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March, 2020

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Update

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Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Updatd 4/6/2020

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APS Customers

Please log in and visit our Help Center for the latest COVID-19 updates. We are closely monitoring all COVID-19-related guidelines and information daily and will update the Help Center frequently.

What We Know So Far

We are sharing everything we know below and will not be able to answer follow up questions about the act until agency guidance has been released, which will take some time. We will update our COVID-19 Resources page when we have more information, and we encourage you to check there.

April 4, 2020

New FFCRA Guidance in Temporary Rule and FAQs

The DOL has released rules related to administration of leaves under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and answered more common questions on their Questions and Answers page. Below are some key highlights to keep in mind when administering these leaves. We also recommend reading our summary of the FFCRA on the HR Support Center if you have not already done so; you can find it by searching FFCRA Summary and selecting the Laws page.

  • Documentation: Employers may not require more documentation from employees than is described below. For instance, employers may not request a doctor’s note or an official notice from a closed school or daycare.
  • Childcare Provider: The definition of childcare provider includes anyone who generally cares for the children in question. This includes individuals paid to provide childcare, like nannies, au pairs, and babysitters, as well as individuals who provide childcare at no cost and without a license on a regular basis, for example, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or a neighbor.
  • Reasons for Self-Quarantine: Employees are only eligible for EPSL if a health care provider directs or advises them to self-quarantine because the health care provider believes the employee may have COVID-19 or is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • EPSL due to Stay-at-Home Orders: In some narrow circumstances, an employee who is subject to a stay-at-home order may be able to receive EPSL. They will only be eligible if the business is open and has work for them to do, but a stay-at-home order that applies specifically to them as an individual prevents them from working. For instance, if the retail store where an employee works as a cashier is still open, but the employee is over 65 and subject to an executive order from their governor that all people over 65 should stay home, they would be eligible for EPSL.
  • Exempt Healthcare Workers: The exemption for healthcare workers is optional and the DOL encourages employers to be judicious in denying leave (if someone is sick with something that looks like COVID-19, you are encourage to provide them leave anyway, even if they could be exempted). Healthcare facilities should still post the Employee Rights Poster required by the FFCRA.
  • Limited Small Employer Exemption: Although this is not new information, we want to reiterate that small employers are only potentially exempt from the childcare leaves provided by EPSL and EFMLA. For instance, one reason for exemption is that providing leave would cause the employer to cease functioning at a minimal capacity. If a single employee asks for intermittent childcare leave one day per week, but can telework the other four days, that is very unlikely to be a financial burden that causes the employer to cease operations. It would therefore be inappropriate (or illegal) for an employer to announce that they will not be considering or granting any childcare leaves.

IRS Guidance on Required Documentation for Leave Tax Credits

Employers have been anxious to find out what kind of documentation they will need to claim a payroll tax credit. The documentation that can be requested of employees is listed below. The IRS has a very helpful overview and FAQ that covers other common questions about the tax credits in detail.

Employers can substantiate eligibility for the sick leave or family leave credits by receiving a written request from the employee that includes the following:

  1. Their name;
  2. The date or dates for which leave is requested;
  3. A statement of the COVID-19 related reason they are requesting leave and written support for such reason; and
  4. A statement that they are unable to work, including by means of telework, for such reason.

For leave based on a quarantine order or self-quarantine advice, the request should include the name of the governmental entity ordering quarantine or the name of the health care professional advising self-quarantine. If the person subject to quarantine or advised to self-quarantine is not the employee, that person’s name and relation to the employee should be included.

For leave request based on a school closing or child care provider unavailability, the statement should include the name and age of the child (or children) to be cared for, the name of the school or place of care that has closed, and a representation that no other person will be providing care for the child during the leave. If a child who needs care is 15 or older, the employee must affirm that there are special circumstances (but need not explain them) – the IRS otherwise assumes kids 15 and older can take care of themselves for the length of a workday.

According to the DOL, this is the extent of the documentation you may require.

