March 26, 2020

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Summary

by Josh Stephens
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Wednesday, March 18. Outlined in HR 6201, the aid package contains provisions for paid sick leave, free COVID-19 testing, expanded unemployment benefits, and increased access to food assistance programs. The major provisions of the bill are summarized below.

PAGE remains available to serve the needs of our members. If you are a member of PAGE and require assistance with any of the provisions in this report, contact our office at 770-216-8555 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., and follow the prompts to speak with the legal department.
Paid Sick Leave

The sick leave provision in the FFCRA applies to public employers, including all school systems regardless of the number of employees in the district. It also applies to many private employers. The provision goes into effect April 2, 2020, and expires Dec. 31, 2020.

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act section requires employers to offer paid sick leave to any employee, regardless of how long the employee has been employed. Full-time employees are provided 80 hours (two weeks) of sick leave. Part-time workers are provided sick leave days that equal the number of hours they would work over two weeks. Sick leave days provided under the FFCRA are in addition to any sick leave provided to the employee. Employers will not be responsible for paying for sick leave once the act terminates after the public health emergency ends. The sick leave provision is not retroactive, so it does not apply to any date prior to April 2.

An employee is eligible for paid sick leave as defined in the FFCRA if he or she:

  1. Is subject to a government quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. Has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19;
  3. Has symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. Is caring for an individual subject to either of the first two bullets;
  5. Needs to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or whose childcare provider is unavailable due to coronavirus; or,
  6. Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services

Sick leave is paid at the employee’s regular pay rate if used for leave reasons one through three listed above. However, pay is capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in total. These amounts correspond with the tax credits being offered to employers to assist in offsetting employers’ FFCRA implementation costs.

Sick leave is paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular pay rate if used for reasons four through six listed above. Sick leave pay under these criteria is capped at $200 per day and $2,000 total to correspond with the tax credits.

Employers are prohibited from requiring that employees find a replacement worker for their hours missed. Employers are also not permitted to discipline or terminate the employment of an employee who utilizes the increased sick leave. If an employer does not provide the leave required under the act, the employer will be obligated to provide both back pay and statutory damages equal to the amount of back pay. Employers are also not permitted to require an employee to use existing paid leave before using sick time allowed by FFCRA.
Family and Medical Leave Expansion

The family and medical leave (FMLA) provisions in the FFCRA apply to school districts that employ fewer than 500 employees. Districts with 500 or more employees are not required to provide expanded FMLA. These provisions go into effect beginning on April 2, 2020, and end on Dec. 31, 2020.

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act section adds “qualifying need related to a public health emergency” as an eligibility criterium for FMLA leave. While traditional FMLA is unpaid, the legislation states that FMLA leave used under this provision will be paid after the first 10 days. “Qualifying need related to a public health emergency” is defined in the legislation as:

  • An employee who is unable to work (or telework) due to a need to care for a child under 18 years of age because the child’s school or place of care has been closed

  • The childcare provider is unavailable due to “an emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a Federal, state, or local authority.”

Employees are required to request emergency leave for these qualifying reasons. Emergency FMLA is considered part of the 12 weeks of regular FMLA leave that school employees are entitled to each year. The first ten days of extended FMLA leave due to coronavirus will be unpaid, although employees may use the sick leave provisions described in the previous section for those days. For the remaining 12 weeks of FMLA, the employer must compensate the employee at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay. This is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 total to correspond with the tax credits. A person must have been employed by the district for at least 30 days to participate.
Free Testing for COVID-19

FFCRA includes free testing for the COVID-19 virus through the use of waivers to cover testing costs for private insurance companies and government-funded insurance programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). States will receive a temporary 6.2 percent increase in Medicaid payments from the federal government.

States are given the option to cover testing for uninsured individuals with the federal government reimbursing all associated costs.
Expansion of Food Assistance Programs

The bill expands access to food assistance programs, including waivers for certain requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, often referred to as SNAP or food stamps, and additional funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The FFCRA also makes it easier for schools to provide student lunches through waivers provided by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Claire Suggs
Senior Education Policy Analyst
csuggs@pageinc.org
Josh Stephens
Legislative Affairs Specialist
jstephens@pageinc.org
Margaret Ciccarelli
Director of Legislative Services
mciccarelli@pageinc.org