On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This federal legislation went into effect on April 2, 2020, and will expire on December 31, 2020.
The FFCRA has a variety of provisions that can assist Americans who have been impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Paid Family Medical Leave
The new law requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave (for which the employer can receive tax credits) if employees are unable to work because they’re subject to quarantine or isolation, are experiencing symptoms of COVID–19, are caring for someone who is in quarantine or isolation and/or have children in schools that have closed.
The Act prohibits employers from requiring employees to find a replacement worker or use other paid time off.
Self-employed individuals can get a tax credit equivalent to the sick leave amount.
The FFCRA also provides up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family and medical to workers employed for at least 30 calendar days who are unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave in order to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
Employers are required to offer employees unpaid leave (or accrued paid leave or paid vacation) for the first 10 days. After that, the employer must provide paid leave for no less than two-thirds of their employees’ regular rate, which cannot exceed $200 per day and $10,000 total for the full 10 weeks.
It is important to note the following employer exemptions:
- Employers with less than 50 employees are not required to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability, if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the continuation of the business;
- Employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from employee civil actions alleging violations regarding emergency paid FMLA;
- Employers with fewer than 25 employees are not required to reinstate an employee to their position after they return from leave as businesses with more than 25 employees are required to do;
- Employers that are healthcare and emergency response organizations are not required to provide employees expanded paid FMLA due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For more details, visit the US Department of Labor’s website.
The legislation provides nearly $1 billion in state grants to cover the processing and payment of unemployment benefits. Additionally, there will be an increase in the amount of assistance to states with high unemployment for individuals who have already exhausted their benefits.
The Act allocates nearly a billion dollars to provide emergency food assistance, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as nutrition assistance grants for U.S. territories (Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and American Samoa).
The FFCRA has expanded the criteria to qualify for SNAP benefits, has suspended the program’s work requirements, and allows states to request waivers to provide emergency SNAP benefits.
Additionally, some households may be eligible for food assistance if a child’s school has been closed for at least five consecutive days because of the health crisis.
Healthcare and Health Insurance
The Act provides funds to cover free COVID-19 testing for the uninsured, veterans, Medicaid recipients as well as patients of the military and Native American health systems. It also requires private health plans to provide free testing, plus the cost of an emergency room or clinic visit to get tested.
Furthermore, the FFCRA requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard requiring certain employers to develop and implement a comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plan to protect health care workers.