April 1, 2020

On April 1, the DOL announced new paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave implementation actions. Read more about how American workers and employers will benefit from the FFCRA. The department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) also posted a temporary rule issuing regulations pursuant to the FFCRA, effective April 1, 2020.

March 31, 2020

New Guidance from the DOL on Administering FFCRA Leaves

We strongly suggest that employers read through the entire Question and Answers document prior to Wednesday, April 1, so they have an understanding of how the leaves work. The following are some highlights from the updated guidance:

  • These leaves are not available to employees with reduced hours, furloughed employees, or employees’ whose workplaces are closed. See questions 23-28.
  • These leaves are not available to employees whose workplaces are closed due to a federal, state, or local shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, or due to business slowdowns. See question 23.
  • These leaves (and payroll tax credit) are not retroactive. Employees are not entitled to pay under these leaves if they were absent or out of work (for any reasons) prior to April 1. See question 13.
  • Both emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) and emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA) can be taken on an intermittent basis in certain situations. See Questions 20-22 for explanations about when intermittent leave is allowed.
  • Employees may not be required to use other forms of paid leave prior to or concurrently with EPSL or EFMLA. See questions 32 and 33.
  • Employers should keep documentation to show that employees who received leave were actually in need of leave. The documentation requirements will be outlined in soon-to-be-released IRS guidance. See Questions 15 and 16.
March 25, 2020

On March 25, the Department of Labor released the mandatory employee rights poster for the FFCRA. Private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees must post this notice in a conspicuous location in the workplace (or each work location, if employees report to different buildings). Employees who are working from home must receive the notice as well; employers can get it to them by email, snail mail, or posting to an internal or external website intended to provide information to employees. For more information, refer to the DOL’s Q&A on the FFCRA. Additional FAQs regarding public sector employers will be released.

The DOL will not bring enforcement actions against employers for violations of the FFCRA occurring within 30 days of the enactment, i.e. March 18 through April 17, 2020, provided that the employer has made reasonable, good faith efforts to comply with the Act.

For purposes of this non-enforcement position, an employer who violates the Act behaved “reasonably” and “in good faith” when all of the following are true:

  1. The employer remedies any violations as soon as possible, including making all affected employees whole as soon as practicable.
  2. The violations of the Act were not “willful” (it’s willful if you could have paid, but chose not to)
  3. The DOL receives a written commitment from the employer to comply with the Act in the future.

If the employer violates the Act willfully, fails to provide a written commitment to future compliance with the Act, or fails to remedy the violation upon notification by Department, the Department reserves its right to exercise its enforcement authority.

After April 17, 2020, this limited stay of enforcement will no longer apply, and the Department will fully enforce violations of the Act, as appropriate and consistent with the law.

March 24, 2020

On March 24, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the effective date of the leaves available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will be April 1, 2020.

The DOL announced the effective date in a “Questions and Answers” document where it also provided answers to some common questions. The DOL also released two Fact Sheets - one for employees and one for employers.

While the links above do not provide much new information, they are worth reviewing. We are still waiting on regulations from the DOL to answer many questions about how these leaves will be administered and how they will interact with other leaves. We will post updated information in this article as soon as it is released.

March 18, 2020

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020.

In the coming days and weeks, federal regulatory agencies, including the Department of Labor (DOL) and Health and Human Services (HHS), will provide guidance on how to execute or implement the new requirements. In the meantime, employers and advisors must rely on a good faith interpretation of the act’s text.

Summary

For certain circumstances related to COVID-19, employees will be eligible for:

  • Up to two weeks of sick leave (full pay for self, 2/3 pay for family care) for illness, quarantine, or school closures
  • Up to 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for school closures (10 days unpaid and then up to 10 weeks at 2/3 pay)

Effective Date of Law

The FMLA and Paid Sick Leave sections discussed below will go into effect on April 2, 2020, and expire December 31, 2020. It appears there is no retroactive application.

 

Key Elements for Employers

  • FMLA expansion
  • Paid sick leave
  • Payroll tax credit
  • Group health plan benefit mandate

Emergency FMLA Expansion

  • Covered Employers: Employers with fewer than 500 employees are covered.
  • Covered Employees: Any employee who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, though employers may be able to exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders.
  • Covered Leave Purpose: To care for a child under 18 of an employee if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to a public health emergency, defined as an emergency with respect to the coronavirus declared by a federal, state, or local authority.

