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Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

(Previously Bill H.R. 6201)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 3-19-20

On Wednesday night, the Senate passed H.R. 6201 (Families First Coronavirus Response Act, or FFCRA), which the President promptly signed. As written, there are still many unanswered questions with respect to the new law, issues that may be addressed by regulations issued after enactment.

[NOTE: Be careful in relying on guidance issued previously, as the law changed in many respects prior to being finalized.]

Additional disaster relief and stimulus packages are in the works, including from the federal government, the SBA and WEDC. This may include: (1) $1,000 to every American adult; (2) additional changes to Unemployment Insurance benefits; (3) financial aid targeted to specific businesses and industries.

Please also see our FAQ page, and call or email with any questions.

Q: What are the state and federal government doing, and how does it affect my business?

A: A state of emergency has been declared by local, state and federal governments. We have not experienced community lockdowns or mandatory quarantines—yet. Meanwhile, borders have been closed and air and rail travel significantly reduced. Also, many courts are closed or on limited schedules.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers has ordered all schools closed indefinitely. Needless to say, this raises issues for your employees with school-aged children (issues the FFCRA is designed to address, as outlined below). For those who can work from home, perhaps the issues are lesser (although productivity will certainly be compromised).

Governor Evers has also:

  1. Canceled events involving more than ten (10) people;
  2. Ordered all bars and restaurants to close (other than delivery or take-out); and
  3. Suspended the Unemployment Insurance work search requirement, modified availability requirements, and asked the Wisconsin State Legislature to suspend the one-week waiting period requirement.


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Q: What is the FFCRA?

A: In part, the FFCRA uses the same framework as FMLA. For example, it provides 12 weeks of leave and affords employees the right to return to work after qualifying leave. It is different from the FMLA in several important respects:

  • It applies to those with fewer than 50 employees, and all employers of up to 500;
  • Some of the leave is paid;
  • It contains additional provisions regarding, for example, paid sick leave, free testing, nutrition programs, unemployment benefits;
  • Employers of 25 or fewer need not return the employee to work after leave if the economic downturn or related circumstances make it impossible to do so; and
  • Recordkeeping requirements are lesser than the FMLA.

Q: To whom does FFCRA apply?

A: All employers with fewer than 500 employees. Employers of fewer than 50 will be able to apply for an exemption if providing benefits would jeopardize the viability of the business. Additional guidance and criteria relative to this exemption will soon be released by the Department of Labor. Employers who are health care providers or emergency responders may exclude their employees from FFCRA leave. 

Q: When does the FFCRA go into effect?

A: The law’s paid leave provisions are effective April 1 and apply only to qualifying leave taken between April 1 and December 31, 2020 (i.e., they are not retroactive). If you provide leave for a reason covered by the FFCRA prior to April 1, 2020, this does not count against the FFCRA’s leave entitlements, nor can you deny or reduce an employee’s paid leave under the FFCRA because of leave provided prior to April 1.

Q: What benefits does FFCRA afford?

  1. Paid emergency leave (family leave and sick leave);
  2. Enhanced unemployment insurance;
  3. Free coronavirus testing.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Paid sick leave of up to 80 hours for employees who (1) have been ordered to quarantine; (2) have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; (3) exhibit symptoms of CoV; (4) are caring for another (i.e., not just a family member) who exhibits such symptoms; or (5) are caring for a minor child whose school or child care service is closed relative to CoV. This leave is capped at $511 per day for the employee’s own care (1-3, above) and $200 per day for those caring for others (4-5, above). Leave provided for reasons 4 and 5 above may be paid at 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate (so long as the employee receives at least the minimum wage rate).

This paid leave is in addition to any paid leave the employee has accrued under existing employer policies. You may not require employees to use accrued paid leave before using this new paid sick leave.

Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave

Leave of up to twelve (12) weeks for employees who cannot work because a minor child’s school or child care service is closed relative to CoV. This leave is paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate and capped at $200/day ($10,000 total). The first ten (10) days may be unpaid (or covered by paid sick leave, above), and the employee may substitute any paid leave they have available. This benefit applies only to employees who have worked for a minimum of 30 calendar days.

Q: How can we afford to pay this?

A: The law includes various tax credits and other incentives:

  • Tax credit for 100% of qualified sick leave paid by the employer (up to above limits).
  • Tax credit for 100% of qualified family leave paid by the employer (up to above limits).
  • Tax credit for Qualified Health Plan Expenses allocable to qualified sick leave wages.
  • Tax credits "extend to amounts paid or incurred to maintain health insurance coverage."
  • Wages paid as emergency paid sick leave or emergency family medical leave are not subject to FICA tax.

Accordingly, for employers it becomes largely a cash-flow issue. The IRS, Department of Labor, and Treasury Department jointly announced that "reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain." This announcement further indicates that, "employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS." Where an employer would not otherwise owe sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of the FFCRA-qualified leave, "employers will be able to file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less."

Q: How does Unemployment Insurance (UI) factor in?

A: H.R. 6201 budgets $1 billion in emergency relief to assist states in expanding UI coverage relative to CoV and mitigate CoV-related employer charges. Further, as noted above, Governor Evers has suspended the Unemployment Insurance work search requirement, modified availability requirements, and asked the Wisconsin State Legislature to suspend the one-week waiting period requirement.  Further expansion of UI benefits is (both in the amount and length of benefits) is anticipated to be included in forthcoming federal stimulus legislation.

Q: So what do I do?

A: Evaluate:

  • Cash flow;
  • Customer demand;
  • The nature of the industry you are in, and what your competitors and vendors are saying and doing; and
  • Employee morale and availability (For example, if someone gets sick, what do we do? Will we be forced, or mandated, to close?).

Q: What if I am contemplating closing?

A: FFCRA only applies to employers who are open and to those employees who meet the eligibility criteria. Beware, however, of the WARN Act (regarding shut down and mass layoff) and its state equivalents. While there are some emergency exceptions, the penalties for a violation are steep. Seek legal counsel.

See our FAQ, and call or email with any questions.