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March 16, 2020

House Passes Families First Coronavirus Response Act

In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the US House of Representatives passed an emergency relief package over the weekend that includes a series of measures intended to help families and workers whose health and livelihoods are affected by COVID-19. The proposed legislation specifically includes, among other things, free testing for COVID-19, paid sick and emergency leave for some workers and families, increased funding for food assistance programs, and emergency grants to states to assist with unemployment insurance benefits. The Senate is expected to consider the bill soon, and, with President Trump apparently already in full support of it, the bill is expected to pass in the Senate and be signed into law as early as this week.

Here are some of the bill’s highlights:

  • Free testing: The bill provides funding and waivers to allow for free COVID-19 testing for the uninsured, veterans, Medicaid recipients, and patients from the military and Native American health systems.
  • Paid sick and emergency leave: The bill requires some employers to provide employees with two weeks of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid emergency leave. Notably, however, the proposed legislation only applies to businesses with less than 500 employees and government employers and only applies if those employees are infected by COVID-19, quarantined, caring for a sick family member, or affected by school closings. Any business with fewer than 50 employees may be granted an exemption by the Department of Labor if the business can show that providing paid leave “would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.” Lastly, the package provides a tax credit for businesses and self-employed individuals to cover paid sick leave.
  • Food assistance programs: The bill includes roughly $1 billion in funding for food assistance programs, and it includes emergency food assistance to households with children who, but for school closings, would receive free or reduced-price meals.
  • Unemployment insurance benefits: The bill provides $1 billion in 2020 for emergency grants to states to expand unemployment benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Half of the funds would be used for states that experience at least a 10-percent increase in unemployment, and the other half of those funds would be used to provide immediate additional funding to all states.

A full copy of the H.R. 6201 bill is available here.

If you have any questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Rob Thorpe, counsel, at rthorpe@barclaydamon.com or another member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Area.

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