The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116-127; introduced as HR 6201, 116th Congress) provides emergency funding for several governmental agencies; supports individuals through nutrition, unemployment and work leave programs; secures coverage for the medical costs of COVID-19 testing; and permits tax credits for employers covering paid sick, family, and medical leave. To address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, this bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, becoming Law on March 18, 2020.
This Law provides the following emergency supplemental appropriations for governmental agencies.
In addition to providing emergency funds to government agencies, this Law comprised several acts, which had previously been introduced, to provide support for individuals and families impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
This Law includes several components to address access to food during the emergency. The Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students Act permits waiver exceptions under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (RBR Act) for school closures as a result of COVID-19, providing greater flexibility for families to access food. Additionally, the COVID-19 Child Nutrition Response Act establishes multiple waivers for the RBR Act so that qualified programs are still able to provide meals and meal supplements. These waivers include a nationwide waiver for states, the Child and Adult Care Food Program Waiver to allow for providing meals while reducing social contact, and the Meal Pattern waiver to increase flexibility in the nutritional content of meals in the case of supply chain disruptions. Under WIC, this Law permits waivers for in-person requirements, such as deferring blood work requirements to determine nutritional risk, and administrative requirements. Lastly, Supplemental Nutrition assistance Program waivers increase flexibility for enrollment eligibility and allow for the USDA to provide emergency allotments to households.
The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. The new provisions allow employees to take up to 10 days of unpaid leave instead of using accrued time off. For subsequent leave, employees may receive paid sick leave equivalent to the number of hours they would normally work at no less than two-thirds their regular rate of pay. Additionally, the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act requires employers to provide paid sick time to employees if they are unable to work or telework due to illness, quarantine, or providing care for a child with an illness related to the COVID-19 virus, regardless of how long they have been employed by the employer. Employers of healthcare providers or emergency responders and employers with fewer than 50 employees, for which this act may threaten the viability of the company, may exclude employees from these requirements. Employers must make the requirements of this act visible to their employees and will be subject to penalties if they violate any part of this act.
This law provides additional provisions to ease the financial burden of providing paid sick and family leave to employees, employers will be eligible to receive tax credits for these expenses. Employers, including those who are self-employed, may receive refunds on their taxes, credits for certain health plan expenses, credit in certain possessions with respect to the mirror code tax system, and payroll credit for required paid family leave. The credit does not apply to the federal or state governments.
The Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020 amends the Social Security Act, enabling the Department of Labor (DOL) to administer emergency funds to State accounts in the Unemployment Trust Fund. States must require employers to notify their employees of the availability of unemployment compensation, have accessible applications for unemployment compensation, notify applicants of the status of their application, and demonstrate that the State has taken steps to ease eligibility requirements for unemployment compensation. The DOL will also assist States in increasing employer awareness of shot-term compensation programs. The federal government will fully fund the extension of unemployment compensation for a limited period.
Additional health provisions are covered under this Law. Health insurance providers shall fully cover the following items and services during the emergency period:
- Approved in vitro diagnostic products to detect and diagnose SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19; and
- Items and services received by individuals during visits to health care providers, urgent care, and the emergency room.
This Law also waives cost sharing options, like copayments, for services related to testing for COVID-19 under Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, and other programs offered to federal employees and veterans. States may also provide coverage to uninsured individuals. Additionally, personal respiratory protective devices were added to the list of devices covered under the Public Health Service Act. HHS will cover costs related to COVID-19 to eligible individuals under the Indian Health Service. Additional funds equivalent to 6.2% of a State’s current federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), the amount of matching funds the Federal government offers, will be provided to states and territories. There will also be an increase in Medicaid allotments for territories.