The U.S. Senate approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in a 90-8 vote on March 18, and President Donald Trump signed it into law a few hours later. The bill will provide free screening, paid leave and enhanced unemployment insurance benefits for people affected by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will provide:
- Free coronavirus testing.
- Paid emergency leave.
- Enhanced unemployment insurance.
- Additional funding for nutritional programs.
- Protections for health care workers and employees responsible for cleaning at-risk places.
- Additional federal funds for Medicaid.
Large and Small Business Exceptions
Private businesses with more than 500 employees are not covered by the bill. Employers with fewer than 50 workers can apply for an exemption from providing paid family and medical leave and paid sick leave if it would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
Tax Credits for Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family Leave
Employers can claim a tax credit for 100 percent of the wages paid pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (subject to the caps) against the employer portion of social security taxes.
Paid Sick Leave
Under the bill, many employers will have to provide 80 hours of paid-sick-leave benefits for several reasons, including:
- The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in bullet #1 or has been advised as described in bullet #2.
- The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the childcare provider of such son or daughter is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
Paid sick leave for full-time employees is 80 hours at the employee’s regular rate (up to $511 per day or $5,110 total) except mandatory paid sick leave is reduced to two-thirds of the employee’s pay when caring for a family member (up to $200 per day or $2,000 total). Part-time employees are to be paid for their average number of hours over a 2-week period, subject to the same caps. Paid-sick-leave benefits will be immediately available when the law takes effect (expected to be effective April 2, 2020).
Paid Family Leave
The bill will provide paid family leave when employees are unable to work or telework because their minor child’s school or child care service is closed due to a public health emergency. Workers who have been on the payroll for at least 30 calendar days will be eligible for paid family leave benefits, which will be capped at $200 a day.