Families First Coronavirus Response Act To Take Effect

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The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) was signed into law on March 18. This multi-pronged legislation is aimed at decreasing the adverse economic and social impact brought on by COVID-19. The primary elements of the bill expand existing laws requiring employers to grant emergency family and medical leave and paid sick leave. The law is the second of three federal relief bills and set to take effect on April 2, 2020, 15 days after passage.

Specifically, employers with fewer than 500 employees must grant 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave for the care of a child younger than 18 whose school has been closed due to COVID-19. The first 10 days of an employee’s leave may be unpaid, although an employee may substitute unpaid leave with any accrued vacation, medical or sick leave, or any other paid leave. After the initial 10 days, any subsequent leave must be paid by the employer at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be afforded exemption from the family and medical leave requirement. The new law requires the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to establish rules that exempt business in this category if they “jeopardize the viability of a business as a going concern.”

Regarding paid sick leave, employers with fewer than 500 employees would be responsible for providing paid sick leave for the employee to:

  • Abide by federal, state, or locally imposed quarantine;
  • Adhere to a health care provider’s advisement of self-quarantine;
  • Obtain a COVID-19 diagnosis or care for COVID-19 symptoms;
  • Provide care for a family member diagnosed with or in quarantine due to COVID-19 or a child whose school was closed due to COVID-19; or
  • For an employee experiencing any other substantially similar conditions specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Qualifying employers must pay employees 100 percent of wages for reasons of illness or quarantine up to $511 per day and $5,110 total. Employees taking care of affected family members must be paid two-thirds of wages up to $200 per day or $2,000 total.

Employers must provide full-time employees with 80 hours of paid sick leave, while part-time workers receive sick leave based on their scheduled work hours during a two-week period. Similar to family and medical leave, employees using paid sick leave to care for affected family members would receive wages at two-thirds their regular rate of pay. The bill prohibits an employer from requiring their employee to find a replacement prior to taking paid sick leave.

The legislation provides employers with a 100 percent refundable tax credit against payroll taxes to offset the cost of these wages. Employers are also required to post notice of this law and its benefits to employees, pending publication of a model notice from the DOL expected on March 25. The law does not indicate when the notice must be posted by employers, instead placing a deadline for DOL to release a model notice.

Additionally, the law includes more general provisions that provide additional funding for federal nutrition assistance programs, strengthens Medicaid health insurance at all levels of government and waives the cost of COVID-19 testing.

The National Apartment Association (NAA) will continue to monitor all legislative solutions being offered to lessen the social and economic burden placed on the rental housing industry. For more information on industry best practices and strategies for navigating this new landscape, please see NAA’s Guidance for Dealing with the Coronavirus and Advocacy Page.