In response to Covid-19, The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020. The purpose of the new legislation is to address various issues surrounding the coronavirus such as paid sick leave, coverage for coronavirus testing, unemployment benefits, food assistance, and to provide additional funding to states to combat the economic consequences that have resulted from the current pandemic. The Act will take effect on April 2, 2020 and will place temporary requirements on employers with fewer than 500 employees.
Employers covered by the new Act will be required to provide employees with two weeks of paid sick leave if the employee is subject to quarantine, is experiencing the symptoms of the coronavirus, provides care for someone who is quarantined as a result of the virus or who have children in schools that have closed. Employers cannot require that their employees use vacation time prior to taking paid sick leave. Employers are prohibited from requiring that employees find replacement workers for themselves.
The Act also aims to make coronavirus testing free to the public. The Act provides that testing for the virus be covered either by insurance or government funded programs. Even individuals without health insurance will receive free testing.
Grants totaling $1 billion will be provided to the states in 2020 to cover processing and paying unemployment. The Act will further increase the amount of assistance to states with high unemployment that have already exhausted benefits.
The Act provides almost a billion dollars in food assistance for individuals that may have less access to regular meals and food security. Nearly half of that amount will go toward additional funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The Act also expands which individuals qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and suspends the Program’s current work requirement.