By Dean Franks, Senior Vice President, Congressional Relations

The House March 14 approved 363 to 40 emergency legislation to provide relief to businesses and individuals directly impacted by the spread of COVID-19, or Coronavirus.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act would provide funding to:

  • Provide testing for the virus is free for all, including the uninsured;
  • Increase unemployment benefits;
  • Increase Medicaid funding for states;
  • Ensure children impacted by school shutdowns continue receiving free meals; and
  • Affect changes to federal sick and family leave policies.

Of interest to ARTBA members, the bill would require employers with fewer than 500 employees, and all federal and state employers, to provide 10 days (80 hours) of paid sick time to employees who need the leave for reasons connected to the public health emergency.  The bill would require employers to offer the paid sick time within 15 days after enactment of the law.

The two weeks must be provided in addition to whatever paid sick time or PTO the employer was offering prior to the enactment of the law.  Full time and part-time employees would be eligible for sick leave.  Private sector employers would receive a tax credit equal to 100% of the money they spend on paid sick time wages.

If an employee needs sick leave to care for a family member under the circumstances provided in the bill, the employer would pay the employee 2/3 of those wages.

The House is in recess this week.  The U.S. Senate is now considering the legislation and whether to make any changes to it.

President Trump March 6 signed into law the first congressionally approved Coronavirus-related bill, with $8.5 billion for emergency response and to support the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) efforts to slow the disease’s spread.

A third package is already under discussion, with reports the White House is considering an $800 billion proposal, half of which would be in the form of payroll tax cuts.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) will likely soon release his party’s proposal containing targeted spending provisions.

We will continue to provide more information as the situation unfolds.  Please feel free to contact me (dfranks@artba.org) with any questions.