NEW LAW, JUST PASSED
Contributed by the UWS Family Services Program
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
To read the bill, its summary, or amendments, please visit this link: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201/text.
The bill officially became public law number 116-127 on March 18, 2020. The law states it as the Second Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020.
Created to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, the law provides paid sick leave, tax credits, free COVID-19 testing, unemployment benefits, food assistance, and information about increasing Medicaid funding.
Continue reading to learn about the provisions and qualifications for each of them.
Provision #1: Emergency and Paid Sick Leave
The Emergency Family Medical Leave Act “permits employees to take public health emergency leave through December 31, 2020, to care for the employee’s child during a COVID-19…Specifically, employers of fewer than 500 workers must provide up to 12 weeks paid leave for an employee who cannot work because the school or child-care provider of that employee’s child is closed as a result of” COVID-19.
It also states, “Employers are not required to pay employees for the first 10 days of such public health emergency leave. However, an employee may use accrued paid leave during such time. After the first 10 days, employers must pay not less than two-thirds of an employee’s regular pay for the number of hours per week the employee normally works. The maximum amount of compensation for such leave is $200 per day and $10,000 in aggregate.”
Additionally, it says, “employers are generally required to restore an employee’s former position following the use of public health emergency leave unless the employer has fewer than 25 workers and has made reasonable efforts to retain the employee’s position but such position no longer exists due to economic conditions caused by such public health emergency.”
In addition to the Emergency Family Medical Leave Act, the Emergency Paid Leave Act requires employers to provide paid sick time to employees who are unable to work due to the effects of COVID-19. “Specifically, full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick time, which is available immediately, for use if the employee” is in quarantine, caring for someone in quarantine, caring for a child or child-care provider because the school is closed, or experiencing a similar circumstance related to COVID-19. Employers cannot take adverse action against employees who take this leave.
The emergency paid sick time requirements to expire on December 31, 2020 and do not carry over to next year.
It is important to note this both emergency and paid sick time leave to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders from the definition of the eligible employee. It also exempts small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, especially if the requirement would jeopardize the viability of the business.
Provision #2: Tax Credits
A refundable income tax credit for 100% of the sick leave amount of self-employed individuals under the Emergency Pid Leave Act is allowed. Self-employed individuals must keep documents sent by the Internal Revenue Service to be eligible.
Provision #3: Free Coronavirus Testing
Private health insurance, Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans, State Medicaid programs, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program will be required to cover testing for COVID-19 without imposing deductibles, coinsurance, or copayments for the duration of the public health emergency, which was declared on January 31, 2020. It includes the cost of administering tests and related visits to health care providers.
The Department of Defense (I.E., Tricare) and Department of Veterans Affairs are also prohibited from requiring deductibles, coinsurance, or copayments for COVID-19 testing and related visits. The same goes for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Provision #4: Unemployment Benefits
Under the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020, emergency grants for the fiscal year 2020 will be available to states to administer unemployment programs. Funds vary based on the Department of Labor’s determination of the proportion of taxable wages attributable to the state during the preceding year. States can receive 50% of the amount of they require employers to notify employees about the availability of unemployment compensation; make unemployment applications available in person, by phone, or online; and provide assistance with processing applications. Payments made to the states for assistance with unemployment compensation will not be charged interest until December 31, 2020.
Provision #5: Food Assistance
As part of the Child Nutrition Response Act within the bill, USDA is allowed to do the following:
- Waive child nutrition requirements to all states under the National School Lunch Program to food with appropriate safety measures
- Waive requirements as to allow non-group feeding in the Child and Adult Care Food Program to provide food with appropriate safety measures in regards to COVID-19
- Waive nutritional content of food served in child nutrition programs if it is necessary to supply them and there is a supply chain disruption because of COVID-19
- Waive requirements for participants to get certified or recertified without being physically present at a WIC clinic
- Defer anthropometric, such as weight and height, and bloodwork requirements necessary to determine nutritional risk
- Waive administrative requirements for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) if it is determined the requirement cannot be met by the state because of COVID-19 and it is necessary to provide assistance under WIC
This act also “temporarily suspends work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program, during a public health emergency declaration due to COVID-19.” This allows participants who are not working because of COVID-19 to continue to receive SNAP benefits.
In addition, this act “provides emergency SNAP benefits during a public health emergency declaration due to COVID-19. States may request waivers from USDA to provide emergency allotments to households participating in SNAP to address temporary food needs not greater than the applicable maximum monthly allotment for the household size.” (Note: South Carolina’s request has been approved.)