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New Federal Law Requires Paid Sick and Family Leave for Employees

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

President Trump signed a bill into law in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak that provides paid sick and family leave, expands unemployment benefits and offers free coronavirus testing. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, H.R. 6201, passed the House by a margin of 363 to 40 before clearing the Senate 90 to 8.

The law provides 10 days of paid sick leave at 100% of an employee’s salary (capped at $511 per day and $5,110 total) for those working at businesses with 500 or fewer employees. This benefit applies to employees who have been told to quarantine, show symptoms, were exposed to the virus or those who are trying to get a test or preventive care. The new law requires part-time employees receive the paid sick leave equivalent to the number of hours they typically work during a two-week period. For example, if an employee typically works 20 hours a week, they are eligible for up to 40 hours of pay.

The new law provides up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67% of an employee’s normal pay (capped at $200 per day cap and $10,000 total), although companies with 50 or fewer employees would be permitted to apply to the U.S. Department of Labor for a waiver from offering the benefit if it “would jeopardize the viability of the business.” The family and medical leave provision applies to all employees who are adhering to a quarantine recommendation or are caring for an at-risk family member, which includes caring for a child whose school or child-care facility is closed due to the coronavirus. The law provides employers with refundable tax credits to cover the costs of the paid leave requirements. Both paid leave benefits are in effect for the next 12 months.

Additionally, the law provides more than $1 billion in additional unemployment insurance funding to states in the form of grants to help them respond to the increasing number of applications for the benefit that are anticipated in the coming weeks and months. The law also provides up to 52 weeks of unemployment insurance for displaced workers in states where the unemployment rate increases by more than 10%. Part-time employees will also be able to collect unemployment compensation to make up for any reductions in hours which would otherwise result in lost wages.

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