Federal legislative response to COVID-19

Legislation has been passed in Washington that among other things, will provide significant assistance to American workers faced with work loss due to the current COVID-19 crisis. The latest piece includes rebate payments that will be mailed directly to qualified Americans and a significant expansion and increase in unemployment payments for up to four months. Language below is quoted from the bill.

All U.S. residents with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 ($150,000 married), who are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a work eligible social security number, are eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 married) rebate. In addition, they are eligible for an additional $500 per child. This is true even for those who have no income, as well as those whose income comes entirely from non-taxable means-tested benefit programs, such as SSI benefits.”

“For the vast majority of Americans, no action on their part will be required in order to receive a rebate check as IRS will use a taxpayer’s 2019 tax return if filed, or in the alternative their 2018 return. This includes many low-income individuals who file a tax return in order to take advantage of the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds the phase-out threshold. The amount is completely phased-out for single filers with incomes exceeding $99,000, $146,500 for head of household filers with one child, and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.”

The bill includes funding for states to provide an additional $600 per week to each recipient of unemployment insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance through the end of July once the state opts into the program. Following that, unemployment will return to previous levels, but will be extended 13 weeks, from the normal 26 to 39 weeks.

The bill also allows states to provide unemployment for workers who would not ordinarily qualify, including those who are: “self-employed, independent contractors, those with limited work history, and others or who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency.”

The bill is the latest response from Washington to provide financial assistance to Americans and businesses.

Previous federal legislation that may help members

On March 18, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law in the United States, and it gives new benefits to many workers whose families have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Effective April 1, employees who cannot work or telework are quarantined due to a suspected COVID-19 infection, or because they were in contact with someone who has COVID-19, may be eligible for two weeks of paid sick leave from their employer. They may also be eligible for paid sick leave if they are forced to miss work and cannot telecommute in order to care for someone in their household who is sick, quarantined, or unable to attend school or daycare because it has been closed.

Employees who cannot work or telework and who have been forced to stay home from work in order to care for their minor child whose school or daycare has been closed during this crisis may be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid Family Medical Leave from their employer.

This law takes effect on April 1, 2020 and applies to leave that is taken after that date. The United States Department of Labor has published guidance to help determine who is eligible for these benefits. Please reference their website https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave. More information is available on the DOL Q and A website here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions