The Coronavirus Relief Bill: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act)

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) offers relief for COVID-19 by providing paid sick leave, tax credits, and free COVID-19 testing. It also expands food assistance and unemployment benefits, and increasing Medicaid funding.

Coronavirus Paid Sick Leave

The FFCRA expands employee rights when it comes to paid sick leave and paid expanded family and medical leave related to COVID-19.

Specifically, in general all employers must provide all employees with :

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

A covered employer must provide to employees that it has employed for at least 30 days:

  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

For more, See the US Department of Labor’s “Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employer Paid Leave Requirements.”

DIVISION E–EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT

Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

(Sec. 5102) This section requires employers to provide paid sick time to employees who are unable to work due to the effects of COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019). Specifically, full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick time, which is available immediately, for use if the employee

  • is subject to a governmental quarantine or isolation order,

  • has been advised by a health-care provider to self-quarantine,

  • is caring for an individual who is subject to governmental or self-quarantine,

  • is caring for the employee’s child because the child’s school or child-care provider is closed, or

  • is experiencing a substantially similar circumstance related to COVID-19 as specified by the Department of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Labor.

Coronavirus Tax Credits

The FFCRA offers tax credits to employers whose employees utilize the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions. It allows employers a 100% tax credit against payroll taxes for employer-paid qualified sick leave, however there are limitations on the credit.

DIVISION G–TAX CREDITS FOR PAID SICK AND PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE

(Sec. 7001) This section allows a credit against payroll taxes for 100% of the employer-paid qualified sick leave wages paid each calendar quarter, subject to specified limitation. The amount of sick leave wages taken into account for purposes of the credit may not exceed $200 for any employee ($511 per day employees as defined under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act) and the aggregate number of days taken into account is limited to 10, over the number of days taken into account for preceding calendar quarters.

Coronavirus Testing

The FFCRA covers coronavirus testing for most Americans for free. It does this by requiring health plans to cover the tests free, and then by covering the rest through Medicaid and giving even the insured the ability to have their testing costs covered this way.

DIVISION F–HEALTH PROVISIONS

(Sec. 6001) This section requires private health insurance to cover testing for COVID-19 without imposing cost-sharing (e.g., deductibles, coinsurance, or copayments) for the duration of the public health emergency declared on January 31, 2020. This coverage includes the cost of administering such approved tests and related visits to health care providers.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Benefits

The FFCRA provides additional funding to WIC and TEFAP. This allows states to approve additional SNAP benefits to households with children who are not able to go to school because of COVID-19 related school closures.

TITLE I–DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

This title provides appropriations to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for

  • the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and
  • the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

(Sec. 1101) This section allows USDA to approve state plans to provide emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program) benefits to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price school meals if their schools were not closed due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The child’s school must be closed for at least five consecutive days for the household to be eligible for benefits. States may provide the benefits using the Electronic Benefit Transfer system.

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