Duration

Up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.

 

Compensation

  • No pay for first 10 days of leave (other paid time off, and emergency sick leave under the FFCRA, may be applied)
  • After 10 days, employers must pay two thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours they would normally be scheduled to work, capped at $200/day and $10,000 total.

Reinstatement to Position After Leave

The same reinstatement provisions apply as under traditional FMLA. However, restoration to position does not apply to employers with fewer than 25 employees if certain conditions are met:

  • The job no longer exists because of changes affecting employment caused by an economic downturn or other operating conditions that affect employment caused by a public health emergency;
  • The employer makes reasonable efforts to return the employee to an equivalent position; and
  • The employer makes efforts to contact a displaced employee if anything comes up within a year of when they would have returned to work.

Note: The act reserves the right for the Secretary to exclude certain care providers and first responders from the list of eligible employees and to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if business viability is jeopardized.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

Covered Employers: Employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Covered Employees: All employees (no matter how long they have been employed), though employers may be able to exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders.

Covered Leave Purposes:

  1. When quarantined or isolated subject to federal, state, or local quarantine/isolation order;
  2. When advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine (due to concerns related to COVID-19);
  3. When experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. When caring for an individual doing #1 or #2 (2/3 pay);
  5. When caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 (2/3 pay); or
  6. When the employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition (2/3 pay).

Duration of Leave

  • Full time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave.
  • Part time employees are entitled to sick leave equal to the number of hours worked on average over a typical two-week period.

Rate of Pay

  • Sick leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay for leave used for the employee’s own illness, quarantine, or care.
  • Sick leave must be paid at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate if taken to care for a family member or to care for a child whose school has closed, or if the employee’s childcare provider is unavailable due to the coronavirus.
  • Pay is capped at $511/day and $5,110 total for reasons 1, 2, and 3 described above.
  • Pay is capped at $200/day and $2,000 total for reasons 4, 5, and 6 described above.

COVID-19 Updates

Subscribe to the APS blog for the latest Coronavirus updates and news to help your business navigate this challenging and uncertain time.

Interaction with Other Employer-Provided Paid Sick Leave and other Paid Leave

  • This act does not preempt existing state and local paid sick leave requirements.
  • Employers cannot require employees to use other leave first.
  • Sick leave provided for under the act does not carry over from year to year, and the requirements expire December 31, 2020.

Notice Requirements

  • Employers must post a model notice, which will be provided by the federal government.

Note: The act reserves the right for the Secretary to exclude certain care providers and first responders from the list of eligible employees and to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if business viability is jeopardized.

Payroll Tax Credit

Updated 3/23/2020

On Friday, March 20, the U.S. Treasury, IRS, and U.S. Department of Labor announced their plans for making the paid leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) less burdensome for small businesses. Key points include:

  • To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.
  • The Department of Labor will release “simple and clear” criteria for businesses with fewer than 50 employees to apply for exemptions from the leave provisions related to school and childcare closures; and
  • There will be a 30-day non-enforcement period for businesses making a reasonable effort.

We know that for many businesses, slowdowns related to the spread of COVID-19 have made it hard to imagine how to bear any additional expenses. We encourage anyone with these concerns to read the linked announcement carefully.

The full announcement can be found here: Treasury, IRS, and Labor Announcement on FFCRA Implementation.

Including the information in the link above, this is all we currently know about the payroll tax credit under the FFCRA and how to access or administer it. We will update this article as soon as new information or guidance is available.

The FFCRA payroll tax credit information:

  • Applies to both the emergency FMLA expansion and the emergency sick leave.
  • Dollar for dollar credit for sick leave and paid FMLA wages against the employer portion of Social Security taxes.
  • Refund is possible for amounts that exceed what is available as a credit.
  • Limits on what can be claimed to mirror the caps for what must be paid.

