Congress Briefly Extends Part of the FFCRA

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The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act ("FFCRA") was passed by Congress this spring to mandate two weeks of paid sick leave for COVID-19 reasons and to extend the FMLA by creating a new reason for FMLA leave relating to the need for child care because of COVID-19. The details of the FFCRA were covered by the Spilman COVID-19 Task Force at the time of passage here

The FFCRA was set to expire at the end of 2020, and there had been little noise out of Congress that it would be extended. However, the $900 billion stimulus package agreed to by Congressional leaders late Sunday night will extend the FFCRA's payroll tax subsidy for employers offering workers paid sick leave, but it will not extend the mandate requiring employers to do so. This means employers will not be required to provide paid sick leave or additional FMLA leave for COVID-19-related reasons (unless required to do so by state or local law). But, employers can claim a federal tax credit for up to 14 days paid sick leave that would have been covered by the FFCRA, or 12 weeks of paid FMLA leave that would have been required by the FFCRA, if taken by March 31, 2021. Details on how employers can claim that credit will be prepared by the Internal Revenue Service.

With this development, small employers are no longer obligated to provide additional paid sick leave or FMLA leave for COVID-related reasons, but they can take a credit for leave they do provide that would have been covered under the FFCRA for the first three months of 2021.

The bill also contains another round of small business aid through the Paycheck Protection Program. It also extends the unemployment benefits program for contract and gig workers from the CARES Act that was set to expire at end of 2020, plus re-establishes an additional unemployment benefit (a payment in addition to the normal state payment) of $300 per week. Both unemployment programs will last for 11 weeks, unless extended.

The bill still needs to be approved by both chambers of Congress, but leaders from both parties in both houses have said that it will pass. President Trump likewise has indicated he will sign.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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