Expenses have changed with the coronavirus pandemic, especially those associated with working and dependents. As schools, daycares, and offices have closed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the money spent on everything from gasoline to childcare has altered drastically.

While this might be a welcome change for some peoples’ wallets, what about workers who have been using payroll deductions to cover costs? In this case, we’re talking specifically about Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), which many people use to cover childcare.

While Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) allow for regular changes, Dependent Care FSAs are benefits which are typically inflexible from one Open Enrollment period to the next. The dollar figure you elect for your Dependent Care FSA is fixed for the entire covered period.

That is, unless there’s a qualifying event – one of those life changes which triggers your ability to alter your benefits coverage midway through the year. Since Dependent Care FSAs are all about how much it costs to care for another person, a change in childcare costs is a qualifying event.

Dependent Care FSA Qualifying Events

The lives of working families across the country have been dramatically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. For some, the school closures have brought a family’s childcare expenditures down to zero. For others, the pressures of a sudden change to working from home may have necessitated an increase in paid childcare.

These changes in expense could all be triggers to change an employee’s Dependent Care FSA contribution. If so, it’s important employees are aware so they can get the most effective use of their benefits – and their paychecks.

How to Ensure Employee Awareness

Are your employees aware that school, daycare, and workplace closures may have triggered an FSA qualifying event? Check with your benefits provider or look over your plan documentation, then communicate these potential changes to your employees.

There will probably be questions, so you might want to prepare an FAQ with simple bullet points explaining what constitutes a qualifying event, where to go online to make changes, and how quickly these changes will go into effect. In addition, let your employees know the process and timeline for changing their elections again if schools, daycares, or workplaces should reopen.

If you’re a current WBD client, your supersite is the perfect place to share messaging about changing Dependent Care FSAs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not a client yet? Click here to view our custom, branded supersites, which take the confusion out of benefits enrollment and management for your employees.

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