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DOL Releases EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01

DOL Releases EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01

February 26, 2021  

On Friday, the Department of Labor released EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01, which provides guidance on the duration of the COVID-19-related relief provided by the Timeline Extension Rule.

The past relief, provided in 2020, continues until sixty (60) days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency  or such other date announced by the relevant Agency or Agencies in a future notification (the “Outbreak Period”).

This notice provides that under Section 518 of ERISA and Section 7508A(b) of the Code, the disregarded period for individual actions “required or permitted” is expressly limited by statute to a period of 1 year from the date the individual action would otherwise have been required or permitted. One year from March 1, 2020, is February 28, 2021, and stakeholders have inquired about the continuation of relief beyond that date.

Effectively, the guidance indicates that all of the “pause” buttons are on an individual-by-individual rolling basis.

Individuals and plans with timeframes that are subject to the relief  will have the applicable periods  disregarded until the earlier of (a) 1 year from the date they were first eligible for relief, (2) or (b) 60 days after the announced end of the National Emergency (the end of the Outbreak Period). On the applicable date, the timeframes for individuals and plans with periods that were previously disregarded under the Notices will resume. In no case will a disregarded period exceed 1 year.

Examples:

The following examples are intended to illustrate the duration of the relief. If a qualified beneficiary, for example, would have been required to make a COBRA election by March 1, 2020, that requirement is delayed until February 28, 2021, which is the earlier of 1 year from March 1, 2020 or the end of the Outbreak Period (which remains ongoing). 

Similarly, if a qualified beneficiary would have been required to make a COBRA election by March 1, 2021, that election requirement would be delayed until the earlier of 1 year from that date (i.e., March 1, 2022) or the end of the Outbreak Period. 

Likewise, if a plan would have been required to furnish a notice or disclosure by March 1, 2020, the relief would end with respect to that notice or disclosure on February 28, 2021. The responsible plan fiduciary would be required to ensure that the notice or disclosure was furnished on or before March 1, 2021. In all of these examples, the delay for actions required or permitted that is provided by the Notices does not exceed 1 year.

For a copy of the EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021- 01, click on the link below: 

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/employers-and-advisers/plan-administration-and-compliance/disaster-relief/ebsa-disaster-relief-notice-2021-01