On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provides paid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and paid sick leave for absences resulting from COVID-19. Here are some important points regarding the impact of the law as well as its application:
- The law took effect on April 2, 2020, and ends on December 31, 2020. It applies to all employers with 500 employees or less. Employees with 30 days of employment are eligible for benefits.
- Emergency FMLA – Job-protected family leave is provided to employees to take care of a child under 18 years of age who is home because their school or daycare has been closed because of COVID-19. The first 10 days of this FMLA leave is unpaid. Thereafter, employees must be paid up to two-thirds of their salary and benefits will vary between full-time and part-time employees. This number is capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in total for each employee. Employers with 50 employees or less can apply for an exemption to the law if they can show that paying this benefit would “jeopardize the viability of the business.” Employers with 25 employees or less are exempt if an employee’s position is eliminated due to economic conditions.
- Paid Sick Leave – The law provides 80 hours of paid sick leave to full-time employees. Paid sick leave is also available for part-time employees on a pro-rata basis. The leave can be used because an employee has been ordered by the government or a health care provided to quarantine if they are seeking medical assistance because of COVID-19 symptoms, if they are taking care of an individual who has been quarantined or ordered to self-quarantine, or if they are taking care of a child whose school or daycare has closed because of COVID-19. Paid sick leave is to be paid at the employee’s salary with the following caps: $200 per day and $2,000 total per employee to care for a child or family member; $511 per day and a total of $5,110 total per employee to care for themselves. Employers with 50 employees or less can apply for an exemption if paying sick leave would “jeopardize the viability of the business.”
- Tax Credits – Employers are eligible for reimbursement of 100% of the amount paid under this emergency legislation through tax credits.
- Exemptions – The FFCRA actually provides for an exemption for “Emergency Responders” who may be excluded from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the law. Under the FFCRA, an emergency responder is an employee who is necessary for the provision of transport, care, health care, comfort, and nutrition of such patients, or whose services are otherwise needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes but is not limited to military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency as well as individuals who work for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the facility.
Because the law exempts “emergency responders,” most law enforcement personnel should not anticipate that the benefits provided under the FFCRA will be offered by your respective employer. However, the law may hopefully offer greater benefits to some of your spouses and family members working outside of the field of law enforcement in terms of dealing with the current crisis.