By: David G. Greineder, IOM, Director of Government Affairs
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted businesses around the world. In response, the U.S. Congress and Trump Administration are working on a series of legislative “packages” to assist the healthcare industry, individuals, and businesses. The first bill to reach the President’s Desk was $8.3 billion in financial aid to public health agencies for vaccines, tests, and treatments. The second bill, signed by the President this week, is a $104 billion package aimed to help individuals impacted by COVID-19 by providing free testing and enhancing employer-based paid sick leave and paid medical leave, among other provisions. The third omnibus, which has not yet been unveiled, is expected to send direct payments to Americans and provide financial aid to businesses. Altogether, the three legislative packages are expected to top $1 trillion.
As a service to our members, it is important you have details on what employers will be required to provide to employees affected by COVID-19. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), in part, creates two paid sick leave programs that businesses under 500 employees must offer.
- Emergency Paid Sick Leave: Employers are required to make available 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time employees directly impacted by COVID-19. The requirement is in addition to paid sick leave policies an employer may already have in place. The leave must be made available immediately and is not subject to use of other leave benefits first, or dependent on the amount of time in employment.
- Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act: Covered employers are required to provide twelve weeks of job-protected leave if the leave is related to COVID-19. Employers may require the employee to take ten days of unpaid leave, which the employees may substitute with accrued paid time off, personal, medical, or sick leave. Thereafter, the remaining ten weeks of benefits would be paid at a reduced rate.
For the paid sick leave requirements, employers under 50 may apply for waivers. Covered employers will be eligible to receive a tax credit equal to 100 percent of the benefits paid-out. H.R. 6201 requires the Secretary of Labor to provide a notice summarizing the provisions employers must post, so stay tuned for that document. Certainly, details and processes of the provisions will be forthcoming. In the meantime, a summary of the legislation can be found here.
At the state-level, the Legislature is expected to consider COVID-19 bills in the days ahead. This week, Senate leaders announced the Commonwealth Financing Authority is taking steps to make available $60 million in zero interest loans to small businesses with fewer than 100 full-time employees. While guidelines of the program are still being developed, information on other programs and assistance for small businesses can be found here.
There is no greater time for our industry to band together and support each other. On behalf of ABC, we appreciate your ongoing support and membership. By sharing resources and taking the necessary precautions, we will come out of this crisis stronger.
Helpful Tools and Resources for Your Business:
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce posted a workplace flyer that can be customized to list the steps your businesses is taking to keep employees safe.
- The U.S. Department of Labor posted workplace safety tips and information pertaining to wages and unemployment compensation.
- The Centers for Disease Control issued guidelines and recommendations for businesses to consider during the crisis.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry posted helpful information for claimants filing for unemployment compensation, including temporary changes to work search requirements.
Posted March 19, 2020