benefits. The impacted workers live everywhere from Indiana to Florida.
"Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we secured a historic victory that is keeping the promises made to retirees, saving businesses from going under, and shielding taxpayers from the even greater cost of a multiemployer pension collapse," Bobby Scott, the committee's chair and a Democrat from Virginia, said in a statement.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the provision in the American Rescue Plan would cost $86 billion, according to the House Committee on Education and Labor. However, Mariah Becker of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans,a non-profit non-partisan advocacy group, has said that not addressing the "pension crisis" would cost the government between $170 and $240 billion.
It's not the only proactive measure that the Biden administration has taken to shore up Americans' finances when they retire. The president has released a plan to address climate-related costs draining retirement funds, savings, and pensions. In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) put forward a proposal to mandate companies to disclose greenhouse gas emissions and other potentially-business altering "climate-related risks," so investors can be better informed.
The pension relief comes as Republicans potentially eye cuts to Social Security, another major social safety net for the elderly and retirees. Social Security is already cash-strapped, and the GOP has eyed further cuts as a tradeoff for raising the debt ceiling.