Hardship Withdrawals for Expenses Related to Natural Disasters

 
CONTENT
This section of the FEDERAL REGISTER
contains regulatory documents having general
applicability and legal effect, most of which
are keyed to and codified in the Code of
Federal Regulations, which is published under
50 titles pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 1510.
The Code of Federal Regulations is sold by
the Superintendent of Documents.
Rules and Regulations Federal Register
61805
Vol. 85, No. 191
Thursday, October 1, 2020
FEDERAL RETIREMENT THRIFT
INVESTMENT BOARD
5 CFR Part 1650
Hardship Withdrawals for Expenses
Related to Natural Disasters
AGENCY
: Federal Retirement Thrift
Investment Board.
ACTION
: Final rule.
SUMMARY
: The Federal Retirement Thrift
Investment Board (‘‘FRTIB’’) is
amending its regulations to allow
participants to take hardship
withdrawals for expenses related to
natural disasters.
DATES
: This rule is effective October 1,
2020.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
:
Jessica Bradford, (202) 864–8699.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION
: The
FRTIB administers the Thrift Savings
Plan (TSP), which was established by
the Federal Employees’ Retirement
System Act of 1986 (FERSA), Public
Law 99–335, 100 Stat. 514. The TSP
provisions of FERSA are codified, as
amended, largely at 5 U.S.C. 8351 and
8401–79. The TSP is a tax-deferred
retirement savings plan for federal
civilian employees and members of the
uniformed services. The TSP is similar
to cash or deferred arrangements
established for private-sector employees
under section 401(k) of the Internal
Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 401(k)).
On February 14, 2020, the FRTIB
published a proposed rule with request
for comments in the Federal Register
(85 FR 8482), and for reasons described
below, is publishing the proposed rule
as final without change.
The proposed rule amended 5 CFR
1650.32(b) to add to its list of authorized
hardship expenses, the expenses and
losses (including loss of income)
resulting from a natural disaster as
declared by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (‘‘FEMA’’) and
designated for individual assistance in
order to allow TSP participants to make
financial hardship withdrawals for such
natural disaster expenses and losses.
The FRTIB received six comments.
Three of the comments expressed
approval of the proposed regulation and
recommended no changes.
One commenter encouraged the
FRTIB to expand other parts of the
FRTIB’s hardship withdrawal program,
such as permitting withdrawal of the
full balance subject to certain minimum
account values and increasing the
current six-month wait period to 12
months between financial hardship
requests. The proposed regulation
sought comments exclusively on adding
natural disaster expenses and losses to
the TSP’s hardship withdrawal
conditions, and, therefore, the FRTIB
cannot further expand the withdrawal
program beyond that purpose in the
final regulation.
Another commenter asked whether a
TSP participant may make a withdrawal
under the natural disaster condition for
expenses related to a family member’s
death resulting from the natural
disaster. The final regulation does not
limit the expense to a specific type,
such as property expenses or medical
expenses. Rather, the regulation requires
that the expense be ‘‘incurred by the
participant on account of a disaster
declared by the [FEMA]’’ and that the
participant’s principal residence or
principal place of employment at the
time of the disaster be located in an area
designated by the FEMA for individual
assistance with respect to the disaster.
Any expense that meets these
requirements would be eligible for a
hardship withdrawal.
For example, provided the
participant’s principal residence at the
time of the disaster was located in an
area declared by the FEMA for
individual assistance, if a TSP
participant’s dependent or spouse died
as a result of a natural disaster, and, as
a result, the participant incurred funeral
expenses relating to that dependent or
spouse, then the expense would be
eligible for a hardship withdrawal under
1650.32(b)(5).
Another commenter urged the FRTIB
to treat pandemics such as COVID–19 as
natural disasters under this regulation.
Guided by legislation, the FRTIB has
implemented other withdrawal options
designed to afford relief for adverse
financial consequences due to COVID–
19. For more information about those
options, please visit www.tsp.gov/covid-
19/.
Regulatory Flexibility Act
I certify that this regulation will not
have a significant economic impact on
a substantial number of small entities.
This regulation will affect Federal
employees, members of the uniformed
services who participate in the Thrift
Savings Plan, and their beneficiaries.
The TSP is a Federal defined
contribution retirement savings plan
created FERSA and is administered by
the Agency.
Paperwork Reduction Act
I certify that these regulations do not
require additional reporting under the
Paperwork Reduction Act.
Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of
1995
Pursuant to the Unfunded Mandates
Reform Act of 1995, 2 U.S.C. 602, 632,
653, 1501–1571, the effects of this
regulation on state, local, and tribal
governments and the private sector have
been assessed. This regulation will not
compel the expenditure in any one year
of $100 million or more by state, local,
and tribal governments, in the aggregate,
or by the private sector. Therefore, a
statement under 1532 is not required.
List of Subjects in 5 CFR Part 1650
Taxes, Claims, Government
employees, Pensions, Retirement.
Ravindra Deo,
Executive Director, Federal Retirement Thrift
Investment Board.
For the reasons stated in the
preamble, the FRTIB amends 5 CFR
chapter VI as follows:
PART 1650—METHODS OF
WITHDRAWING FUNDS FROM THE
THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN
1. The authority citation for part 1650
continues to read as follows:
Authority: 5 U.S.C. 8351, 8432d, 8433,
8434, 8435, 8474(b)(5) and 8474(c)(1).
2. Amend § 1650.32 by revising
paragraph (b) introductory text and
adding paragraph (b)(5) to read as
follows:
§ 1650.32 Financial hardship withdrawals.
