On January 14, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden announced his American Rescue Plan through which he plans to provide much-needed economic relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. His plan includes expansion of the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) as detailed below.
Expansion of Covered Employers
The plan covers all employers. This means employers with 500 or more employees – as well as those with less than 500 employees who were previously covered – must provide paid leave under the FFCRA. The plan removes any exemptions from providing paid leave for employers with less than 50 employees.
No Tax Credit for Larger Employers
The plan continues to provide a refundable payroll tax credit for the paid leave to state and local employers and private-sector employers with fewer than 500 employees. However, employers with 500 or more employees will not receive the credit.
Expansion of Eligible Employees
The plan expands paid leave rights to healthcare workers and first responders, a group previously exempted by many employers from paid leave.
Amount of Leave Increased
The plan provides over 14 weeks of paid sick and family and medical leave to help parents with additional caregiving responsibilities when a child or loved one’s school or care center is closed; for employees who have or are caring for people with COVID-19 symptoms, or who are quarantining due to exposure; and for employees to get the vaccine.
Federal Employees Covered
Under the FFCRA, federal employees were entitled only to paid sick leave but not emergency FMLA. The plan provides emergency FMLA to federal employees which expands protections to approximately 2 million Americans who work for the federal government.
Leave Benefit Amount Increased
The plan increases the maximum paid leave benefit to $1,400 per week for eligible employees, which Biden claims would provide full wage replacement to employees earning up to $73,000 annually.
Under Biden’s plan, the paid leave provisions under the FFCRA expire on September 30, 2021.