On April 10, 2023, President Biden signed a joint resolution (H. Joint Resolution 7) to end the COVID-19 National Emergency. The National Emergency will now end on May 11, 2023. This means employers will no longer be required to extend certain health and welfare benefit deadlines.
End of the National Emergency and Outbreak Period
Since March 1, 2020, health and welfare benefit participants have generally had an additional year to meet certain benefit plan deadlines. Now these extended deadlines are expiring after the end of the “Outbreak Period.” The question is, when is the end of the Outbreak Period?
In 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of Treasury, and the Internal Revenue Service (the “Departments”) issued the extended deadline relief, and in 2021 the DOL issued Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01. Both publications indicated the end of the “Outbreak Period” would end 60 days after the end of the National Emergency or “such other date announced by the agencies in a future notification.”
On March 29, 2023, the Departments issued FAQ Part 58, addressing questions about the end of the National and Public Health Emergencies. Their FAQ indicates the end of the National Emergency is May 11, 2023. According to the Departments May 11, 2023, remains the end of the National Emergency for purposes of the benefit extended deadlines. This date would end the “Outbreak Period” on July 10, 2023 (60 days after May 11, 2023). See Navia’s previous blog about the deadline timing.
Notably, the joint resolution only ends the National Emergency, but not the Public Health Emergency, which is expected to end on May 11, 2023.
Extension Timelines for COBRA, and FSA/HRA benefits
End of COBRA Extensions
End of FSA and HRA Extensions
Notifications to Impacted Individuals
The DOL recently posted a blog addressing additional information, indicating that employers should “communicate key deadlines to impacted individuals in advance.” However, there is no mention of the communication requirements.
Employers should notify individuals whose benefit deadlines will be shortened by the end of the Outbreak Period (i.e., participants who will not have a full year to meet their deadline requirements). Plan sponsors should consult with their service providers, benefits consultants, and attorneys to determine when and how best to provide the notification.
Navia is currently assisting our clients with these deadlines and notifications. Our clients and brokers will be receiving a communication detailing next steps.
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