Highlights for employers
As the year comes to a close the President has signed a $900 billion stimulus bill passed by Congress last week. While the headlines have been dominated by news of the amount of individual relief checks and municipal bailouts, there are several provisions that will impact employers. Below are some of the highlights, but HR One clients should contact us with any specific questions.
COVID Related Federal Sick Leave* and Emergency Family Medical Leave
Among the highlights employers need to know about are an extended time period for employers to receive tax relief for sick leave pay under the Families First COVID Response Act (FFCRA). These benefits were set to expire on December 31st, however the new bill extends the time period for employers to receive the tax credits to March 31, 2021 on a voluntary basis. It does not provide any additional time for employees who have already used some or all of their benefits under the program.
As it appears that despite vaccine distribution ramping up in the coming months, COVID will continue to disrupt the workplace either directly or indirectly. Employers should strongly consider whether maintaining the leave through March 31, 2021 makes sense. If an employer chooses to continue to offer the FFCRA sick leave the same time off and pay provisions will apply to employees. Employers who choose to offer Emergency Family Medical Leave after December 31 will need to provide a new bank of 12 weeks if their regular FMLA year is the calendar year or another fixed 12-month period that resets before March 31.
If an employer chooses to forgo offering FFCRA sick leave then they need to communicate with any employee currently receiving the sick leave that the benefit ends on December 31 and make appropriate arrangements for that employee through other time off or leave policies. For employers in New York, employees may still be eligible for COVID related Quarantine Leave, Paid Family Leave or Disability.
Small Business Loans and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
An additional $284 billion is allocated for the PPP and eligibility expanded to include all nonprofits, including 501(c)(6) organizations. Businesses that already received a PPP loan will be eligible to get a second one under the new terms. Some of the PPP funds will be set aside for the smallest businesses and community-based lenders; the relief package also provides $20 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans for smaller businesses.
There is a $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit, through March 14, 2021 as well as an extension of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (for independent contractors, gig workers and the self-employed) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (for those who run out of state unemployment insurance benefits), through March 14, 2021.
*This is COVID specific leave and separate from the NYS Paid Sick Leave law.