The recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill signed into law by President Biden allows employers with fewer than 500 employees to continue receiving tax credits if they voluntarily offer employees paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Recall that the requirement for employers to provide mandatory FFCRA leave expired at the end of 2020. Under the new relief measure, employers will still receive tax credits until September 30, 2021, if they choose to continue providing Emergency Paid Sick Leave or Emergency FMLA Leave under the FFCRA. Additionally, the new law enhances the leave provisions in some areas. The new provisions are effective April 1, 2021.
Expansion of Qualifying Reasons
In addition to the previous qualifying reasons for leave under the FFCRA, the new relief measure extends qualifying reasons to include: (1) seeking or awaiting the results of a COVID-19 diagnosis; (2) obtaining a COVID-19 immunization; or (3) recovering from any injury, disability, illness, or condition related to a COVID-19 immunization. In addition, employees may now use emergency FMLA leave for the same qualifying reasons as the Emergency Sick Leave, including the above-mentioned newly added qualifying leave expansions.
10-Day Limit Restart on Tax Credits
The new law resets the number of days available for the employment tax credit. Employers may receive a tax credit for employees who have already used at least 10 days of Emergency Paid Sick Leave. Beginning April 1, 2021, the 10-day limit will be reset, and any days taken previously are not counted toward the 10-day limit.
Expanded Emergency FMLA Leave
Emergency FMLA leave originally required a total of twelve (12) weeks of leave, with ten (10) weeks being paid at two-thirds of regular wages (up to $200 per day). The new relief law now allows employers to voluntarily offer Emergency FMLA as a paid benefit for the full twelve (12) weeks.
Non-Discrimination Rules Apply
Employers who choose to provide FFCRA leave (either Emergency Sick Leave or Emergency FMLA Leave) are prohibited from discriminating in favor of highly compensated employees, full-time employees, or on the basis of employee length of service.