EBSA Issues Guidance on Outbreak Period Timeline Extensions

March 3, 2021

On Friday, February 26, The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), issued Relief Notice 2021-01 which sought to clarify the timeline extensions that were put in place in April of 2020. The guidance chosen is very employee-friendly, but the most difficult from an administrative perspective. Effectively, the guidance states that all the “pause” buttons concerning COBRA elections, grace periods on premium payments, distribution of COBRA election notices, and HIPAA special enrollments will be on an individual-by-individual rolling basis.

For example, an employee who was terminated prior to March 1, 2020, but whose COBRA 60-day election timeline had already begun to run but not yet expired, will have their timeline suspensions end on February 28, 2021.

For an employee whose timelines would have started running after March 1, 2020, but due to the National Emergency and the extensions, those timelines will continue to be “paused” for up to one year from the date they would have started, or 60 days after the President declares an end to the pandemic’s National Emergency, whichever occurs first. In no case will the “pause” exceed one year.

A copy of the relief notice can be found here.

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