On February 26, 2021, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) released Notice 2021-01 (2021 Relief Notice) providing guidance to employers, claim administrators and fiduciaries of ERISA plans on the duration of the COVID-19-related relief set forth in a 2020 Notice that suspended, among other things, certain ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) claim-related deadlines (referred to herein as ERISA Relief).

Under the 2020 Notice, the ERISA Relief continues until sixty (60) days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency or such other date announced by the relevant Agency or Agencies in a future notification (the Outbreak Period). However, ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code provide that a deadline tolling period cannot exceed one year. One year measured from the start of the Outbreak Period on March 1, 2020 was February 28, 2021. With the COVID-19 crisis and National Emergency continuing past that date, there were many questions regarding when the Outbreak Period will expire and how the one-year statutory tolling limitation should be applied.

Up until February 26th, the Departments of Labor and Treasury had been silent on the application of this one-year limit. Now, however, the 2021 Relief Notice indicates that the one-year limit applies on an individual basis, and its application to individuals will depend on whether the event that triggers their deadline to file a claim, appeal, or take other action (Event) either: (i) occurred prior to March 1, 2020, with the deadline falling after March 1, 2020; (ii) occurred sometime between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021; or (iii) occurs on or after March 1, 2021. Read the full legal update.