COVID-19 Employer Playbook

Relief for Plan Sponsors Plans will not be treated as having violated ERISA if they act in good faith and furnish any notices, disclosures, or documents “as soon as administratively practicable under the circumstances.” This includes all documents that would otherwise have to be furnished during the outbreak period including those requested in writing by a participant or beneficiary. Good faith includes using electronic methods to communicate with individuals who are reasonably believed to have effective access to those methods. Plan Loans and Distributions Relief is provided for certain procedural verification requirements for plan loans or distributions imposed by a plan’s terms if: • The failure to comply with the plan’s procedures is solely attributable to the COVID-19 outbreak, • The plan administrator has made a good faith effort to comply, and • The plan administrator makes a reasonable attempt to correct procedural deficiencies (for example, missing documentation) as soon as administratively practicable. The guidance provides several additional clarifications of the relief for loans and distribution processing as follows: • The relief does not apply to items such as the spousal consent rules and other rules under IRS jurisdiction. • The DOL will not assert a violation of the adequate security and reasonably equivalent basis requirements for plan loans made or repaid in compliance with the CARES Act. • The DOL will not treat a plan as failing to operate in accordance with its plan document if plan amendments that comply with the CARES Act’s requirements are timely adopted by the statutory deadline. Contributions and Loan Repayments During the outbreak period, the DOL will not take enforcement action against a plan on a temporary delay in the forwarding of participant contributions or loan repayments to a plan if the delay is attributable solely to the COVID-19 outbreak. Employers and service providers must, however, comply as soon as administratively practicable under the circumstances. Retirement Benefit Claims The extensions of the deadlines for filing benefit claims and appeals of adverse benefit determinations apply to all ERISA plans, including retirement plans. An example in the notice clarifies application of the extension assuming the COVID-19 emergency ends on April 30, 2020, with the outbreak period ending on June 29, 2020 (60 days later). Using those assumptions, an employee who received a notice of adverse determination on a claim for pension benefits, and who was given 60 days to file an appeal, would have 60 days after the end of the outbreak period, or until August 28, 2020, to file the appeal. Blackout Notices The extended relief for ERISA notices applies to the blackout notice requirement, including notices required after a blackout period begins. Plan administrators will not be required to provide a written determination that the COVID-19 pandemic was a circumstance beyond their control.


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