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Risk, benefits management affected by stimulus law


WASHINGTON--The economic stimulus law contains other provisions of interest to benefits and risk managers.

Under one provision, employees enrolled in employer-provided commuter benefits programs can reduce their salaries up to $230 a month to pay mass-transit expenses on a pretax basis. That's up from the current monthly maximum of $120. The new maximum pretax contribution goes into effect March 1 and is scheduled to end after Dec. 31, 2010.

The law also eliminates a federal mandate that recreational marine service and repair businesses protect their employees with coverage purchased under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. Instead, they may purchase state-regulated workers comp coverage, which tends to be less expensive, with the spread between the two types of insurance varying from state to state, said Ian Greenway, president of St. Petersburg, Fla.-based LIG Marine Managers.

The law also extends whistle-blower protection to state and local government and contractor whistle-blowers, although not to federal employees. Among its provisions, the section prohibits reprisals against employees who report gross mismanagement and law violations and provides for compensatory and other damages.

It also creates a 65% federal subsidy of COBRA premiums for employees laid off from Sept. 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2009 (BI, Feb. 16).