On March 18, President Donald Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides emergency paid leave and benefits for individuals and families who have been affected by the global pandemic. In addition to paid sick leave and unemployment insurance, the bill also covers free coronavirus testing, doctor fees, emergency-room visits, and food assistance, as well as other provisions.
Currently, 32 million Americans—or, about 25% of the workforce—don’t get paid sick leave from their employers. This is the first time the United States has ever mandated a widespread paid federal leave program, since keeping nonessential employees at home and practicing social distancing will be key to slowing the spread of the virus.
What does the paid leave law provide?
Qualified workers who are sick, quarantined, seeking a diagnosis, receiving treatment for coronavirus, or caring for sick family members will receive two weeks of paid sick leave. Additionally, parents or guardians caring for children can receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave if schools remain closed and they don’t have other forms of child care.
Unlike standard unemployment benefits, those seeking paid leave for themselves can earn the full amount of their wages, up to a $511 per day limit. Those caring for sick family members or children, however, may only earn two-thirds of their usual pay, with a daily limit of $200.
Who can take advantage of federal paid leave?
- Most workers at small and midsize companies, nonprofits, and government agencies—so long as they have been employed at least 30 days.
- Part-time and self-employed/gig economy workers who pay taxes are also eligible.
Who is not eligible for paid leave?
- Employees at companies with more than 500 people, who are expected to use employer-mandated paid time off or sick leave.
- Workers at companies with fewer than 50 employees, if the Labor Department deems it an extreme hardship on the small business.
- Employers of health care providers and emergency responders may decline federal paid leave benefits if those workers are needed on the front lines of the pandemic crisis.
Businesses and nonprofits can expect to be reimbursed by the U.S. government for the full amount of employee paid leave—as well as employer-paid health insurance premium contributions—in the form of a payroll tax credit, within three months. Should an employer’s responsibility be greater than what they owe in taxes, the government will issue a check for the remainder of the paid leave balance.