Treasury and DOL extend deadlines for employee benefits plans affected by Hurricane Maria

The Departments of Labor (DOL) and the Treasury have extended certain time frames under the IRC and ERISA for group health plans, disability and other welfare plans, pension plans, participants and beneficiaries of these plans, and group health insurance issuers directly affected by Hurricane Maria.

Individuals and plans affected.

Participants, beneficiaries, qualified beneficiaries or claimants directly affected by Hurricane Maria individuals who resided, lived or worked in one of the disaster areas (i.e., the counties in Puerto Rico and the counties and county equivalents in the United States Virgin Islands that have been, or are later designated as, disaster areas eligible for individual assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria) at the time of the hurricane, or whose employee benefit plan was directly affected. An employee benefit plan is directly affected by Hurricane Maria if the principal place of business of the employer that maintains the plan (in the case of a single-employer plan, determined disregarding the aggregation rules); the principal place of business of employers that employ more than 50 percent of the active participants covered by the plan (in the case of a plan covering employees of more than one employer, determined disregarding the aggregation rules); the office of the plan or the plan administrator; or the relevant office of the primary record-keeper serving the plan was located in one of the disaster areas at the time of the hurricane), but solely with respect to that employee benefit plan.

Disregarded time period.

The period from September 17, 2017, through March 16, 2018, is disregarded for individuals and plans in Puerto Rico, and the period from September 16, 2017, through March 15, 2018, is disregarded for individuals and plans in the Virgin Islands. These periods are disregarded when determining any of the following dates or time periods:

  • the 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request special enrollment (Code Sec. 9801(f), ERISA Sec. 701(f));
  • the date for providing a COBRA election notice (Code Sec. 4980B(f)(6)(D) and ERISA Sec. 606(c)), the date for providing 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage (Code Sec. 4980B(f)(5) and ERISA Sec. 605), the date for making COBRA premium payments (Code Sec. 4980B(f)(2)(B)(iii), (C) and ERISA Sec. 602(2)(C)), and the date for individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability (Code Sec. 4980B(f)(6)(C) and ERISA Sec. 606(a)(3));
  • the date within which claimants may file a request for an external review after receipt of an adverse benefit determination or final internal adverse benefit determination (Reg. §54.9815-2719(d)(2)(i) and 29 CFR 2590.715-2719(d)(2)(i));
  • the date within which a claimant may file information to perfect a request for external review upon a finding that the request was not complete (Reg. §54.9815-2719(d)(2)(ii) and 29 CFR 2590.715-2719(d)(2)(ii)); and
  • the date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure (29 CFR 2560.503-1), and the date within which claimants may file an appeal of an adverse benefit determination under the plan’s claims procedure (CFR 2560.503-1(h)).

SOURCE: 82 FR55507, November 22, 2017.
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