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Frequently Asked Questions About the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

By Lisa Calick

I’ve been forced to furlough my employees due to a slowdown in business operations.  Are they still eligible for the leave entitlements as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Unfortunately no.  If you have furloughed your employees because there is not enough work for them, they are not entitled to take paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the Act.  They may, however, be eligible for unemployment benefits through your State.

Many of my employees earn more than the $511 or $200 per day, as outlined in the Act.  May I pay them more than these amounts?

Yes.  You may certainly pay your employees more than this law requires.  However, you will not be able to receive tax credit for the amounts in excess of the Act’s limits.

My company is an essential business. One of my employees is afraid to come to work as a result of COVID-19.  Is he eligible for this paid leave?

Generally no, if the employee is not indicating that he or she cannot work due to a reason as allowed in this Act.  However he or she can take any earned sick leave as provided by your company.

What information do I need to obtain from my employees who request time under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

You should document your employee’s request for sick or family and medical leave with the information below:

  • Name of employee requesting leave
  • Date(s) for which leave is requested
  • A statement of the reason the employee is requesting the leave, with written support for the noted reason
  • A statement from the employee that he or she is unable to work or telework for the noted reason

If the leave is for the employee’s quarantine, the statement should include the governmental entity ordering the quarantine, or name of the healthcare provider advising self-quarantine.  If the leave request is based on a school closing or unavailability of a childcare provider, the statement should include the name and age of child(ren), the name of the school or provider that is closed, and a representation that no other person will be providing care during the period for which the employee is receiving leave under this Act.  Should the request be to provide care of a child older than fourteen years of age during daylight hours, the statement should indicate that special circumstances exist requiring the employee to provide care.

I’ve heard a lot about payroll tax credits recently.  What options do I have as an employer?

Both the FFCRA and the CARES Act makes separate tax credits available to employers.  Aside from the tax credits available for wages paid for qualified leaves, the CARES Act provides a tax credit to employers whose business operations have been suspended or have reduced due to COVID-19. However an employer who receives tax credits for FFCRA leave wages, cannot include those same wages for purposes of the Employee Retention Tax Credit, as provided in the CARES Act.  Employers are encouraged to reach out to their payroll provider to ensure that qualifying leave under this Act is coded properly, in order to obtain the tax credits.

Unemployment Insurance

What additional benefits are available to employees who are out of work?

The CARES Act includes provisions for expanded unemployment insurance benefits:

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation – provides an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting unemployment compensation benefits through July 31, 2020. This amount is on top of the weekly benefit provided by the state.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation – provides up to 13 weeks of benefits to individuals who have exhausted their existing benefits after the regular 26 week period.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – provides benefits for eligible individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, seeking part-time employment, or those who would otherwise not qualify for traditional benefits.

If I am eligible for benefits, how can I obtain the additional $600 that is provided by the CARES Act?

While the $600 may be funded federally, it will be processed through the state’s unemployment office.  Individuals must apply for benefits through their state’s unemployment office in order to qualify for the additional federal amount.

Is there a waiting period for unemployment insurance?

While traditionally there is a waiting period before benefits are paid, many states have waived their waiting periods in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is the maximum weekly benefit for unemployment insurance?

Each state has its own method for calculating unemployment benefits, with different maximum amounts, so it is important to check with your respective state.  As an example, in New York, the maximum weekly benefit is $504.  In New Jersey, the maximum weekly benefit is $713.  These amounts do not include the additional $600 that is to be provided by the CARES Act through July 31, 2020.

My work hours have been reduced.  Am I eligible for partial unemployment benefits?

Partial benefits may be available for individuals who have seen a reduction in work hours and salary however each state has its own method for determining partial benefits.  It is important to check your state’s information as there may be certain criteria that needs to be met in order to receive partial benefits.

If I live in a state different than the state in which I worked, which state do I apply for unemployment in?

Individuals who apply for unemployment should do so in the state in which they worked.

My company was forced to lay off my employees, who applied for unemployment benefits.  I am now able to hire them back, but they do not want to come back because they are making more on unemployment with the new enhanced benefits.  How can that be?

This is a common question that employers have.  Individuals must continue to certify that they are available and willing to work in order to qualify for benefits.  If you are making an offer of employment that they are declining, those employees would no longer be entitled to unemployment benefits.

CARES Act

Can I delay paying my payroll taxes?

The CARES Act includes a provision to allow employers to delay remitting their share of Social Security tax for the period of March 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020.  50% of the deferred taxes will be due by the end of 2021 and the remaining amounts will be due by the end of 2022.

I applied for a PPP loan.  May I still defer my payroll taxes?

Yes and no. Employers who have applied for a PPP loan may defer their share of social security tax until they receive a decision from their lender that any portion of their PPP loan is forgiven.

Concerns about FFCRA or any aspect of the CARES Act? We're ready to answer your questions.

CARES Act, Coronavirus, COVID, family first coronavirus response act, FFCRA, HR, Human Resources, Lisa Calick

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