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Families First Coronavirus Response Act

March 19, 2020

Author: Dean A. Rocco

Government Announces Historic Paid Leave Rights for U.S. Employees Impacted by COVID-19

On March 14, 2020, the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201). On March 18, 2020, the Senate passed the bill, and President Trump quickly signed it into law the same day.

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to require all private employers of fewer than 500 workers (i.e., even those with fewer than 50 employees) to provide leave to workers who need to care for children without schooling or day care because of COVID-19. The first 10 days of the leave is unpaid, and employees can apply accrued paid time off benefits to that window. After this 10-day period, employers must provide paid family leave up to $200/day or $10,000 in the aggregate using a formula announced in the Act. These FMLA provisions become effective April 2, 2020.

The new law also rolls out an Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act that requires all private employers of fewer than 500 employees to pay emergency sick leave to employees who cannot work (or telework) because of government quarantine or isolation orders, because they are under medical care for COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis, because they are caring for someone in quarantine or isolation under governmental or medical provider orders, or because they need to care for children whose schools or day care centers closed due to COVID-19 precautions. The emergency paid sick leave benefit caps at 80 hours for full-time workers or the average number of hours across a two-week period for part-time employees. 

Employers calculate emergency paid sick leave using an employee’s minimum or regular hourly rate across their normal or average hours for a day. Employees who are themselves subject to governmental quarantine or isolation orders or medical care for COVID-19 symptoms or diagnosis max out at $511 per day or $5,110 in the aggregate. Employees caring for family members subject to government or medical provider quarantine or isolation orders or children whose schools or day care centers closed due to COVID-19 precautions are paid out at two thirds their regular rate and max out at $200 per day or $2,000 in the aggregate. These provisions become effective April 2, 2020, and sunset on December 31, 2020.

Additional Actions
The Act provides:

  • New tax credits equal to 100% of the emergency paid family medical leave or emergency paid sick leave paid by employers each quarter, and self-employed individuals can take advantage of similar tax credits.
  • One billion dollars to supplement and stabilize state unemployment insurance benefit programs and commits to education to employers on short-time compensation programs as possible ways to avert lay-offs. It also provides full federal funding for certain extended unemployment compensation for a limited time.
  • Rules that prohibit insurance carriers and other health care plans or programs from requiring any cost sharing on approved testing for SARS-CoV-e or the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • Appropriation of several billion dollars to emergency food and nutritional assistance and health services.

The Act comprises eight distinct divisions, which are summarized in our expanded article.

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