Passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
Last week, Congress passed and the president signed a bill to provide coronavirus-related relief. This is the second coronavirus-related bill passed by Congress, with a third being debated related to economic stimulus. The bill, HR 6201, guarantees free diagnostic testing for coronavirus, bolsters health and nutrition programs and unemployment insurance, and provides various employee protections for leave associated with the coronavirus. Key leave provisions are summarized below. 

Paid Sick Leave   
  • Small businesses and tax-exempt nonprofits. The bill provides up to 10 days of paid sick leave for workers at companies with 500 or fewer employees. This leave is in addition to existing paid sick leave and applies only when an employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave related to the virus. Employers are prohibited from requiring an employee to exhaust existing paid sick leave first before using this new emergency leave for coronavirus.  
  • The bill allows companies with fewer than 50 employees to apply for a waiver on the basis it “would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.” 
  • Governmental organizations. The bill requires mandatory paid sick leave for governmental employees who become ill from the coronavirus. State and local governments will be required to pay for leave for government workers who contract the coronavirus.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) 
  • Private-sector employers with 500 or fewer workers and government entities are required to provide 12 weeks of job-protected leave for employees who are exposed to or have symptoms of the virus, are caring for a family member with the virus, or caring for a child whose school is closed because of the virus. Coronavirus FMLA leave is not in addition to traditional FMLA leave, but does include provisions requiring employee compensation. 

Employer Tax Credits  
  • The bill provides a refundable tax credit to employers who cover wages that are paid to employees while they are taking time off under the bill’s sick leave and family leave programs. The credits would be against an employers’ payroll and retirement tax payments. Government entities cannot receive the tax credit as it only applies to private employers.

Additional resources with deeper analyses of employer impacts: 
TWCA staff is working hard to get its members the information they need at this time. We will be sending more frequent emails with important updates soon. We are also working on a Confluence Newsletter with more information on COVID-19, as well as updates on other Texas water issues.