Employers and Plan Participants Receive Key Deadline Relief
To provide some relief in regard to decisions affecting benefits during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department of Labor, Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service published a joint notice on April 28, 2020 (the “Notice”) announcing an extension to several key deadlines under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). See Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01.
All group health, disability, employee welfare benefit and employee pension plans which are subject to ERISA shall disregard the period from March 1, 2020 through the 60th day after the announcement of the end of the national emergency (the “Outbreak Period”) for all plan participants and beneficiaries in determining:
- The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request special enrollment;
- The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage;
- The date for making COBRA premium payments, i.e. 45-days following the COBRA election;
- The date for individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event or disability;
- The date for filing a claim for benefits or an appeal under the plan’s claim procedures; and
- For group health plans, the date for providing a COBRA election notice.
The Notice also provides several examples demonstrating how the extensions will apply. One such example is as follows: assuming an end date for the national emergency of April 30, with the Outbreak Period ending on June 29, which is the 60th day after the end of the national emergency.
Individual A works for Employer X and participates in X’s group health plan. Due to the national emergency, Individual A experiences a qualifying event for COBRA purposes as a result of a reduction of hours below the hours necessary to meet the group health plan’s eligibility requirements and has no other coverage. Individual A is provided a COBRA election notice on April 1. He is eligible to elect COBRA coverage under Employer X’s plan. The Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining Individual A’s COBRA election period. The last day of his COBRA election period is 60 days after June 29, which is August 28.
The Notice also provides an extension of time for plan officials to provide benefit statements, annual funding notices, and other ERISA required notices and disclosures as long as a good faith effort is made to provide the documents as soon as administratively practicable. The Notice also provides that good faith effort includes the use of electronic methods of communication, such as email, text messages, and access to websites.
We are continuing to monitor changes and developments in unemployment benefits and will provide another update as soon as any guidance is published. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact a member of the Koley Jessen Employment Practice Group.
* The information contained in this document is provided for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as business, legal, accounting, tax, financial, investment or other advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for such.
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