A: Yes. The Department of Labor has issued Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 on April 28, 2020. The relief extends the time frame for several required notices including Qualifying Events for Health and Welfare plans as well as for plan officials to furnish retirement benefit statements and retirement annual funding notices. Extended time frames for disclosures required under ERISA are permitted ifthe plan and participants make a good faith effort to provide the documents as soon as administratively practicable.
Q: What are the new deadlines?
A: The disaster relief does not define time limits on the deadline for distribution of notices. The employer must have made a good faith effort to provide the documents as soon as administratively practicable. This also applies to participant deadlines for Special Enrollment Events and COBRA.
Q:When does the Disaster Relief for notices begin and end?
A: The relief begins on March 1, 2020 and end 60 days after the announcement of the end of the COVID-19 National Emergency.
Q: What is meant by good faith efforts?
A: Good faith efforts include use of electronic means of communicating with plan participants who the plan sponsor reasonably believes have effective access to electronic means of communication, including email, text messages and continuous access websites.
Q: What types of notices does the relief include for health and welfare plans?
A: The relief includes but is not limited to:
- The date for individuals to notify the plan of a Qualifying Event or Special Enrollment Right.
- COBRA deadlines including the date plan administrators must send COBRA notices, the participant election deadline and premium payment deadlines.
- The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure; and
- The dates within which claimants may file an appeal of benefits determinations or external reviews.
For a complete list of all reliefs we encourage employers to read COVID-19 FAQ for Participants and Beneficiaries.
Q: Has the DOL issued any updated Model COBRA Notices?
A: The DOL did issue updated COBRA notices and FAQ’s. They can be found on the DOL website at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/cobra.
Although the notices do not reflect the new deadline extensions, the DOL issued updated versions of the model general notice and the model election notice to ensure that qualified beneficiaries better understand the interactions between Medicare and COBRA.
Q: Is there any relief for retirement plans?
A: Yes. The relief also includes notices that deal with retirement plans. Included in the relief is:
- Furnishing of notices, disclosures, and other documents required by provisions of Title I of ERISA .
- Failure to follow Plan loans and distribution procedures solely attributable to COVID-19.
- Participant Contributions and Loan Repayments
- Black out Notices
- Form 5500 and form M-1 Filing relief
Employers should contact their retirement vendors for information on the relief for retirement plans. The information can also be found on the DOL website at EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01
Q:What Employer and Participant Resources are available for the relief?
A: The following are resources available for employers and employees:
Federal Agencies Issue COVID-19 Relief for Employee Benefit Plans
COVID-19 FAQ for Participants and Beneficiaries
EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01
Federal Registry Law: Extension of Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans, Participants and Beneficiaries Affected by COVID-19
FAQs About COBRA Model Notices
Model COBRA Model Election Notice
If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact your Liberty Advisor.