The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is, by its terms, set to expire on Dec. 31, 2020. The FFCRA was signed into law on March 18, 2020, and generally requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees with paid sick leave and expanded medical leave for specific reasons relating to COVID-19. Many employers have been anxiously awaiting news as to whether the December 2020 COVID stimulus package will extend employers’ obligation to provide paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave beyond 2020.
After weeks of negotiating, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (Act) (available here), which would provide a second round of economic relief to mitigate the harm of the pandemic on the American economy. However, notably for employers, the Act would not extend the FFCRA’s Dec. 31 expiration or require employers to provide FFCRA-type relief after 2020. Thus, it appears clear that after Jan. 1, 2021, employers are not required to provide paid COVID-related leave. (Employers should of course assess whether leave is required to be provided under other laws, such as the FMLA and state and local paid sick leave laws.)
Employers should be aware that if enacted into law, the December 2020 COVID stimulus relief package would provide continued tax relief for covered employers, to the extent that employers elect to voluntarily provide paid sick leave or expanded medical leave for FFCRA-specified reasons, to employees with remaining paid sick or expanded family medical leave. If it ultimately becomes law, the Act would provide for such tax credits for employers through March 31, 2021.
As of the date of publication, the future of the December 2020 COVID stimulus package remains unclear, with President Trump demanding an increase in the amount of stimulus payments to individuals and threatening not to sign the Act into law. The future of the Act – and accordingly the tax credit and other provisions affecting employers – is uncertain, so employers should stay tuned for further governmental action. Taft’s COVID-19 Task Force will continue to monitor the legislation and will provide an update when a stimulus package becomes law.
Please visit our COVID-19 Toolkit for all of Taft’s updates on the coronavirus.