Over the weekend, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides unemployment compensation to workers impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19). The bill provides relief to workers and businesses as the pandemic impacts operations.
One of the primary provisions of the bill provides flexibility to the states in determining Unemployment Insurance compensation eligibility – allowing for workers to collect benefits under certain circumstances due to coronavirus. States, for example, will be able to determine that an individual is “able, available, and actively looking” for work if they are laid off or furloughed due to coronavirus, and the bill would allow them to collect benefits immediately rather than wait one week. The bill provides an additional $1 billion in funding for state unemployment programs.
The bill also makes changes to paid sick leave requirements for businesses. Under the bill, employers with fewer than 500 employees would be required to provide employees two weeks of paid sick leave to employees for coronavirus-related absences, including if they are diagnosed with the virus, if a health care professional orders them to stay away from work, if they must care for family members with the virus, and if they must care for children due to school closures. Each quarter, employers will be entitled to a fully refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified sick leave wages paid by the employer (capped at $511 per day for 10 days, or $200 per day if the leave is to care for family members.)
Employers will also be required to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave under the bill and will receive a fully refundable tax credit up equal to 100% of the wages paid by the employer (capped at $200 per day and $10,000 overall). The leave would be available to employees to caring for a family member due to the virus or to care for children if schools are closed, among other circumstances. Some small businesses and health care providers are exempt from these requirements.
The bill is expected to pass through the U.S. Senate this week and President Trump has announced his support for the measure.
Colorado employers or employees who are impacted by the coronavirus can visit this Colorado Department of Labor & Employment page for further information. This link will continue to be updated including the response to the federal legislation once its fully adopted.