SPECIAL EDITION
FOCUSING ON THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 WITH TIPS TO MITIGATE ECONOMIC DAMAGE
#2 | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18 2020
CONGRESS IS VOTING ON A BILL TO SUPPORT EMPLOYEES, EMPLOYERS
IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19

Here's a detailed look at the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. Extended supports in this bill include Paid Family and Medical Leave Act support, paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and food assistance.

The bill is currently on the Senate floor. We anticipate some amendments to the House version. We will let you know what the final version of the bill contains once the Senate takes its vote.

PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE
  • The bill provides 12 weeks of job-protected paid PFMLA benefits — of which the first 14 days may be unpaid — for employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees. Below is a breakdown of the provisions:
  • Employees may use accrued personal or sick leave during the first 14 days, but employers may not require employees to do so.
  • The leave benefit covers employees who have been working for at least 30 calendar days.
  • Among other uses, employees may use the leave to respond to quarantine requirements or recommendations, to care for family members who are responding to quarantine requirements or recommendations, and to care for a child whose school has been closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • After the first 14 days, employers must compensate employees in an amount that is not less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay. These pay requirements apply to only the COVID-19-related leave reasons listed above.
  • The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and will expire on Dec. 31, 2020.

PAID SICK LEAVE
  • Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to provide full-time employees two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave for specific circumstances related to COVID-19 (e.g., self-isolating, doctors’ visits, etc.).
  • Part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours of paid sick time equal to the number of hours they work, on average, over a two-week period.
  • Employers must compensate employees for any paid sick time they take at their regular rates of pay.
  • Employers will be required to post a notice informing employees of their rights to leave.
  • As currently drafted, the bill expressly provides that it does not preempt existing state or local paid sick leave entitlements.
  • The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and will expire on Dec. 31, 2020.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE
  • The bill provides $1 billion in emergency unemployment insurance relief to the states: $500 million for costs associated with increased administration of each state’s UI program and $500 million held in reserve to assist states with a 10 percent increase in unemployment.
  • Besides the necessary increase in unemployment, in order to receive a portion of this grant money, states must temporarily relax certain UI eligibility requirements, such as waiting periods and work search requirements.

FOOD ASSISTANCE
  • The bill includes more than $1 billion to provide nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children, help stock food banks, and provide meals to seniors. It also protects students’ access to school meals in the event of school closures.
  • The bill contains $500 million to provide access, through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency.
  • It provides $400 million to assist local food banks, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), to meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Of that total, $300 million is for the purchase of nutritious foods and $100 million is to support the storage and distribution of the food.
  • The legislation also includes a general provision that allows the Department of Agriculture to approve state plans to provide emergency Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) food assistance to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals if not for their schools being closed due to the COVID-19 emergency. In order to be eligible, the child’s school must be closed for no less than 5 consecutive days.

In order to be activated, the bill must first be passed by the U.S. Senate then signed by President Trump. Voting by the Senate will occur today. We will update you as to key elements of this bill as it continues through the course.
Stuck at home with your spouse and/or children, roommates? See who can best recreate this viral TikTok "Wash Your Hands" dance challenge .

Upload your videos to social media and tag the Chamber!


Wash, wash, wash, wash, wash!
As always, we are here to help. For now, the Chamber's offices remain open. If you would like to speak to someone, please call 508.753.2924 or email the Chamber and we will put you in touch with the most appropriate staff member regarding your request.
NOTE | To keep our members up-to-date on available resources and the Chamber response to COVID-19, for the foreseeable future the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce will issue daily emails at noon. These emails contain a variety of information from local, state, and federal loans to the offerings of local businesses and best practices during this uncertain time.
We wish you all continued health and please reach out if the Chamber can be of assistance.