Employers Take Heed: Deadline is Near for COBRA Premium Assistance Notices

As detailed in Lake Effect's prior blog post, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) includes provisions requiring employers to temporarily subsidize the cost of COBRA continuation coverage for certain “Assistance Eligible Employees” from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021. Employers or plan issuers must pay premiums on behalf of such individuals and will be reimbursed through a COBRA premium assistance tax credit.
Pursuant to ARPA’s specific requirements, employers and plan issuers are also required to provide Assistance Eligible Individuals with a Notice of Expiration of Premium Assistance 15-45 days before the recipient’s premium assistance expires. For individuals still receiving the premium subsidy, this means that the expiration notice must be provided no later than September 15, 2021. Failure to meet this deadline may result in penalties. Employers should ensure that these notices are sent out in timely manner by internal HR staff, health plan issuers, or COBRA administrators.
Lake Effect is here to answer your questions about COBRA compliance, as well as other state and federal employment law issues. We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

IRS Issues Guidance on ARPA Tax Credits and COVID-19 Vaccinations

On April 21, 2021, the IRS and the US Treasury Department published a fact sheet on the tax credits available under American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to employers who provide paid leave to employees who get COVID-19 vaccinations. ARPA extends tax credits previously established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to reimburse employers for the cost of voluntarily providing paid sick and family leave to employees due to COVID-19. For a complete discussion of the ARPA and FFCRA leaves, please see Lake Effect's prior blog. The new fact sheet confirms the following:

  • Employers eligible for the tax credits are those with fewer than 500 employees, including governmental employers, other than the federal government and federal agencies.
  • Eligible employers may receive tax credits for wages paid for leave taken by employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations or recover from any illness or condition related to such vaccinations.
  • As set forth in Lake Effect’s prior blog on FFCRA tax credits, the credits cover 100% of the costs of qualified sick and family leave wages, the employer’s share of social security and Medicare taxes on those wages, and any qualified health plan expenses allocable to those wages.
  • Eligible employers may claim tax credits for sick and family leave paid to employees to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021.
  • Employers may use IRS Form 941 to claim the tax credits and can keep the federal employment taxes that they otherwise would have deposited up to the full amount of the credit for which they are eligible. Employers may also request an advance of the credits by filing IRS Form 7200.
  • Self-employed individuals may claim comparable tax credits on their Individual IRS Form 1040.

Employers should work closely with their tax advisors to understand the tax implications of COVID-related paid sick and family leaves, including those covering vaccinations. We are closely monitoring developments relating to COVID-19 and the workplace. Keep watching for blogs and emails from your Lake Effect team for important legal updates and HR best practices. The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to help. Contact us at info@le-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

New COBRA Notice Requirements for Employers Under the American Rescue Plan Act

On April 7, 2021, the US Department of Labor published FAQs and model notices implementing the temporary COBRA premium assistance provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Employers and other group health plan issuers are subject to new COBRA notice and other requirements.

What: Under the ARPA, “Assistance Eligible Individuals” may elect to continue employment-based group health plan coverage for up to 5 months – from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 – without paying COBRA premiums. Employers or plan issuers must pay premiums on behalf of such individuals and will be reimbursed through a COBRA premium assistance tax credit.

Who: To be an “Assistance Eligible Individual” under the ARPA, an individual must meet all of the following requirements:

  • MUST have a COBRA qualifying event that is a reduction of hours or an involuntary termination of employment (NOT including a voluntary termination or a termination for gross misconduct);
  • MUST elect COBRA continuation coverage;
  • MUST NOT be eligible for Medicare; and
  • MUST NOT be eligible for coverage under any other group health plans, such as a plan sponsored by a new employer or a spouse’s employer.

When: COBRA premium assistance is available for periods of coverage from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021. Assistance will end earlier if an individual:

  • Reaches the end of their maximum 18-month COBRA continuation period; OR
  • Becomes eligible for Medicare or other group health plan coverage (including from a new employer).

Notice Requirements: Employers and other plan issuers must notify qualified beneficiaries about COBRA premium assistance and other rights as follows:

Additional Election Opportunities: The ARPA provides additional COBRA election opportunities under certain circumstances:

  • Group health plans may (but are not required to) offer Assistance Eligible Individuals the option to choose coverage different from that which they had at the time of the COBRA qualifying event, subject to certain restrictions and additional notice requirements.
  • If a family member of an Assistance Eligible Individual did not initially elect COBRA continuation at the time of a qualifying event, they have an additional opportunity to enroll with premium assistance. This will not extend the period of COBRA continuation coverage beyond the original maximum period.

This summary of ARPA’s COBRA premium assistance provisions is not intended to provide an exhaustive analysis of the law, but your partners at Lake Effect are ready to help you navigate the new requirements. Employers should also work closely with their group health plan providers to ensure complete compliance with COBRA notice and coverage provisions.

We continue to monitor developments and guidance relating to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and other legislative efforts to address the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will provide you with employment-related updates on these topics as they arise.

Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC
(844) 333-5253 (LAKE)
info@le-hrlaw.com

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