On 18th March 2020, the US Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
It is the second-largest legislative program to address problems created by the pandemic. The FFCRA became effective as of 31st December 2021.
Under the FFCRA, provisions have been made for expanding nutritional assistance programs, better unemployment insurance coverage, paid sick leaves, and more.
Let’s take a detailed look at some of the major provisions offered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) 2021:
1 – Nutrition Assistance
The FFCRA addresses four separate nutrition programs:
- Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
- Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Allowance for free or reduced breakfast or lunch
Besides this, the FFCRA also allows waivers on:
- Physical presence is required under WIC for recertification
- Blood work and anthropometric nutritional risk requirements under WIC
- Several administrative requirements were not possible during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Work and work training requirements under the SNAP program
- Certain SNAP issuance, application, and reporting requirements
2 – Emergency paid leave
Under the FFCRA, eligible employees can avail of up to 80 hours (2 weeks) of paid sick leave. An additional 12 weeks (10 paid weeks off) for expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19-related reasons have also been included.
Under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (ESPLA) employers with less than 500 employees can grant up to 80 hours (2 weeks) of paid sick leave, provided:
- An employee with a regular rate of pay (around US$ 511 per day) is unable to work due to being quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- An employee with two-thirds of regular rate pay (up to US$ 200 per day) is unable to work. Or if the employee is caring for someone (a child under 18 years) who is suffering from COVID-19, or an employee seeking diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms
Under this new legislation, full-time employees are eligible for up to 80 hours (2 weeks) of paid sick leave.
Part-time employees also receive equal paid leave, depending on the average number of hours worked within 2 weeks.
3 – Special situations
The FFCRA dictates employers exclude healthcare workers and emergency responders from EFMLEA and EPSLA leave.
In case the employer allows leave, then the worker needs to be compensated under the EFMLEA and EPSLA guidelines.
Businesses with less than 50 employees can qualify for exemption from paid sick leave if it would jeopardize the business operations and growth.
4 – Employer tax credits
Employers who provide extended sick leave or emergency family and medical leave will receive refundable tax credits.
This will help to balance the cost of providing these leaves. These tax credits earned this way will provide the full benefits of extended leave for employees.
Eligible self-employed individuals can claim an income tax credit to balance their federal self-employment for a taxable year.
This can be done in exchange for their qualified sick leave, equivalent amount, or for qualified family leave equivalent amount.
5 – Unemployment insurance
The FFCRA increases unemployment benefits by almost US$ 1 billion through state grants. Those states with a higher unemployment rate will receive additional funding under the new legislation.
Usually, the states are offered 50% of interest-free loans however the new FFCRA act offers 100% federal funding for extended benefits.
6 – Testing and health provisions
The FFCRA also provides facilities for COVID-19 testing by making it free for everyone but without any deductibles or copayments.
The new legislation allows testing expenses to be covered by government-sponsored insurance or financial initiatives.
In addition, the FFCRA also offers a temporary 6.2% increase in Medicaid payments to states.
This provision is meant for as long as the states commit not to restrict eligibility criteria or charge cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing or treatment.
The new legislation also extends the conventional benefits offered under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
It offers coverage of COVID-19 diagnostic products and testing for veterans, Native American tribal members and the uninsured.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has been welcomed by one and all. It offers incredible new benefits and enhances the benefits offered under previous similar initiatives.
The FFCRA is set to relieve the public health and economic burden on communities across the United States.