* * * * *
(b) To be eligible for a financial
hardship withdrawal, a participant must
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Federal Register / Vol. 85, No. 191 / Thursday, October 1, 2020 / Rules and Regulations
1
To view the proposed rule, its supporting
documents, and the comments that we received, go
to https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=APHIS-
2016-0065.
have a financial need that results from
at least one of the following five
conditions:
* * * * *
(5) The participant has incurred
expenses and losses (including loss of
income) on account of a disaster
declared by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) under the
Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and
Emergency Assistance Act, Public Law
100–707, provided that the participant’s
principal residence or principal place of
employment at the time of the disaster
was located in an area designated by the
FEMA for individual assistance with
respect to the disaster.
* * * * *
[FR Doc. 2020–20762 Filed 9–30–20; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6760–01–P
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service
7 CFR Parts 301 and 319
[Docket No. APHIS–2016–0065]
RIN 0579–AE41
Deregulation of Pine Shoot Beetle
AGENCY
: Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service, USDA.
ACTION
: Final rule.
SUMMARY
: We are adopting as a final
rule, without change, a proposal to
amend our regulations to remove the
domestic pine shoot beetle (PSB)
quarantine and to eliminate the
restrictions that apply to the
importation of PSB host material from
Canada. We have determined through
analysis that the regulatory program is
ineffective in slowing the spread of the
pest and reducing damage, which has
also been found to be minimal. This
action will provide flexibility to the
States as they manage PSB. It will also
allow Federal resources spent on this
program to be allocated elsewhere, and
it will remove PSB-related interstate
movement and importation restrictions
on PSB-regulated articles.
DATES
: Effective November 2, 2020.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT
: Mr.
Bill Wesela, National Policy Manager,
PPQ, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 22,
Riverdale, MD 20737–1236; (301) 851–
2229; William.D.Wesela@usda.gov.
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION
:
Background
Pine shoot beetle (PSB, Tomicus
piniperda) is a pest of pines in Africa,
Asia, and Europe. Biologically, this
species of bark beetle is considered to be
a secondary pest of pine and not able to
successfully attack healthy trees. PSB
colonizes fresh timber and dying pine
trees in early spring. Larvae feed within
the galleries under the bark and emerge
as adults from shoots after a hard frost.
They then move to the base of the tree
to reproduce.
PSB was first detected in the United
States in a Christmas tree farm in Ohio
in 1992. Based on an initial finding of
potentially high economic losses in
1992, the Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service (APHIS)
implemented a program to regulate at-
risk pine commodities, including logs
with bark, Christmas trees, and nursery
stock in known infested areas.
The regulations in ‘‘Subpart G—Pine
Shoot Beetle’’ (7 CFR 301.50 through
301.50–10, referred to below as the
regulations) had restricted interstate
movement of certain regulated articles
(generally wood and wood products)
from quarantined areas in order to
prevent spread of PSB into non-infested
areas of the United States.
Since APHIS initiated the PSB
program in 1992, PSB has advanced at
a slow rate, and damage to native pines,
plantations, and the nursery trade has
been minimal. In 2015, APHIS met with
the National Plant Board, which
represents plant protection divisions of
State departments of agriculture, to
reassess the relevance and need for the
PSB regulatory program. This was due
to the slow advancement and minimal
damage of PSB and the limited
resources allotted to the PSB program.
We prepared an analysis of regulatory
options, ‘‘Pine Shoot Beetle, Tomicus
piniperda (Linnaeus): Analysis of
Regulatory Options’’ (February 2015),
referred to below as the February 2015
analysis, to evaluate the PSB program in
terms of its effectiveness and efficiency
in slowing the spread and reducing
losses. The analysis looked at timber
losses and estimated compliance costs
that Christmas tree growers incur in
quarantined areas. Given the little PSB
damage observed and the amount of
resources allocated to manage the
minimal risks associated with PSB, we
determined it appropriate to deregulate
PSB. While the possibility exists that
PSB may spread at a faster rate and
enter Southern States sooner in the
absence of Federal regulations, we
anticipated that PSB would be
controlled within managed timber
stands in the South.
Accordingly, in a proposed rule
1
published in the Federal Register on
September 23, 2019 (84 FR 49680–
49681, Docket No. APHIS–2016–0065),
we proposed to remove the domestic
PSB quarantine and the restrictions that
apply to importation of PSB host
material from Canada. We solicited
comments concerning our proposal for
60 days ending November 22, 2019.
We received 10 comments by the
close of the comment period. They were
from private citizens and one State
forestry.
Of the commenters, six opposed
deregulation and the proposed rule. The
remaining four commenters urged
caution in deregulation, raising
concerns similar to those opposed. One
of these latter commenters recognized
the positive economic impacts of
deregulation on the industry, yet still
pressed PSB concerns.
Comments fell into seven distinct
categories: Concern for natural
forestland protection; support for the
current regulations out of perception
that they work; concern for the pine
industry and economy; concerns for
future impacts of PSB; concerns
regarding reallocation of regulatory
funding; requests for delay or phase-in
of deregulation with monitoring and
assessment before action; and requests
that science direct regulation of PSB.
We have characterized the comments
received below according to these
topics.
Natural Forestland Protection
A majority of the 10 commenters
wanted continued regulation to prevent
PSB from inflicting pine tree losses on
‘‘natural’’ and wild forests, as well as
private lands. Some addressed
vulnerability of pine to PSB impact on
tree trunks. Two commenters expressed
concern over what they considered the
growth-stunting potential of PSB in
harming shoots of pine trees. The
commenters stated that this is
significant in that shoots are means of
photosynthesis, energy conversion, and
thus growth, which could impact yields
and incomes.
We acknowledge that PSB can inflict
damage on pine trees and that it is a
plant pest. Our February 2015 analysis
did not state otherwise. The analysis
also reviewed studies that showed adult
PSB prefers to colonize freshly-cut
stumps and slash. Nonetheless, the
analysis concluded that pine-stand
owners and the industry can and do
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