President Trump on March 27 signed into law the sweeping $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that includes retirement relief provisions supported by the American Retirement Association.
It wasn’t easy—or at least not as easy as it might have been—but the signing of the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act (enrolled version of H.R. 748) came just hours after the House of Representatives approved the legislation.
There was some added drama with the House passage. Members for the most part had been sheltering in place in their home districts amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but the leadership was forced to call lawmakers back into town under the possibility of having to take a recorded vote, instead of passing the legislation by simple voice vote. The latter was preempted by a challenge from Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), who requested a recorded vote, but enough members made it back to reject that motion.
Previously the CARES Act was passed by the Senate on March 25 in a unanimous vote of 96-0 (four senators were under quarantine).
As explained in a March 26 post, the retirement-based provisions stick closely to what was initially proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), including provisions to ease retirement plan hardship and loan rules to free up funds for individuals impacted by the pandemic and to provide relief from the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules. The final bill also adds funding relief for single-employer defined benefit plans, which was added after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) floated an alternative proposal.
What’s more, it provides the Department of Labor with expanded authority to postpone certain deadlines under ERISA. In fact, the ARA has been pressing the Treasury Department and DOL for relief from certain retirement plan filing deadlines.
Student Debt Relief?
While not directly related to retirement, section 2206 of the legislation allows for an employer to make student loan repayments for employees with no tax implications. The provision extends current Code Section 127 to apply to student loan repayments (Section 127 currently allows for tuition reimbursement up to $5,250 a year). More employers are increasingly interested in helping their employees with student loan repayments as a way to help their employees begin saving sooner for retirement.
ARA Presses for DC Funding Relief
In addition to the CARES Act, the ARA continues to push for defined contribution funding relief. The ARA has called on the Treasury Department to provide relief to help employers facing significant financial burdens relating to the Coronavirus, especially for retirement plans sponsored by small businesses.
Visit our new Coronavirus resource center!
Looking ahead, Congress may attempt to move on a fourth bill in response to the Coronavirus. In fact, as the House was considering the CARES Act, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, stated that, “In a fourth response package, I want to provide any needed additional support to people who have lost their incomes and to affected patients and health care providers. We should take bold action to improve our country’s economic health too.”
Those talks are very preliminary at this point, however, as both the House and Senate are on recess, with Senate leaders indicating that the chamber will be out until April 20.
NAPA Webcast and CARES Act FAQs
Please note: The live NAPA Member webcast scheduled for today, March 30, is full. However, you can sign up to access the recorded version at https://usaretirement.wufoo.com/forms/s1h3rsaf1et1y30/.
To help members and industry stakeholders stay informed about various questions and answers concerning key provisions of the CARES Act that the ARA believes will positively impact retirement plan participants and plan sponsors, visit our CARES Act FAQs page. The FAQs are arranged by subject.