March 30, 2020
On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act [H.R. 6201] (the “Act”) was signed into law, making the Act the second COVID-19 bill to be enacted. The Act addresses important COVID-19 responses, including unemployment benefits, paid family medical leave, emergency paid sick leave, employer tax credits and COVID-19 testing. The Act in its entirety is available
Paid Leave is Available for Employees Directly Affected by COVID-19 and for Employees Caring for Affected Family Members and Children. Employers Can Seek Related Tax Credits.
• For employee absences from work that are related to COVID-19, employers who employ less than 500 employees must provide 80 hours or the number of hours that a part-time employee works over a two-week period, of paid sick leave. The sick leave provisions sunset on December 31, 2020.
• An employer must provide 12 weeks of paid leave at a reduced rate of two-thirds of an employee’s rate of pay for employees who are on leave for more than two weeks due to treating a family member or child affected by COVID-19 and who have been employed for at least 30 days. The first ten days of the twelve-week period would be unpaid, but the employee may substitute paid time-off, accrued vacation or medical leave. Health care providers and emergency responders are exempted from the foregoing requirements. Further, employers who employ less than 50 employees can seek an exception.
• The Act provides payroll tax credits to employers for the purpose of offsetting the costs of providing paid leave. Specifically, through December 31, 2020, employers may seek optional tax credits related to qualified sick leave wages and family medical leave wages. Self-employed individuals may receive a tax credit, to be credited against their income tax, for sick leave and family medical leave.
• To manage, process and pay unemployment insurance benefits, the Act allocates $1 billion for emergency grants to the States. If a State has greater than a 10% increase in unemployment and has waived certain unemployment insurance benefits requirements, additional grants may be available.
The Act Facilitates Access to COVID-19 Testing and Personal Respiratory Protective Devices
• The Act ensures that, under private health plans, Medicare, Medicaid, Medicare Advantage plans, CHIP plans, TRICARE, veterans’ plans, federal workers’ health plans and the Indian Health Service, diagnostic COVID-19 tests and corresponding visits to an urgent care center, emergency room, or health care provider are available, without cost or beneficiary cost-sharing.
• States may expand Medicaid eligibility for uninsured patients to receive necessary COVID-19 diagnostic testing, and $1 billion has been allocated to the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. The Federal government will match States’ medical and administrative costs and the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage determined for each State has been increased by 6.2%.
• Through October 1, 2024, personal respiratory protective devices that are used to treat COVID-19 are covered countermeasures under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. This immunizes from suit and liability under federal and state law those, among others, who administer or proscribe such personal respiratory protective devices.