USDOL Extends Certain Employee Benefit Plan Deadlines

Last year, the USDOL, the Department of the Treasury and the IRS issued a joint notice extending certain deadlines for employee benefit plan participants and beneficiaries due to the COVID-19 national emergency; the relief period began March 1, 2020. This included such actions as COBRA election, special enrollment periods, and claims procedures. On February 26, 2021, the USDOL issued EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01, which states that the tolling period for individuals and plans will be the earlier of: 

 

  • 1 year from the date they were first eligible for relief, or
  • 60 days after the announced end of the national emergency.

 

On the applicable date, the timeframes which were previously disregarded will resume; in no case will a disregarded period exceed 1 year. The USDOL recommends that plan fiduciaries take steps to minimize the possibility of individuals losing benefits because of a failure to comply with pre-established time frames. Where the plan administrator or other responsible plan fiduciary knows, or should reasonably know, that the end of the relief period for an individual action is exposing a participant or beneficiary to a risk of losing protections, benefits, or rights under the plan, the administrator/fiduciary should consider affirmatively sending a notice of the end of the relief period. For more information, see Notice 2021-01.