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Federal Response to Coronavirus: What Employers Need to Know

Posted by: Jason Zacher on Thursday, March 19, 2020

Last night, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201). This bill is the “Phase 2” of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Phase 1 was approved earlier in the month and included $8.3 billion for research of a vaccine, and some emergency funding for state health departments. DHEC received a portion of that money to help our state response.

Highlights of HR 6201 are provided below, and a full detailed explanation can be found in the attached document. Like most pieces of federal legislation, many of the details will be issued in regulations by the Department of Labor and other agencies. Those details should be released in the coming days. Please contact your HR or tax professionals for details specific to your business and employees.

  • Unemployment
    • States have been given more flexibility over waiting periods before people can file, and the definition of “able, available and actively looking.” There are provisions for some states to have unemployment benefits extended past the normal period of 26 weeks. Those provisions would be funded by the federal government.
  • Paid Sick Leave and Family Medical (FMLA) Leave
    • Employers with fewer than 500 employees will be mandated to provide two weeks of paid sick leave to employees effected by COVID-19, including an employee who is a caregiver for a child whose school is closed and/or daycare is unavailable. There are additional provisions for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. More details on that below.
    • Employers with fewer than 500 employees will also be required to provide up to 12 weeks of paid FMLA leave if they are unable to work or telework because of a public health emergency and cannot care for their children if schools are closed and daycare is unavailable.

For more details, please click here.

A number of Greenville businesses have called us about this legislation, and we have been in constant contact with Senator Graham and Senator Scott’s offices during the debate. The bill was amended in the House to allow the Department of Labor the flexibility to exempt businesses with fewer than 50 employees if paying leave would jeopardize the business. Under the provisions of the bill, leave is not available if an employee can perform their job remotely, and the qualifying conditions for providing paid family leave have been scaled back when considering taking care of children while schools are closed or ordinary childcare may be unavailable.

There are also provisions in the bill to waive penalties for businesses who do not submit payroll taxes if they anticipate a refund under this bill.

The next step of the Federal response is a large stimulus package – up to $1 Trillion. This will include money for specific industries, checks to individual adults and more money for small business loans. Details of that bill are still only just being ironed out, but we will keep on top of this.

As we move forward in the next few weeks, we will be working with state and federal lawmakers on the needs of the business community. These discussions are already happening at a rapid pace with our partners at the US Chamber, SC Chamber, Metro Chambers, and other business associations. Please contact me or Jauntavia Prather if you have specific concerns about ways the state or federal government can assist your business.

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1 comments on "Federal Response to Coronavirus: What Employers Need to Know"

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Benji mcabee on March 20, 2020 at 11:55:14 am said:
What about dba or sole proprietor companies? What do we do?
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