DOL Guidance for Benefit Plans Impacted by California Wildfires

California wildfire

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued compliance guidance for benefit plans, employers and employees, and service providers who are impacted by the California wildfires. The guidance generally provides relief from various ERISA requirements and time limits for entities in the disaster area. This follows the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announcement extending certain filing dates.

Key excerpts from the DOL guidance include:

“The Department recognizes that these wildfires may impede efforts by plan fiduciaries, employers, labor organizations, service providers, and participants and beneficiaries to comply with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) over the next few months. . . .

“The guiding principle for plans must be to act reasonably, prudently, and in the interest of the workers and their families who rely on their health, retirement, and other employee benefit plans for their physical and economic wellbeing. Plan fiduciaries should make reasonable accommodations to prevent the loss of benefits or undue delay in benefits payments in such cases and should attempt to minimize the possibility of individuals losing benefits because of a failure to comply with pre-established time frames.”

The DOL also released FAQs for Participants and Beneficiaries Following the 2018 California Wildfires. The nine-page FAQ covers issues regarding health plan claims, COBRA continuation coverage, and collecting retirement plan benefits.

ThinkHR will continue to monitor issues affecting employers impacted by the California wildfires.

About Kathleen A. Berger, CEBS

Kathy Berger is ThinkHR’s principal benefits consultant. She is a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) with over 25 years of experience working with brokers and employers. Kathy uses her extensive knowledge of ERISA, HIPAA, the ACA, and other benefits laws and regulations to assist our clients with practical information in clear language.