On July 8, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld two regulations expanding exemptions from the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In a 7:2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration had the authority under the ACA to provide exemptions from the contraceptive mandate for employers with religious and conscientious objections. As a result, additional employers may now be able to opt out of providing the ACA-mandated contraceptive coverage.
Supreme Court Upholds ACA Contraceptive Rule Exemptions
Congress has passed legislation to extend the application deadline for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan through Aug. 8, 2020. Prior to the extension, the deadline to apply for these funds was June 30, 2020. The extension enables eligible small businesses to apply for funding for five more weeks. The legislation has been sent to President Trump, who is expected to sign the measure into law.
The PPP is designed to get cash in the hands of suffering small businesses quickly, with less stringent eligibility requirements than the existing U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs. PPP loans are designed to incentivize business owners to keep employees on payroll. These loans provide 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses. In addition, provided that small businesses use their PPP loan funds appropriately, the loans may be eligible for forgiveness.
Refer to the attached article for details.
Application Deadline for Small Business Loans Extended
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly decreased health care utilization, as health care providers and patients have canceled appointments and postponed elective procedures. Because employees are not using their insurance benefits, some group medical, dental and vision carriers are providing employers with a credit against future premiums owed under their insurance contracts.
Employers receiving these premium credits should consider their fiduciary obligations under ERISA when determining how to apply the credits. Any credit amount that qualifies as a plan asset under ERISA must be used for the exclusive benefit of the plan’s participants. Employers cannot retain any portion of the rebate that is a plan asset.
If the employer is the policyholder—as is most often the case—the portion of the rebate that must be treated as a plan asset depends on who paid the insurance premiums. For example:
- If the premiums were paid entirely out of trust assets, the entire rebate amount is a plan asset;
- If the employer paid 100 percent of the premiums, the rebate is not a plan asset and the employer can retain the entire rebate amount;
- If participants paid 100 percent of the premiums, the entire rebate amount is a plan asset; and
- If the employer and participants each paid a fixed percentage of the premiums, the percentage of the rebate equal to the percentage of the cost paid by participants is a plan asset.
Refer to the attached compliance bulletin for details and contact your NEEBCo representative with questions.
Premium Credits Related to COVID 19 ERISA Fiduciary Rules
On June 22, 2020, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to halt certain work visas for immigrants coming to the country for employment.
Expanding on a temporary immigration ban Trump introduced in April, the order blocks new immigrants on employment-based visas from coming to the United States through Dec. 31, 2020. Trump has cited high unemployment as the primary motivation to restrict immigration.
The ban freezes the following employment-based immigrant visas:
- H-1B for high-skilled workers (used by major American technology companies)
- H-2B for seasonal employees (used for non-agricultural seasonal workers)
- H-4 for spouses
- L-1 for corporate executives (used by multinational corporations)
- J-1 for professors and exchange programs
The freeze on visas will take effect immediately. This order does not change the status of immigrants already in the United States.
Refer to the below news brief for additional information.
News Brief – Trump Extends Suspension of Many Foreign Work Visas
On June 18, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released guidance to help employers plan how to reopen nonessential businesses. The guidance also addresses issues employers should consider as they ask their employees to return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Specifically, this new guidance covers:
- How to plan a reopening
- OSHA standards and required protections in the workplace
- Available OSHA assistance programs
- Answers to employer frequently asked questions
OSHA has stated that this new guidance is meant to supplement the White House’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again and the Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 developed by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services. A as a result, businesses should follow local timelines and phased reopening plans as they implement OSHA’s guidance.
OSHA Guidance for Reopening Nonessential Businesses
The Small Business Administration (SBA) and Department of Treasury recently released a streamlined loan forgiveness application called the EZ Forgiveness Application. This newly released three-page EZ application is significantly shorter than the traditional loan forgiveness application and requires fewer calculations and less documentation than the full application.
According to the SBA, this streamlined application was to increase flexibility and accessibility for borrowers. However, the EZ application does not apply to all Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan borrowers. The following types of borrowers can use the EZ application:
- Self-employed borrowers
- Borrowers that have no employees
- Borrowers that did not reduce employees’ numbers of hours, and did not reduce employees’ salaries or wages by more than 25%
- Borrowers that did not reduce employees’ salaries or wages by more than 25% and experienced reductions in business activity due to the coronavirus pandemic
Similar to the full loan forgiveness application, eligible borrowers using the EZ application must submit the form to the lender from whom they received their PPP loan.
SBA Releases Streamlined PPP Loan Forgiveness Form
These guidelines, provided by the Governor’s Economic Reopening Taskforce, apply to businesses and organizations that have been deemed essential and remained open during the “Stay at Home Order” and those that are re-opening all or a portion of their operations.
This document is updated as of June 15, 2020.
State of NH COVID-19 Reopening Guidance
The U.S. Supreme ruled that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender individuals from being discriminated against in the workplace.
Title VII prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees and job applicants on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex. Federal courts have previously held that the law’s protections only extend to traditional notions of gender.
Employers may need to review their employment policies to ensure that they do not discriminate against individuals due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Employers should also be aware that the Court’s ruling aligns with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s current Title VII enforcement policies and that state laws may specifically prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Refer to the below Compliance Bulletin for details.
Supreme Court Rules Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination Violates Title VII
Internal and external communications during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic can have an impact on how an employer is perceived by both current and prospective employees. Organizations can boost their recruiting efforts by ensuring that their employer brand is resonating with those seeking employment, and importantly, meeting the evolving needs of job seekers.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, job seekers in the post-coronavirus employment market are looking for:
This article explores how your employer brand plays a role in retaining and recruiting talent in a post-coronavirus world.
Employer Brand and COVID-19
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurance issuers and self-insured plan sponsors to pay Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute fees (PCORI fees). The fees are reported and paid annually using IRS Form 720 (Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return). Issuers and plan sponsors are generally required to pay the PCORI fees annually by July 31 of each year.
The PCORI fees were originally scheduled to expire for policy or plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2019. However, a federal spending bill enacted at the end of 2019 extended the PCORI fees for an additional 10 years. These fees will continue to apply for the 2020-2029 fiscal years.
On June 8, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2020-44, which increases the PCORI fee amount for plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2019, and before Oct. 1, 2020, to $2.54 multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the plan. It also provides transition relief for calculating the average number of lives covered.
Refer to the below compliance bulletin for details and contact your NEEBCo representative with questions.
PCORI Fees Due July 31, 2020