Final passage of a massive COVID-19 relief bill came Wednesday with House approval, along a 220-211 mostly party-line vote. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan legislation is expected to be quickly signed by President Joe Biden, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki calling it the first phase of "an aggressive, two-step plan for rescue from the depths of this crisis, and recovery."
The 628-page package covers a wide range of goals, from funding vaccinations to providing immediate relief to people and communities impacted by the pandemic and rebuilding the U.S. economy.
The fiscal stimulus package will help boost global growth and add 3 percentage points to U.S. growth this year, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Tuesday. The OECD report said that global gross domestic product growth is now expected at 5.6% this year, 1 percentage point higher than its December forecast, thanks to the stimulus measure and rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. OECD projected that the U.S. economy would expand by 6.5% this year, China by 7.8% and the eurozone by 3.9%.
The bill's legislative journey highlighted a partisan divide in Congress, where Republicans opposed its price tag and many provisions, including one creating a federal assistance program for struggling multiemployer pension funds. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, called that part "an $86 billion bailout with no strings attached" instead of some structural reforms sought by Republicans to avert future plan insolvencies.
Financial assistance received by plans must be segregated from other plan assets and invested in investment-grade bonds. The bill also increases PBGC multiemployer premiums starting in calendar year 2031.