As described in more detail in our recent bulletin, the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) provides expanded retirement plan distribution and loan opportunities for plan participants affected by the coronavirus. While these changes will eventually be reflected in plan amendments, it is anticipated that these amendments will not be prepared by plan providers for some time, as the law allows for immediate implementation of the new rules, with conforming amendments not due until the end of 2022.
Generally, when a plan is amended, the changes made by the amendment are also reflected in an updated Summary Plan Description (SPD) or a Summary of Material Modifications (SMM) provided to participants in the plan to make them aware of the changes. While updated SPDs and SMMs are typically only prepared when plan amendments are prepared, an employer should communicate the SECURES Act changes to plan participants as soon as possible, so they are aware of the distribution and loan opportunities available to them now.
The attached Model Notice is provided to assist employers in communicating the CARES Act changes to their plan participants as soon as they are ready to do so. Before using the Model Notice, however, an employer should take note of the following:
- The attached notice is a generic version provided for use by all plan sponsors. An employer may want to customize the notice to reflect the name of its plan, the contact information for its plan administrator, etc.
- Plan record keepers and third-party administrators might also be providing employee communication pieces for use by employers. Each employer should be sure that all employee communication efforts are coordinated and consistent with each other, and not unnecessarily duplicative. Employers may want to check with their various plan providers in this regard.
- The distribution and loan provisions made available by the CARES Act are optional. In other words, if an employer does not want to apply the changes to its plan, or wants to apply some changes but not others, the Model Notice should be modified accordingly.