The Teamsters are euphoric about the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) clearing its final legislative hurdle in the House today, ensuring more than 1 million U.S. workers and retirees in struggling multiemployer pension plans will receive the nest eggs they were promised while other Americans hit hard by the global pandemic get the help they need.
President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law shortly. And when he does, it will mark the culmination of a more than two-decades-long effort by the Teamsters and led by its General President Jim Hoffa to shore up the faltering retirements of members and retirees of this union and others.
“I couldn’t be more pleased by the House’s vote to pass this COVID relief package containing a pension fix after years of tireless work by members, retirees and union officials,” Hoffa said. “Members decided that pension reform should be the union’s top priority heading into the 2020 election. They then worked hard to elect President Biden and other lawmakers who would get that done. Now we see the results of that effort. It’s promises made, promises kept.”
As part of the ARP, more than 50 Teamster pension plans – including its largest, the Central States Pension Fund – will be eligible for assistance at the outset of the bill’s enactment, with more of the union’s plans becoming eligible in 2022. Under the measure, money to assist eligible plans would come directly from the U.S. Treasury Department in the form of grants which would not need to be repaid. Plan participants would receive 100 percent of their earned pension benefits.
But this stimulus legislation goes far beyond boosting retirements. It will provide a lifeline to tens of millions of Americans who have faced the health and economic fallout caused by the deadly coronavirus.
Many Teamsters and other essential workers are still working in unsafe conditions and without access to quality personal protective equipment (PPE). The ARP would provide $10 billion to use the Defense Production Act to purchase, produce and distribute equipment including tests, PPE and vaccines. The bill also provides funding to support the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement in high-risk sectors and expands incentives for employers to offer paid leave.
More than 200,000 Teamsters work in the public sector. This legislation provides states and localities with funds to address revenue loss, not just unanticipated COVID-19 related expenses. The flexibility will help states to avoid mass layoffs and furloughs that would worsen the recession, delay recovery and undercut public health response efforts.
Significant support is provided to states and localities to expand vaccine distribution, testing and contact tracing. The bill also provides necessary funding to support in-person teaching – where it is safe to do so for teachers, staff and students – as well as expenses associated with equitable access to distance learning.
Over 600,000 Teamsters start their workday by turning the key of a vehicle. The ARP supports transportation industries and workers with funding for transit agencies, airports, airlines and Amtrak that can be used to cover operating expenses including payroll costs and purchasing PPE.
And while the majority of Teamster members have been on the job throughout the pandemic, many Teamster industries have been hard hit by lack of consumer demand and mandated property closures associated with social distancing guidelines. The ARP provides displaced workers with access to uninterrupted unemployment benefits as well as mortgage and rental assistance.
The bill also authorizes another round of direct payments to struggling households to help families pay for their everyday expenses. Additionally, the ARP also supports continued access to affordable healthcare through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid and a 100 percent federal subsidy for COBRA benefits.