Congress finalized the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and the President signed the legislation. The bill is an economic stimulus plan aimed at addressing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and introduces paid sick leave and an expanded family and medical leave act for U.S. employers. The legislation includes the following, which will go into effect April 2, and will remain effective until December 31:
- Expanded FMLA Coverage: for employers with fewer than 500 employees, any individual employed by the employer for at least 30 days (before the first day of leave) may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to allow an employee, who is unable to work or telework, to care for the employee’s child (under 18 years of age) if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency. Under this provision, the first ten (10) days of leave may be unpaid. An employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation or sick time to cover some or all of the 10-day unpaid period. After the 10-day period, the employer generally must pay full-time employees at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be normally scheduled.
- Paid Sick Leave Benefit: this provision requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide full-time employees (regardless of the employee’s duration of employment prior to leave) with 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate (or two-thirds the employee’s regular rate to care for qualifying reasons 4, 5, or 6 listed below) for the following reasons:
- subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis;
- caring for an individual subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
- caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to public health emergency; or
- 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.
- Unemployment Insurance (UI) Funding: provides $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states for activities related to unemployment insurance benefit processing and payment, under certain conditions.The Act will provide the states that meet the requirements with 100 percent federal funding to provide extended unemployment benefits, up to an additional 26 weeks after the initial 26 weeks (i.e. up to 52 weeks of benefits).
- Free COVID-19 Testing: requires private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and related services to employees and their covered dependents, without cost sharing (like deductibles, copayments and coinsurance). Covered services and related cost waivers apply to diagnostic testing, healthcare provider services (in-person and telehealth), and facility costs to the extent the costs are related to evaluating the need for, or furnishing, COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment. In addition to coverage and cost waiver provisions, plans shall not require prior authorization or similar medical management requirements as a precondition of COVID-19 testing or services.
- Food Assistance Programs: nearly a billion dollars is being given to provide access to meals for those without food security. Half that amount will go toward funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC. Another $400 million is allocated for an emergency food assistance program that will be available through September 30, 2021. Certain households will be eligible for help if a child’s school has been closed for at least five consecutive days because of the health crisis. The legislation allows certain waivers in order to expand who qualifies for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and suspends the program’s work requirements.
We will continue to keep you updated on any additional benefits that may become available through the state and federal government.