Federal regulators are making it easier for employers or other plan sponsors to help plans get through emergencies.

The U.S. Department of Labor made the change today by publishing the final version of an amendment to Prohibited Transaction Exemption 80-26, a guide that permits plan sponsors to make interest-free loans to benefit plans under certain conditions that create a temporary cash shortage.

A “year 2000″ computer-processing crisis or disruption caused by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks are the kinds of conditions that might make use of the exemption appropriate, Labor Department officials say.

The new amendment removes a 3-day limitation that previously applied to some loans described in the exemption, officials say.

The Labor Department published a draft of the amendment in December 2004.

A copy of the final version is on the Web at Document Link