The U.S. Senate approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in a 90-8 vote on March 18, and President Donald Trump signed it into law a few hours later. The bill will provide free screening, paid leave and enhanced unemployment insurance benefits for people affected by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill late on March 13.
President Trump declared a national emergency March 13, which frees up billions of dollars to fund public health and removes restrictions on hospitals to treat more patients. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) will provide:
- Free coronavirus testing.
- Paid emergency leave.
- Enhanced unemployment insurance.
- Additional funding for nutritional programs.
- Protections for health care workers and employees responsible for cleaning at-risk places.
- Additional federal funds for Medicaid.
Paid Family Leave
As originally drafted, H.R. 6201 would have temporarily provided workers with two-thirds of their wages for up to 12 weeks of qualifying family and medical leave for a broad range of COVID-19-related reasons. The revised version of the bill will only provide such leave when employees can’t work because their minor child’s school or child care service is closed due to a public health emergency. Workers who have been on the payroll for at least 30 calendar days will be eligible for paid family leave benefits, which will be capped at $200 a day (or $10,000 total) and expire at the end of the year.
Large and Small Business Exceptions
Private businesses with more than 500 employees are not covered by the bill. Covered employers that are required to offer emergency FMLA or paid sick leave will be eligible for refundable tax credits. Employers with fewer than 50 workers can apply for an exemption from providing paid family and medical leave and paid sick leave if it “would jeopardize the viability of the business.” Gig-workers and other self-employed workers will be eligible for a tax credit to cover the benefits.
Lawmakers Previously Approved $8.3 Billion Emergency Bill
Another emergency spending package to fight coronavirus was signed it into law March 6. The measure will provide funds to develop a vaccine, provide protective and laboratory equipment to workers who need it, and aid locations hit with the virus.