On March 18, 2020 in an effort to ward off economic calamity, the U.S. Senate passed its second economic relief bill this month in response to the coronavirus pandemic – The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Act”). The Act, expands emergency paid sick and family leave for certain workers, expands unemployment insurance assistance, and guarantees free diagnostic testing for the coronavirus.
Q. What workers are covered by the paid sick and family medical leave provision of the Act?
A. All workers are covered by the Act, though there are specific carve-outs for certain health care workers and first responders.
Q. What provision were made regarding paid family leave?
A. The “Act” amends “FMLA” defines “qualifying need related to a public health emergency” as a day an employee is unable to work to telework due a “need for leave to care of a child under the age of 18” such as a school being closed, or the childcare provide is unavailable due the COVID-19 virus.
Q. When does paid family leave kick in under the Act?
A. The Act requires an employer to provide paid family medical leave for each day of leave that an employee takes after 10 days of unpaid leave.
Q. Are there limits to the amount of paid family leave?
A. Yes, paid family leave is limited to $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.
Q. Who is eligible for emergency leave day protection?
A. The Act applies to employers who have been employed for 30 days by the employer from whom leave is sought.
Q. Who is eligible for paid sick leave under the Act?
A. The Act, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, requires employers to provide paid sick time to any employee unable to work or telework due to:
A federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order relative to COVID-19 that the employee is bound by;
Advice by a health care provider that the employee self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
Symptoms of COVID-19 being experienced by the employee, leading the employee to seek a medical diagnosis; The employee’s need to care for an individual subject to a quarantine order or who has been advised to self-quarantine; The employee’s need to care for a child if the school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provide is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions.
Q. How much paid sick time is an employee entitled to?
A. full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave. Pat-time employees may receive sick leave pay for the number of hours equal to the average number of hours worked over a two-week period.
Q. How long must an employee be employed to be eligible for emergency paid sick time?
A. Paid sick time is available for immediate use regardless of how long the employee has been employed.
Q. What if an employer fails to pay sick or family leave under the ACT?
A. an employer who fails to pay sick or family leave under the Act shall be deemed to have violated payment of minimum wages under the FLSA. This could result in fines and penalties.
Q. How can an employer offset the added cost of sick leave?
A. The employer is allowed a payroll tax credit for 100% of qualified sick or family medical leave wages paid. The Act does not address the precise timing and mechanics for claiming the tax credit, though the Secretary of the Treasury is granted broad authority to prescribe such regulations or other guidance as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of the Act.
Q. What are the expanded unemployment benefits under the Act?
A. The “Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020” grants $1 billion in emergency aid to states to provide additional unemployment insurance benefits.
In order to access these grants, states must (a) require employers to notify terminated employees that unemployment compensation is available; (b) ensure that employees can apply for benefits through at least two of the following means: in person, via telephone and online; and (c) notify applicants when an application is received and being processed, and if the application cannot be processed, provide information to the applicant to ensure that processing can be completed.
Q. Does the Act address coronavirus testing?
A. Yes. The Act guarantees free diagnostic testing for the coronavirus.
Q. Should we expect any future stimulus packages to result from the coronavirus pandemic?
A Yes. A third (and potentially the largest) economic relief and stimulus bill – rumored to include direct payments to individuals as well as stimulus to prop up struggling businesses – is expected as early as next week.