The CARES Act: Highlights of Benefits Provisions - UPDATE Banner Image

Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation

Employee Benefits The benefits landscape has changed dramatically in recent years. Retirement plans have had to adapt to...

The CARES Act: Highlights of Benefits Provisions - UPDATE

March 26, 2020

Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act,” or “Act”) has
been signed into law. Among the several economic relief efforts included in the
Act are the following key benefits-related provisions:


Act allows for plan distributions and loans that mirror provisions previously
approved in legislation enacted in response to federally-declared disasters.

1.  Plan
. Employers that sponsor Code Section 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans and governmental 457(b) plans may allow coronavirus-related hardship distributions of up to $100,000, with the following requirements and benefits:

(a)   Such hardship distributions would
be available to individuals:  

(i)   diagnosed with
COVID-19 by a CDC-approved test; or

(ii)  whose spouse or dependent has been diagnosed with
COVID-19; or

(iii) who experience financial adversity as a result of  

-         undergoing
quarantine, being furloughed, laid off or having hours reduced;

-         being unable to
work because of a lack of child care;

-         the closing or
reduction in operating hours of a business owned or operated by the individual;

-         other factors
determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

(b)  The distributions may include funds that would otherwise not be considered  distributable under the plan.

(c)   Such distributions would be without penalty (e.g., otherwise applicable to premature   distributions) and not subject to 20% withholding.

(d)  To ease the tax burden, the recipient could include the distribution in their income  over a 3-year period.

(e)  The distributions would be repayable to a tax-qualified plan or IRA within 3 years  and treated as a direct trustee-to-trustee transfer or rollover made within 60 days of the  distribution.

(f)  The distributions would be permitted under a plan as of the date of enactment of the  Act until December 31, 2020. 

2.  Plan
.  For the 180-day period beginning on the date of enactment of the
Act, the limit on plan loans would be increased to the lesser of (i) $100,000
(up from $50,000) OR (ii) the greater of $10,000 or 100% (up from 50%) of the
present value of the participant’s vested benefit under the plan. Those
individuals who have loan repayments due in 2020 and who would qualify for a
coronavirus-related hardship distribution would in general have an additional
year to make such loan repayments.

3. Required
Minimum Distributions
. The Act waives required minimum distributions
(“RMDs”) required for calendar year 2020 from certain retirement plans (e.g.,
an eligible retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan, a Code Section 403(a) or
403(b) plan, an eligible deferred compensation plan under Code Section 457(b),
but only if maintained by a state or state governmental agency or subdivision
(as described in Code Section 457(e)(1)(A)), and an IRA). An RMD made prior to
2020 is not eligible for the waiver.

4. Delay
in Required Minimum Funding Contributions for Certain Defined Benefit Plans.
Act permits the sponsor of a single-employer defined benefit plan to delay
minimum funding contributions (including quarterly contributions) until January
1, 2021, provided that interest from the original due date for the required
contribution until the payment date is included in the delayed contribution.

5. Authority of the Department
of Labor to Delay Deadlines.
   As with past emergencies (such as
terroristic or military action), the Department of Labor is authorized under
the Act to postpone certain deadlines upon the declaration of a public health

6. Plan Amendments. 
 Plan amendments needed to reflect plan distributions, plan loans or RMDs,
as authorized under the Act, may be made retroactively if the plan is operated
as if the amendments were in effect prior to adoption. In general, such
amendments may be adopted on or before the last day of the first plan year
beginning on or after January 1, 2022.


The CARES Act provides a
safe-harbor to permit HSA-eligible high-deductible health plans to provide
telehealth or other remote healthcare services without, or with reduced,
cost-sharing deductibles; this safe harbor would be available from the date of
enactment of the Act until the end of the 2021 plan year.

In addition, the Act (i)
clarifies the requirement to provide COVID-19 diagnostic testing under a health
plan (e.g., such testing need not be based on products approved by the FDA) and
references the rates applicable for tests conducted by in-network and
out-of-network providers; and (ii) explains the required coverage of a COVID-19
vaccine by a group health plan.

the Act clarifies the limits on amounts that employers are required to pay for
emergency sick leave or public health emergency leave under the Families First
Coronavirus Response Act, enacted on March 18, 2020:

(a) the maximum amount to be paid an employee on paid public health emergency leave available under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is $200 per day, to a maximum of $10,000 for the period of leave;

(b)  the maximum amount to be paid an employee for emergency sick leave would be (i) $511 per day (to a maximum of $5110 for the leave period), provided the leave is taken because of an order for isolation or quarantine, to seek treatment for COVID-19, or to self-quarantine; and (ii) $200 per day ($2,000 in total) if the leave is taken to care for a family member to care for a child unable to attend school or for child care because of the virus, or for other circumstances recognized by the Secretary of Labor.  

We will
provide additional information as developments progress.

If you
have any questions regarding the CARES Act, please feel free to contact James Karas, Robert Daleo, Jason Navarino or other members of
our Employee
Benefits and Executive Compensation Group.         

Please visit Riker Danzig’s COVID-19 Resource Center
to stay up to date on all related legal issues.

Our Team

Robert C. Daleo

Robert C. Daleo

Jason D. Navarino

Jason D. Navarino

James N. Karas, Jr.

James N. Karas, Jr.
Of Counsel

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