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Families First Coronavirus Response Act (2nd Act: March 19, 2020)
Written by Stephan Peron, Patrick Speights and Kelly Titus
On March 19, the President signed H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“2nd Act”). The bill includes a set of temporary paid leave mandates and employer reimbursement provisions, as well as funding for free coronavirus testing, food nutrition security, and specific COVID-19 related employment provisions.
Nutrition ($1.25 Billion)
The 2nd Act included nutrition assistance and additional funding for existing programs.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): The legislation authorizes states to request a waiver for temporary, emergency CR-SNAP benefits to existing beneficiaries up to the maximum monthly allotment. The Secretary of Agriculture is given broad discretion to provide flexibility for state waivers and USDA guidance. All work and training requirements for SNAP benefits are suspended during the crisis.
- Child and Senior Food and Nutrition: A combined $900 million was appropriated for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (“WIC”) and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (“TEFAP”). The WIC provides nutrition for low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children. TEFAP assists local food banks in the purchase of food as well as storage and distribution. Finally, an additional $250 million is provided for the Senior Nutrition program and $25 million for home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors.
Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act ($1.0 Billion)
The 2nd Act (Section 4101) began the process of addressing State unemployment benefits funding concerns. It provides money for emergency grants to states for processing and paying unemployment insurance (“UI”) benefits.
- 50% or $500 million for notification & accessibility: Funding for staffing, technology, systems and other administrative costs for eligible workers. States must require employers to provide notification of potential UI eligibility to laid-off workers, ensure workers have at least two ways to apply and notify applicants when an application is received and processed.
- 50% or $500 million for State grants: Funding would be reserved for emergency grants to states with at least a 10% increase in unemployment, and these states would be able to receive 100% federal funding for extended benefits to the unemployed under a separate provision (Section 4105), compared to the normal requirement that the state funds 50% of the benefit.
- Interest Free Loans: Section 4103 provides states with access to interest-free loans to help states pay regular UI benefits for the remainder of the year.
The 2nd Act (Division G, Section 101) provides free testing for all Americans for COVID-19, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Private and public insurers (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and other federal health programs) must cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider, urgent care center, and emergency room visits to administer the test.
Specific funding has been set aside for COVID-19 testing for patients enrolled with TRICARE / Veterans Association / Indian Health Services and federal workers.
The Act requires certain employers to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave (Section 5102)
Two Weeks Paid Leave (COVID-19 illness): Law requires employers with less than 500 employees and public employers to provide two weeks of paid sick leave, paid at the employee’s regular rate up to $511 per day where the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a healthcare provider), experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
Two Weeks Paid Leave (Caring for Individual w/COVID-19): Law requires employers with less than 500 employees and public employers to pay, at two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, up to $200/day and $2,000 over the benefit period if the employee is unable to work because:
- Caring for an individual who is subject to quarantine or isolation order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to coronavirus concerns;
- Caring for their child if their school or day care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable, due to coronavirus precautions;
- Experiencing “any other substantially similar condition specified by” the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave (Section 3102)
Additional 10 Weeks Paid Leave: After the two weeks of emergency paid leave (above), employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees will be eligible to receive at least two-thirds of each employee’s usual pay, up to $200 per day. (Limit was included in the March 27th Act):
- Employees must have been employed for at least 30 days to qualify and meet a “qualifying need related to a public health emergency.”
- The qualifying reasons for the emergency paid leave are caring for a child if the child’s school or childcare center is closed due to coronavirus.
- The provisions would expire at the end of 2020.