Congress is attempting to move quickly on multiple legislative responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Late last Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 6201) in overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion (363-40). The Senate made minor changes to the bill and passed the amended version this afternoon (90-8).
The legislation is now headed to the President for signing. It does the following:
- Significantly expands the number of employers subject to the Family Medical Leave Act who must provide job-protected leave to employees for a COVID-19-designated reason. Employers with fewer than 500 employees are covered, although the bill also gives the Secretary of Labor the authority to issue regulations to exempt some small businesses with fewer than 50 employees and to exclude certain health care providers and emergency responders.
- Employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid, job-protected leave if the employee: (1) is complying with a requirement or recommendation to quarantine due to corona virus exposure or symptoms, and cannot work from home; (2) is caring for an at-risk family member who is quarantining; or (3) is caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care has been closed due to public health emergency. However, the first 14 days of the leave may be unpaid.
- Tax credits for employers. An employer will receive a quarterly 100% refundable payroll tax credit for the qualified family leave wages paid by the employer. In calculating the credit, the amount of qualified family leave wages taken into account with respect to any individual shall not exceed $200 a day and $10,000 in the aggregate for all calendar quarters.
- Employers will receive a quarterly 100 percent refundable credit against the 6.2 percent and 1.45 percent payroll taxes for qualified sick leave wages paid to employees.
- Provisions requiring insurers and government programs to provide coverage for testing for COVID- 19 and provides that they shall not impose any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) requirements or prior authorization or other medical management requirements, during the public health emergency.
Following enactment of H.R. 6201, Congress will consider an additional stimulus package(s). Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated today that the next package will originate in the Senate. The Senate has no immediate plans to leave town. The Leader has indicated that they will not do so until this next package is finalized. The House is currently in recess but could be called back at any time with 24 hours’ notice.
Upcoming measures for assistance could include direct cash payments to consumers, increased funding and loan flexibility for the Small Business Administration, and a financial bailout for the domestic airline and tourism industry.
Federal Tax Relief for Individuals and Business
The U.S. Treasury Department issued guidance saying that taxpayers can delay paying some federal income taxes for 90 days before interest and penalties kick in, but they must still file a return by April 15. Taxpayers who want more time to file their returns can do so by filing a form with the IRS requesting an automatic six-month extension.
Individuals can delay payments of up to $1 million in taxes and corporations can get payments of up to $10 million deferred until July 15 without interest and penalties. You should review the official notice from Treasury and consult your tax professional before making any final decisions regarding this new guidance.
State Resources for Business and Individuals
A number of states have implemented assistance programs for individuals and business, including disaster loan program funding provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Two excellent resources to determine what resources are available in your state are:
The National Association of Manufacturers has developed a database of local emergency orders affecting manufacturing operations. It is available at here.
The Council of State Governments has made available state level information about business assistance programs. Their site also provides information about the state programs and disease prevention. You may view their database here.
The Hardwood Federation will continue to keep you updated as the federal response develops with more legislation likely to come.