Guidance and Relief for Employee Benefit Plans Due to COVID-19

Recognizing the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Dept. of Labor’s (DOL) Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) – in conjunction with Treasury and the IRS – have released a number of documents* announcing the timing extensions for a host of deadlines so that plan participants, beneficiaries and employers have additional time to make critical coverage decisions affecting their benefits during the coronavirus outbreak.

Notice 2020-01 allows for the delay of certain notices, disclosures or other documents due between March 1, 2020, and 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 national emergency “if the plan acts in good faith and furnishes the notice, disclosure, or document as soon as practicable under the circumstances.” Such “good faith” efforts include electronic disclosures like emails, text messages, website access, etc.

Meanwhile, the new final regulations broadly extend numerous plan deadlines applicable to participants and beneficiaries of group health plans, benefit plans and pension plans. Specifically:

  • the election period for COBRA continuation coverage;
  • the date for making COBRA premium payments
  • the date that individuals can make a benefits claim (essentially extending the run-out period for reimbursement by health FSAs and HRAs); and
  • the date a plan sponsor/administrator has to provide a COBRA election notice.

The guidance acknowledges the uncertain duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and notes that additional guidance will be provided, if necessary. TASC Governmental Affairs is currently reviewing the new guidance and will provide a full summary and further analysis at a later time.

*EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01; DOL COVID-19 FAQs; Notification of Relief (final regulations)

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