Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201)
On March 19, the President signed H.R. 6201 to expand COVID-19 testing, make paid sick and family leave available to employees affected by COVID-19, provide emergency funding to state unemployment insurance programs to address job losses, and expand access to nutrition programs.
Department of Labor (DOL) guidance
DOL issued guidance on March 24 to answer questions for employers and employees about the paid leave requirements of the Families First Act.
- Guidance for Employees: who is eligible, how to calculate pay, duration of leave, and more
- Guidance for Employers: who is covered, qualifying reasons for leave, tax credits, and more
- Questions and Answers: frequently asked questions, information on exemptions, and more
- Temporary regulations
Internal Revenue Service Guidance
Eligible employers can retain payroll taxes equal to the amount of sick and child care leave they paid, rather than depositing them with the IRS. Taxes include withheld federal income taxes, the employee's share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer's share. Employers will be able to request advance payment from the IRS if payroll taxes do not covert the cost of sick and child care leave.
The IRS' Paid leave FAQs provides more information.
- Provides coverage for COVID-19 testing as follows:
- No cost under most private and public insurance plans;.
- Provides funding for testing of people who are uninsured ($1 billion), American Indians ($64 million), and veterans ($60 million)
- Treats respiratory devices as covered countermeasures for emergency use
Paid sick leave
Requires employers (including nonprofits) with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours (prorated for part-time employees) of paid sick leave through Dec. 31, 2020 :
- Paid at the employee's regular rate for employees who quarantine or seek preventive care for COVID-19.
- Paid at two-thirds the employee's regular rate up to $200 per day/$10,000 total to care for a family member for the above purposes or child whose school has closed
From this requirement, the Secretary of Labor may exclude health care providers, emergency responders, and employers (including nonprofits) with fewer than 50 employees if compliance jeopardizes operational viability.
Paid family leave
- Following the two weeks of paid sick leave, employers (including nonprofits) must provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected Family and Medical Leave Act leave to employees caring for a child whose school is closed.
- Employees must have been employed for at least 30 days and must be paid at two-thirds of their regular pay rate up to $200 per day/$10,000 total
- Exceptions for positions that no longer exist due to operational changes by employers with fewer than 25 employees, employers with fewer than 50 employees if compliance jeopardizes operational viability, and health care providers and emergency responders
Tax credits for paid sick and family leave
Allocates $15 billion of refundable tax credits to support employers (including nonprofits) paying for sick and family leave. Credits may be claimed on a quarterly basis against payroll taxes as follows:
- Up to $511 per day for 10 days of employees taking paid sick leave who must self-isolate or obtain a diagnosis related to COVID-19
- Up to $200 per day for 10 days of employees taking paid sick leave to care for a family member or child whose school or child care center is closed
- Up to $200 per day or $10,000 per quarter for paid family leave to care for a child whose school or child care center is closed
Unemployment Insurance (UI)
Provides assistance to state UI programs as follows:,
- $1 billion in emergency grants for processing and paying UI benefits:
- $500 million for staffing, technology and administrative costs if certain notification and application procedures are followed:
- $500 million of emergency grants to states that experience a 10 percent increase in unemployment
- Federal assistance in setting up "work-sharing programs" where employers reduce hours and employees receive partial unemployment benefits to offset wage loss
- Interest-free loans to pay regular UI benefits through the end of the year
Food and Nutrition
- Funding for domestic nutrition assistance programs including Women Infants and Children (WIC) program ($400 million), Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFPAP) ($400 million), grants to U.S. territories ($100 million), and the Senior Nutrition Program ($250 million for 25 million home-delivered meals)
- Waives meal pattern requirements if there is a food supply disruption due to COVID-19
- Allows states to provide Electronic Benefit Transfer food assistance to students who receive free/reduced price meals whose schools are closed due to COVID-19
- Allows child and adult care centers to provide food to-go
- Allows waivers for state school lunch plans that increase costs to the federal government and nationwide school meal waivers
- Makes changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as follows:
- Allows certification for Special SNAP without being physically present at the WIC clinic.
- Suspends work and work training requirements
- Allows state waivers for emergency Coronavirus Response SNAP benefits up to the SNAP maximum monthly allotment
- Allows flexibility for States in managing SNAP caseloads.