COVID-19 Update November 1, 2021

The biggest recent news out of Washington is that the latest bill was reduced from $3 trillion down to $1.75 trillion. Now the issue becomes figuring out what gets passed in the now smaller bill.

President Biden has announced the Build Back Better Framework, aimed at helping working families in the middle class. This Act will touch on many areas, in order to create millions of good-paying jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the labor force, spur long-term growth, reduce price pressures and set the United States on course to meet its clean energy ambitions.

Here is the text posted on the Rules Committee webpage in advance of a meeting of Rules.  Both the retirement and paid family and medical leave provisions have been pulled from the reconciliation bill.  (That includes auto IRA mandate and the cap—out for now.)  Technically one retirement provision remains—a prohibition on an IRA holding FISC or DSC assets, see 138403, page 1677. Obviously, it’s a long way to go to the finish line.

In other news, many business Organizations have approached the Biden Administration requesting that the mandate for vaccinations be held off until after the holidays as most retailers already have problems with employment. This push back on the mandate would give the holiday shopping season a break with finding these employees that are already vaccinated.

Earlier this month, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2021-58 which clarifies the COBRA election and payment deadline relief afforded under previous legislation.

Notice 2021-58 clarifies the following:

  • Periods to be disregarded for a qualified beneficiary to both elect COBRA and make initial (and subsequent) premium payments run concurrently and does not apply with respect to each deadline;
  • For qualified beneficiaries who make their COBRA election within the generally applicable 60-day election period, such qualified beneficiaries will have one (1) year and 45 days after the date of election to make the initial COBRA premium payment;
  • For any qualified beneficiary who enjoyed the tolled election period and made her/his election outside of the generally applicable 60-day election period, that qualified beneficiary will have one (1) year and 105 days (i.e., 60 + 45) from the date the COBRA election notice was provided; and
  • Subsequent COBRA premium payments (the deadlines for which are generally 30 days after the first day of that period) will be due one year from their original deadline dates.

You can review the full compliance alert here for additional details, including examples which further explain and clarify Notice 2021-58.

While it’s always better late than never, receiving clarifying guidance of this sort so late in the game presents challenges. However, it bears repeating that the DOL has previously acknowledged, in instances where fiduciaries have acted in “good faith and with reasonable diligence under the circumstances,” the DOL has commented its approach to enforcement will be “marked by an emphasis on compliance assistance,” including grace periods or other relief.

Fisher Broyles recapped some states’ new rules and mandates from family leave to HR NDAs. Plus, they’ve included more info on EEOC COVID FAQs, as well as when employees can take tip credits, according to the DOL.

Lastly, here is an excellent article on computer passwords. If you are not concerned about cyber-attacks, you should be. This is low hanging fruit to make sure all employees that have access to your computer systems have basic policies to follow.

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