Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law
On Wednesday evening, the President signed into a law a second COVID-19 stimulus package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The law includes an estimated $104 billion dollars in federal funding to provide the following supports for Americans during the COVID-19 crisis. You can read and explore it online.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
The FFCRA provides two weeks (80 hours) of emergency paid sick leave for employees with sick time needs related to the COVID-19 emergency. The provision is an important first step, but it falls short in many ways:
Employees who need to take time off to care for their children/dependents are only entitled to 2/3 of their normal wages, not to exceed $200 per day.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees may seek a “hardship exemption” from the Department of Labor to avoid providing paid sick leave to their employees.
Businesses with more than 500 employees are exempt from providing emergency paid sick days.
Emergency paid sick leave will expire at the end of this year and applies only to need incurred by the COVID-19 emergency.
Public Health Emergency Leave
The FFCRA amends the Family and Medical Leave Act to create a new (and, unlike other FMLA leave, paid) leave category during the COVID-19 emergency to employees who are unable to work due to a need to care for a son or daughter whose school or child care has been shut down. Again, this provision is an important first step, but it presents challenges for working families in a number of ways:
By only providing paid leave for employees caring for children under the age of 18, it ignores caregiving responsibilities for other dependents, including older dependent children, loved ones with disabilities, spouses, siblings, and parents.
Businesses with more than 500 employees are exempt from providing emergency paid leave and businesses with fewer than 50 employees may seek a hardship exemption from the Department of Labor.
The FFCRA only ensures emergency leave at 2/3 normal wages and caps leave pay at $200 per day.
Employees of businesses with fewer than 25 employees may not have job protection. Public health emergency leave also expires at the end of 2020.
To help businesses pay for these provisions, the FFCRA will offer quarterly tax credits to employers and self-employed individuals in an amount equal to the cost of paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave during the coronavirus crisis. This will have a profoundly negative impact on small businesses and self-employed individuals, who cannot afford to wait months to receive a tax credit.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also expands some critical programs, including WIC, TEFAP, and nutrition assistance grants for US territories. The law will also allow for some waivers to requirements for school meal programs, suspend SNAP work requirements, allow states to request waiver to provide emergency SNAP benefits, and temporarily increase the Medicaid federal medical assistance percentage. To read the bill summary and text, click here.
Our partners, the National Women's Law Center, prepared a detailed summary of the paid leave provisions and how they leave out child care workers and providers, and the solutions needed to ensure providers and educators in our field can participate in paid leave. To view this, click here.
Several stimulus packages have been put into law to help the economy deal with the effects of COVID-19. Please visit our COVID-19 news page to learn about others.