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COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill Passed

The long-awaited COVID-19 Economic Relief Bill was approved by Congress on Monday night, and now awaits the President’s signature. The full 5,593-page bill can be accessed here.

While the expansive bill provides relief for both individuals and business, below are two of the major provisions that may impact your workplace: continuation of FFCRA leave and expanded unemployment benefits.

FFCRA Leave Becomes Voluntary after December 31,2020

If signed into law, the Bill will allow mandatory emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and expanded FMLA (EFMLA) under FFCRA to expire, as planned, on December 31, 2020. However, employers may continue to voluntarily offer leave under the FFCRA provisions through March 31, 2021. Private employers, who choose to offer leave, will remain eligible for the tax credit through March 31, 2021. Additional information regarding FFCRA and related tax credits may be found in these FAQs from the IRS.

It is important to note that employees who have exhausted their EPSL or EFMLA leave benefits in 2020 will not be entitled to a new bank of leave under FFCRA in 2021. However, for purposes of EFMLA, if the FMLA 12-month period resets under your company’s policy, an employee would be entitled to paid EFMLA once again.

Employers should also keep in mind that in addition to leave under the FFCRA, many state and local governments enacted similar paid COVID-leave laws and ordinances earlier this year to assist employees dealing with COVID-19 or caring for family members affected by the pandemic. For New York employers, the state’s COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave does not have an expiration date and presumably continues into 2021. However, except for healthcare workers, employees are only entitled to one instance of NY COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave. It is unclear if such leave availability would renew at any point in 2021.

Expanded Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The Bill extends the 13 weeks of federal unemployment benefits provided under the CARES Act for an additional 11 weeks. Additionally, the Bill will also provide federal unemployment benefits of up to $300 per week, for the period of December 26, 2020 through March 14, 2021. The benefits would be payable until April 5, 2021, for those that have not reached their maximum number of benefit weeks. The extended benefits will not be applied retroactively.

HR Works will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as new information becomes available.

HR Works, Inc., headquartered at 200 WillowBrook Office Park in Fairport (Rochester), New York, with an office in East Syracuse, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.