How Your Benefit Plans Can Provide Relief in Uncertain Times

During this unprecedented time, employers are looking for ways to provide a sense of relief to their employees. We’ve outlined items employers can share with workers to assist them in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

Relief due to Legislation & Carrier Action

Updates to new legislation continue to be released in an effort to grant the American people access to necessary care, while insurance carriers are enhancing their plans to cover COVID-19 related expenses. For example:

  • IRS Notice 2020-15 (part of phase 2 COVID-19 relief) permits employers to cover expenses for testing and treatment of COVID-19 prior to satisfaction of the minimum deductible and without disqualifying the High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP).
  • Employers can make tax-free payments to employees to cover reasonable COVID-19 expenses.
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. It also requires health plans to cover COVID-19 testing without any cost sharing.
  • The CARES Act also includes menstrual care products as allowable OTC items. These changes apply to goods purchased or services received after December 31, 2019.

Make sure to share these changes with your employees to ensure they’re in the know.

Employer Opportunities to Provide Relief

Offsetting COVID-19 Costs

Between FFCRA, the CARES Act, and insurance carriers covering COVID-19 related expenses, the healthcare industry is doing its best to eliminate barriers to accessing care.

If your carrier isn’t offering relief to its members, you may want to consider offering a new Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) that covers COVID-19 costs, helping to keep employees’ Health Savings Account (HSA) dollars intact. Employers can also consider HSA advances, which would allow employees access to future contributions, providing them with an easy way to repay employers as future contributions are received.

Assisting Staff Working From Home or Completing Essential Duties in the Workplace

Working from home has temporarily become the norm for the majority of U.S. employees. Paying for and arranging childcare can be extremely difficult, especially for essential employees who are vital to public well-being — e.g., healthcare workers, first responders, grocers, pharmacists and drivers.

Consequently, employers are looking to help employees create effective work-from-home settings and solve childcare needs including:

  • A temporary dependent care benefit — Employers can cover dependent care expenses with an expanded set of expense coverage. IRS section 139 may allow tax-free employee reimbursement of these expenses.
  • A temporary parking plan — If possible, employees may need to stop using mass transit to reduce the risk of infection.
  • A new card-based work-from-home benefit account — Employers can offer an account which would provide access to funds for employees incurring costs to outfit their home office such as computer accessories and ergonomic items.

The COVID-19 crisis presents a great deal of uncertainty and stress. Be sure to provide your employee population with timely benefit updates. Give them some peace of mind and a positive to hold on to – access to care when and if they need it, without the worry of financial burden.  


Information provided by Employee Benefit News