President Biden has unveiled his proposed framework for additional federal COVID-19 relief legislation, named the “American Rescue Plan.” The American Rescue Plan touches many topics including but not limited to a national COVID-19 vaccination effort, another round of direct stimulus payments, federal workplace safety and health standards, and extension of certain unemployment benefits. Most significantly in the leave law space, the proposal aims to resuscitate, expand, enhance, and extend the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) emergency paid sick leave and emergency family and medical leave requirements, which expired on December 31, 2020.
American Rescue Plan: FFCRA 2.0
Congress must consider and pass legislation in order for the American Rescue Plan’s provisions to take effect. Here is a summary of the American Rescue Plan’s aspirations with respect to the future of federal emergency paid leave:
- Reinstating FFCRA paid leave mandate: reimposing the expired emergency paid leave provisions of the FFCRA, which required covered employers to provide paid leave to eligible employees for specified reasons related to COVID-19
- Expanding employer coverage: eliminating the FFCRA’s prior exemptions for employers with more than 500 employees and fewer than 50 employees (virtually all employers would be covered)
- Expanding employee coverage: eliminating the FFCRA’s exemptions for healthcare workers and first responders; extending paid leave benefits to federal workers
- Enhancing paid leave benefits: increasing FFCRA entitlement to “over 14 weeks” of emergency paid leave; increasing maximum paid leave benefit to $1,400 per week
- Modifying reimbursement provisions: providing reimbursement to state and local governments for the cost of paid leave (in addition to extending tax credits for employers with fewer than 500 employees); not allowing tax credits or reimbursement for large employers (500 or more employees)
- Extending paid leave mandate: extending the emergency paid leave mandate through September 30, 2021
The language in the framework is far from comprehensive and contains ambiguities, including as to the length of leave entitlement applicable to the various qualifying reasons for leave. Additional details will become available when provisions of the American Rescue Plan are incorporated into legislation, which will allow employers and third-party administrators to better analyze potential impacts.
Many of the American Rescue Plan’s provisions are expected to face political resistance, and it could prove challenging for proponents to obtain the needed support to pass the President’s proposed COVID-19 relief legislation once it is drafted and introduced in Congress.
What employers should do
If you are grappling with what FFCRA 2.0 could look like for your business, you should consider proactively reviewing the recently expired FFCRA requirements and partnering with employment counsel to understand possible implications for your workforce. Employers should begin assessing how their leave policies and plans would be impacted by an expansion as envisioned in the American Rescue Plan. ReedGroup clients with questions about ReedGroup’s FFCRA products and services should reach out to their Account Executives for additional information.
What ReedGroup is doing
ReedGroup is taking steps to prepare its products and services for the possibility of FFCRA 2.0 and will be poised to quickly react should federal emergency paid leave legislation gain traction in Congress. We will continue to monitor and provide updates on the American Rescue Plan as it evolves from framework to actionable legislation. Stay tuned by subscribing to our blog and webinar email alerts.
If you’re looking for assistance managing claims or to ensure compliance across your organization, ReedGroup has solutions for you. Check out our offerings here.
Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.