DOL Offers Relief for Plan Sponsors Due to Severe Storms

The relief on ERISA compliance applies to plan sponsors in Nebraska, Iowa and Alabama identified now or in the future for individual assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Department of Labor (DOL) has published employee benefit plan compliance guidance and relief for victims of the 2019 Nebraska Severe Winter Storm, Straight-line Winds, and Flooding (per FEMA-DR- 4420); 2019 Iowa Severe Storms and Flooding (per DR-4421); and the 2019 Alabama Severe Storms, Straight-line Winds, and Tornadoes (per FEMA-DR-4419).

The Department says it recognizes that a natural disaster 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. So, it will not—solely on the basis of a failure attributable to a covered disaster—take enforcement action with respect to a temporary delay in forwarding participant loan repayments or contributions to plans.

In addition, if a plan sponsor fails to follow procedural requirements for plan loans or distributions imposed by the terms of the plan, the DOL will not treat it as a failure if, that failure is solely attributable to the covered disasters, the plan administrator makes a good-faith diligent effort under the circumstances to comply with those requirements, and the plan administrator makes a reasonable attempt to assemble any missing documentation as soon as practicable.

The guidance also provides relief for timing of blackout notices and processing benefit claims.

Form 5500 Annual Return/Report filing relief is provided in accordance with the relevant covered disaster news releases listed on the IRS disaster relief website under “Recent Tax Relief.”