COVID-19 Relief Legislation and Employee Benefits 2021

Arizona Benefits Consulting Group - Valley Schools - Covid relief bill

In the last days of 2020, Congress passed yet another COVID-19 Relief Bill. Moving forward into 2021 there will be an impact on employee benefits that you need to be aware of. Significant restrictions on so-called “surprise” medical bills, changes to Health Flexible Spending accounts (HFSAs), and Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) are among the key changes that will impact employees beginning this year.

No Surprise Here

Legislation in the bill establishes new rules to limit unexpected out-of-network medical bills which continue to be common with ongoing changes in the health industry. Updated legislation now requires insurers and health provider plans to concur to out-of-network payment for various medical services. Surprise billing often occurs when a procedure like a non-network doctor provides services unknowingly and later bills the uninsured services to the patient.

New legislation now requires a health plan or insurer to apply in-network authorization before services are rendered to the patient. In the case that patients or providers can’t agree upon payment terms, disagreements will be sent to arbitration.

Flexing Your Spending Muscle

The new legislation also allows employees participating in Flexible Spending Accounts and dependent care to “carry over” unused account balances. This change begins with benefit plans ending in 2020 and 2021.

Grace periods are also extended to 12 months (up from 2.5) for health or dependent care FSAs after the end of a plan that ends in 2020 or 2021.


The Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, also known as FFCRA, was the first paid leave of absence law that was implemented on a national basis. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was enacted in April 2020 and as of December 31, 2020, it is now history.

The FFCRA required employers with less than 500 employees to provide emergency paid slack leave. It also paid for additional family and medical leave to eligible employees. It was a particularly important benefit as the COVID-19 pandemic forced employees to take emergency leave for personal or family reasons.

All is not lost, however. The ‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021′ was signed into law in late December as part of the COVID Relief Bill. A small portion allows employers – on a voluntary basis – to continue offering leave benefits through March 31, 2021, in exchange for a payroll tax credit.

Your Employee Benefits Partner

At Valley Schools, our goal as your employee benefits consultant is to make certain that you have the very best plans possible for your staff and their families. As a nonprofit group, we deliver expert services at a low, fixed fee that is accessible to all public sector employers. We appreciate the opportunity to play such an important role in the day-to-day operations of your organization. Contact us for further support or to learn more about our services.