The U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the U.S. Department of Labor (Labor) announced that small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees. The legislation will enable employers to keep their workers on their payrolls, while at the same time ensuring that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus.

Prompt Payment for the Cost of Providing Leave

When employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold from their employees’ paychecks federal income taxes and the employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employers then are required to deposit these federal taxes, along with their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the IRS and file quarterly payroll tax returns (Form 941 series) with the IRS.

Under guidance that will be released next week, eligible 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.

The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.

If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and child care leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced next week.

Examples

  1. If an eligible employer paid $5,000 in sick leave and is otherwise required to deposit $8,000 in payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from all its employees, the employer could use up to $5,000 of the $8,000 of taxes it was going to deposit for making qualified leave payments. The employer would only be required under the law to deposit the remaining $3,000 on its next regular deposit date.
  2. If an eligible employer paid $10,000 in sick leave and was required to deposit $8,000 in taxes, the employer could use the entire $8,000 of taxes in order to make qualified leave payments and file a request for an accelerated credit for the remaining $2,000.

Equivalent child care leave and sick leave credit amounts are available to self-employed individuals under similar circumstances. These credits will be claimed on their income tax return and will reduce estimated tax payments.

Small Business Exemption

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for an exemption from the leave requirements relating to school closings or child care unavailability where the requirements would jeopardize the ability of the business to continue. The exemption will be available on the basis of simple and clear criteria that make it available in circumstances involving jeopardy to the viability of an employer’s business as a going concern. Labor will provide emergency guidance and rulemaking to clearly articulate this standard.

Non-Enforcement Period

Labor will be issuing a temporary non-enforcement policy that provides a period of time for employers to come into compliance with the Act. Under this policy, Labor will not bring an enforcement action against any employer for violations of the Act so long as the employer has acted reasonably and in good faith to comply with the Act. Labor will instead focus on compliance assistance during the 30-day period.

For More Information

For more information about these credits and other relief, visit Coronavirus Tax Relief on IRS.gov. Information regarding the process to receive an advance payment of the credit will be posted next week.

Background on the Leaves and Pay That Must be Provided

The Act provided paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for COVID-19 related reasons and created the refundable paid sick leave credit and the paid child care leave credit for eligible employers. Eligible employers are businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees that are required to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family and medical leave under the Act. Eligible employers will be able to claim these credits based on qualifying leave they provide between the effective date and December 31, 2020. Equivalent credits are available to self-employed individuals based on similar circumstances.

Child Care Leave Credit

In addition to the sick leave credit, for an employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or child care facility is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may receive a refundable child care leave credit. This credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the child care leave credit. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

Health Plan Benefit Mandate

  • The act requires all insured and self-funded medical plans, including grandfathered plans, to cover diagnostic testing-related services for COVID-19 at 100 percent without any deductibles or co-pays.
  • Examples include services provided by doctors, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers leading up to the decision that testing is needed, along with the actual lab-based testing.
  • The mandate does not apply to treatment.

Key Takeaways

To take immediate advantage of the paid leave credits, businesses can retain and access funds that they would otherwise pay to the IRS in payroll taxes. If those amounts are not sufficient to cover the cost of paid leave, employers can seek an expedited advance from the IRS by submitting a streamlined claim form that will be released next week.

Paid Sick Leave for Workers

For COVID-19 related reasons, employees receive up to 80 hours of paid sick leave and expanded paid child care leave when employees’ children’s schools are closed or child care providers are unavailable.

Complete Coverage

Employers receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the Act.

  • Health insurance costs are also included in the credit.
  • Employers face no payroll tax liability.
  • Self-employed individuals receive an equivalent credit.

Fast Funds

Reimbursement will be quick and easy to obtain.
An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided
Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.

Small Business Protection

Employers with fewer than 50 employees are eligible for an exemption from the requirements to provide leave to care for a child whose school is closed, or child care is unavailable in cases where the viability of the business is threatened.

Easing Compliance

Requirements are subject to 30-day non-enforcement period for good faith compliance efforts.

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