The times are uncertain. Guidelines change from day to day, numbers increase or decrease around us almost hourly. Isolation and quarantine could be right around the corner for anyone. Benefits available for employers, employees and questions continue, the same as bills and financial burdens continue for all involved.
Many Americans affected by the coronavirus outbreak can benefit from workplace protections and relief offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). If a person works for a private employer with fewer than 500 employees and are in one of the following three situations: the person is under a government quarantine or stay-at-home order; the person has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine; or the person is seeking a diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms, they may qualify for paid sick leave up to two weeks or 80 hours at the employee’s regular rate or the minimum wage (whichever is higher).
Also available under the FFCRA is paid sick leave up to two weeks or 80 hours at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate or the minimum wage (whichever is higher), if either scenario applies of the following apply: the person is caring for somebody under quarantine or a stay-at-home order or the person is caring for a child whose school, child care provider, or place of care is unavailable due to COVID-19.
There is also additional extended help available under the FFCRA which states paid family leave up to 10 additional weeks at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate, if both criteria apply: the person caring for a child whose school, child care provider, or place of care is unavailable due to COVID-19; and the person has been employed at least 30 calendar days.
An eligible employee working for a covered employer can access paid leave under the FFCRA by checking with their employer, requesting the leave, and letting their employer know which of the qualifying conditions applies.
The Wage and Hour Division has already completed more than 400 cases for workers denied leave, and has conducted hundreds of outreach events to educate workers and employers about the benefits and protections of this new law. To file a complaint, workers can call 1-866-4US-WAGE.
Covered employers qualify for dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through tax credits for all qualifying wages paid under the FFCRA. Qualifying wages are those paid to an employee who takes leave under the Act for a qualifying reason, up to the appropriate per diem and aggregate payment caps. Applicable tax credits also extend to amounts paid or incurred to maintain health insurance coverage.
The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Most employees of the federal government are covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was not amended by this Act, and are therefore not covered by the expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA. However, federal employees covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act are covered by the paid sick leave provision.
Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
Another option available for unemployed individuals in Missouri is the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program. This program may provide up to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to those that have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits.
Other benefits available can be obtained by contacting the Division of Family Services and NECAC, which offer assistance with several available programs.