Special Public Policy Update 3-18-2020

Mar 18, 2020

Here’s an update on how federal government is responding to the coronavirus pandemic for businesses and the economy.

Phase I Package

The first Coronavirus bill allowed $1 billion in loan subsidies to be made available to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture producers, and nonprofit organizations which have been impacted by financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. This funding could enable the Small Business Administration to provide an estimated $7 billion in loans to these entities. In addition, provides $20 million to administer these loans. This became law on March 6.

Phase II Package

On Wednesday afternoon, the US Senate passed legislation to address the Coronavirus that the US House passed earlier this week. President Trump is expected to sign it into law immediately and it will provide paid sick leave and free COVID-19 testing, expand food assistance and unemployment benefits and require employers to provide additional protections for health care workers. The bill includes paid family and medical leave to parents whose minor children’s care facilities or schools are shut down due to the virus and clarifies that the mandated benefit given to employees cannot exceed the tax credit employers receive, that tax credits fully reimburse employers for health care premiums for employees on leave due to the illness, and that employees at qualifying companies will not get 10 additional days of paid sick leave, but rather the will be ensured 10 total.

Some of the provisions in the bill include the following:

Paid Family Medical Leave

  • The bill provides 12 weeks of job-protected paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave—of which the first 14 days may be unpaid—for employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees.
  • Employees may use accrued personal or sick leave during the first 14 days, but employers may not require employees to do so.
  • This leave benefit covers employees who have been working for at least 30 calendar days.
  • Among other uses, employees may use the leave to respond to quarantine requirements or recommendations, to care for family members who are responding to quarantine requirements or recommendations, and to care for a child whose school has been closed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • After the first 14 days, employers must compensate employees in an amount that is not less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay. These pay requirements apply to only the COVID-19-related leave reasons listed above.
  • The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and expire on December 31, 2020.

Paid Sick Leave

  • Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be required to provide full-time employees 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave for specific circumstances related to COVID-19 (e.g., self-isolating, doctors’ visits, etc.).
  • Part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours of paid sick time equal to the number of hours they work, on average, over a two-week period.
  • Employers must compensate employees for any paid sick time they take at their regular rates of pay.
  • Employers will be required to post a notice informing employees of their rights to leave.
  • As currently drafted, the bill expressly provides that it does not preempt existing state or local paid sick leave entitlements.
  • The provisions will go into effect 15 days after the date of enactment and expire on December 31, 2020.

Phase III (More details to come, but here’s what we know now)

As the Senate continues to amend changes to the Phase II package, they are also working on a Phase III, which aims to further assistance for our economy. The Administration is seeking secured funds for industries that are taking a substantial hit due to this pandemic, such as airlines. They also want to provide cash assistance to all Americans, with the amount being dependent on income level and family size. And lastly, they are working to create a loan program for small businesses who are offering paid leave to their workers at this time.

The Economic Alliance will continue to sort out details of the all state and federal legislation, what it means to our members and how they can access virus-related benefits.

For more Business Resources regarding COVID-19, visit www.cedarrapids.org/coronavirus.

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