On April 10, 2023, President Biden signed legislation that immediately ended the COVID-19 National Emergency. Additionally, the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) will expire on May 11, 2023. What does this mean for businesses who have been operating under these emergencies and individuals who have relied on federal assistance to get by during this time? Let’s look into it.

What Does the End of COVID-19 Emergencies Mean for Businesses?

Most state and local COVID-related paid leave mandates have expired or will expire soon. Employers should consider the impact these changes will have on their employment agreements, company leave policies, and health and benefits policies.

Employers will need to decide who will pay for non-work-related COVID testing and vaccines going forward (testing for work-related reasons should still be covered by the employer). The PHE mandated that health insurance plans cover COVID testing, so with the emergency expiring, employers should consider whether employee health plans should continue to cover testing and, if not, when to make the change. (Will an adjustment happen immediately or at the beginning of the next enrollment period? Will some amount of testing still be covered or will there be a complete stop of coverage?)

Additionally, the national emergency provisions allowed people up to a year to enroll in health plans due to life events, but that extension ends on July 10, 2023. After that date, the special enrollment period will revert back to what it was before—30 days. In addition, COBRA-related relief, which allowed employees extra time to pay their premiums and decide on coverage, will also end on July 10. So, it’s important for employees to take advantage of the remaining time to enroll in healthcare plans and make their decisions before the deadline.

While the Federal Public Health Emergency is coming to an end, employers should pay special attention to the rules of state and local governments. There are still some lingering COVID-19 paid sick leave requirements in the following jurisdictions:

Some of the leave laws that are gone still exist through retroactive payment clauses. California, Los Angeles County, Oakland, and San Jose all have requirements to pay employees for time taken off for qualifying reasons while the leave was available. And unpaid leave laws still apply—or could apply in the future—in New Jersey and Oregon.

Employers should review their health plan terms for COVID-19-related coverage and check their employee policies for benefits that were created under the COVID-19 National Emergency and Public Health Emergency. Make sure the employee handbook and employment agreements are updated. (SixFifty can help with that!) Then communicate upcoming changes to all employees.

What Does the End of COVID-19 Emergencies Mean for Homeowners?

The end of the federal COVID-19 emergencies will have significant implications for homeowners who have been struggling to pay their mortgage. SixFifty launched HelloLender in the spring of 2020 to help homeowners access mortgage forbearance provided under the CARES Act. Under the CARES Act, if your mortgage is backed by the federal government—including FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac loans—you can temporarily suspend payments if you are experiencing financial difficulty due to COVID. You have a right to request forbearance for up to 180 days, and you can request an extension for up to an additional 180 days. Additionally, there won’t be any additional fees, penalties, or interest added to your account, and you won’t need to submit additional documentation to qualify for this forbearance, only the “hardship declaration” that HelloLender generates.

However, these special forbearance rules will expire when the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ends on May 11, 2023. This means that homeowners who can’t afford their mortgage will need to explore other options to avoid foreclosure. Fortunately, there are still options available for homeowners who are struggling to pay their mortgage. One of these options is a new version of HelloLender, which helps borrowers write a general forbearance letter, and which will be available after the federal COVID-19 PHE expires on May 11, 2023. This updated version of the program will be designed to help homeowners who are no longer eligible for the CARES Act forbearance program.

SixFifty can help

SixFifty’s Employment Docs platform helps organizations generate a top-tier employee handbook and employment agreements that comply with the latest employment laws in every state—saving time, money, and peace of mind. Our documents support employers in every stage of the employment lifecycle—from hiring through managing and separation. Our legal experts closely monitor employment legislation across the nation, so employers can rest easy knowing that their documents will always be current, no matter the state of emergency or how the laws change.

SixFifty’s Free Legal Aid Library features completely free tools to help individuals who can’t afford attorneys. Included in the library are tools to help people respond to debt collectors, request a deposit refund or repairs from a landlord, avoid eviction, and more. We believe that technology should make the law more accessible to all of us—because it belongs to all of us. And the Free Legal Aid Library brings us one step closer to realizing that belief.

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