The Senate approved on Wednesday a roughly $2 trillion economic stimulus package for affected companies and workers that also provides some temporary relief for retirement plan sponsors and participants.

Final approval is expected Friday in the House of Representatives, where House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she expected to debate the measure on the floor.

Defined benefit plan sponsors gained a one-year holiday from making their 2020 contributions, but did not get other measures sought, including delayed reporting or premium payments to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. or longer periods for measuring plan liabilities. Defined contribution plan participants will get relief from rules on taking required minimum distributions and limits on hardship loans.

“It’s positive that Congress recognized that this is a challenging time for plan sponsors. We hope that over time they will revisit it and provide more relief,” said Michael P. Kreps, a principal at Groom Law Group in Washington.

The $2 trillion-plus package includes $500 billion for the Federal Reserve to provide liquidity to companies, plus loans for small businesses, state and local governments and hospitals. Employers will get an employee retention tax credit to help workers, while airlines and other industries impacted by the crisis will get direct financial aid.

Democrats who called for more oversight of companies that would receive that assistance won several concessions, including a special inspector general, limits on executive compensation and a ban on stock buybacks for the term of the loan plus one year. That makes sense, said Amy Borrus, deputy director of the Council of Institutional Investors in Washington.

“The current global public health crisis is a cautionary tale to corporate managers who prioritize share repurchases at the expense of preserving a capital cushion to help weather negative events, including a severe market downturn,” Ms. Borrus said.

Before the Senate agreement with the White House was reached, House Democrats introduced their own package Monday with more worker-friendly provisions, including relief for some struggling multiemployer pension funds, which did not make it into the Senate plan.

Source: Pensions & Investments