A second coronavirus emergency aid package was signed into law, named the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
This act responds to the growing health and economic crises with provisions for paid sick leave, free testing and expanded unemployment benefits. This legislation allocates roughly $8 billion for coronavirus prevention, preparation and response efforts.
Here’s a breakdown of what the act includes.
The legislation seeks to make testing for the coronavirus free to the public (without having to use deductibles or copayments). Additionally, it includes a temporary 6.2% increase in federal payments to Medicaid for states.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program, for low-income children, will include temporary coverage of diagnostic products. An additional $60 million will go to the Department of Veterans Affairs for testing veterans, $64 million to the Indian Health Service for testing members of Native American tribes and $1 billion to the National Disaster Medical System for reimbursing testing costs for those without health insurance.
Paid sick leave
The bill establishes a federal emergency paid-leave benefits program to provide payments to some employees.
- It requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks’ worth of paid sick leave if employees are unable to work because they’re subject to quarantine or isolation, are experiencing symptoms of COVID–19, are caring for someone who is in quarantine or isolation and/or have children in schools that have closed.
- Employers will receive tax credits to offset the costs of providing this paid leave.
- Under the legislation, an employer cannot require employees to find a replacement worker for themselves or require them to use other paid time off.
- For those who are self-employed, there will be a tax credit equivalent to the sick leave amount.
- The legislation also gives up to three months of paid family and medical leave, equivalent to no less than two-thirds of the person’s pay.
The legislation boosts unemployment benefits, with nearly $1 billion in state grants to cover processing and paying unemployment insurance. It also raises the amount of assistance to states with high unemployment for those who have exhausted benefits already.
- Nearly a billion dollars is being given to provide access to meals for those without food security. Half that amount will go toward funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC.
- Another $400 million is allocated for an emergency food assistance program that will be available through Sept. 30, 2021.
- Certain households will be eligible for help if a child’s school has been closed for at least five consecutive days because of the health crisis.
- The legislation allows certain waivers in order to expand who qualifies for benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and suspends the program’s work requirements.
- An additional $100 million will be set aside for nutrition assistance grants for U.S. territories (Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and American Samoa).