Congress Passes Coronavirus Economic Relief Bill

Published by Matt Fishman on

Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in response “to the coronavirus outbreak by providing paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers.”

Employees are eligible for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave if: “The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19”; “The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19”; “The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis”; or “The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID-19 precautions”. The amount of hours of paid sick time to which an employee is entitled for full-time employees is 80 hours, and for part-time employees is “a number of hours equal to the number of hours that such employee works, on average, over a 2-week period.” “It shall be unlawful for any employer to discharge, discipline, or in any other manner discriminate against any employee who… takes leave in accordance with this Act”. Employers are eligible for this paid sick leave if their employer employs fewer than 500 employees.

Group health plans, health insurance providers, Medicare, and Medicaid “shall provide coverage, and shall not impose any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance) requirements or prior authorization or other medical management requirements, for”: “[tests] for the detection of SARS–CoV–2 or the diagnosis of the virus that causes COVID–19”; and “Items and services furnished to an individual during health care provider office visits…, urgent care center visits, and emergency room visits for [coronavirus testing]”.

Families participating in a school lunch program shall continue to receive meals at “an amount not less than the value of meals at the free rate over the course of 5 school days for each eligible child in the household” while the school remains closed.

Eligibility for supplemental nutrition assistance program [SNAP] benefits shall not be limited to typical program requirements. “[E]mergency allotments to households” participating in SNAP will be provided “to address the food security needs of affected populations during the emergency”.

The House of Representatives passed the bill on a vote of 363 – 40, and the Senate passed the bill today with a vote of 90-8.