The Families First Coronavirus Response Act: An Overview of What is About to Become Law

By: Bryan R. Cokeley

Published: March 16, 2020

In the early morning hours of Saturday, March 14, the U.S. House of Representatives, after intensive negotiations with The White House, passed a bill that is intended to provide relief to employees of small and medium-sized employers and, through tax relief, to the employers themselves. The bill will now go to the U.S. Senate where it is expected to pass without substantial amendment.  President Trump has announced that he will sign the bill into law. The House bill provides that it becomes effective 15 days after enactment. If President Trump signs the bill mid-week, then this legislation will go into effect in early April. BUT PLEASE STAY TUNED; AT PRESS TIME, THE STATUS OF THE LEGISLATION WAS FLUID.

The House bill, entitled the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” has provisions for nutrition waivers, coverage for testing, Medicare waivers, etc. The three sections of most immediate interest to employers, however, are the ones giving eligible employees limited emergency paid leave, making coronavirus-related leave under the FMLA paid, and appropriating funds to the States’ unemployment compensation programs to incentivize more flexibility in awarding unemployment compensation benefits to those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Before turning to a few highlights, it is worth mentioning three distinctive features of this pending legislation. First, both the emergency paid leave and the paid FMLA leave apply only to employers with fewer than 500 employees. Typically, employment laws at the federal level take a different tack: they apply to employers who have more than a certain number of employees. Clearly, the focus here is on small- to medium-sized employers. Second, the paid leave is the first federally mandated leave of this type. A few states and large municipalities mandate paid sick leave, but this mandate is the first of its type at the federal level. Third, the new paid leave (both types) is temporary. The law will sunset on December 31, 2020.

“The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)” (Division E of FFCRA)

“Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)” (Division C of FFCRA)

​​“Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020” (Division D of FFCRA)

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