Families First Act: What the Coronavirus Response Bill Means

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act aims to help people affected by the disease. Let’s face it, living paycheck to paycheck is pretty tough. But the impact of Covid-19 has probably sent your life into chaos. Paying the bills, buying groceries, getting the rent paid on time is already a constant struggle. So, it’s no wonder if you’re strung up about the impact coronavirus is having on your day-to-day life — never mind your finances. 

You might have to self-isolate, look after the kids, or face the threat of losing your job. That’s not to mention the added worry of catching the virus yourself. So, it’s difficult to predict the future about how coronavirus will change our life. 

No one seemed quite prepared for the massive impact the coronavirus would have. Many people in the US are already vulnerable. You might have to get by on benefits, get food assistance, or you’re trying to clear a pile of debt. Whatever your predicament, you’ll be glad of any relief. 

This article is cliffsnotes on the Families First Act —  a bill passed by the government on March 14, 2020. The act aims to provide help and assistance to people impacted by the coronavirus. It includes paid sick leave if you self-isolate, get the virus, need testing, or can’t afford food. 

Read on to find out about the FFCRA, or, Families First Coronavirus Response Act. 

What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

The Families First Act amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). The act was passed with a vote of 363 to 40 and will become law when President Trump signs it. The bill pledges to give billions of dollars to help people the Covid-19 crisis has affected. In essence, this is what the bill (H.R.6201) includes:

  • Paid leave benefits if you need to take time off work due to the coronavirus
  • Unemployment benefits to more people laid off during the public health emergency 
  • Free Covid-19 testing
  • Force employers to pay sick leave to employees
  • Increase the number of vulnerable persons who can get help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) 
  • Additional protections for healthcare workers

What the Families First Act Means for You

Let’s look at the cliffsnotes on the Families First Act so that you know how the financial aid helps you during this crisis. 

Paid Sick Leave Due to Coronavirus

You’re guaranteed paid sick leave if you need to take time off due to Covid-19. The first two weeks are paid sick leave. Then you can also get up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave if you need it. The payments work in this way: 

  • Sick leave is paid at the usual pay rate
  • Family and medical leave is paid at two-thirds of the usual pay rate

An important fact to note on the Act is the type of companies covered. If you work for a company with fewer than 500 employees, you’re ok. It doesn’t even matter if there are fewer than 50 employees. However, the act doesn’t seem to apply to large companies with more than 500 workers. In these cases, any sick pay is at the discretion of your boss. But most large companies have sick pay policies already in place.

How do you qualify for paid sick leave during the coronavirus outbreak? Here are the four qualifying reasons to get sick pay: 

  • You’ve been instructed to self-isolate or quarantine
  • You experience symptoms of Covid-19 and are seeking medical help
  • Caring for someone subject to quarantine
  • You have to care for a child who can’t attend school or get childcare due to the Covid-19 outbreak

Free Covid-19 Testing

Under the new laws, you don’t have to pay to get tested for Covid-19. So, this means that there is no copay if you have health insurance as your insurer has to pay 100% of the testing cost.

But what if you’re under the Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP programs? Or, how can you pay for testing if you’ve not got any medical insurance? The good news is that the federal government covers the cost of all Covid-19 tests. In fact, you don’t even need a referral to get the test done for free.

However, you don’t get government help with the high cost of medical treatment to treat the disease. Medical care, if you have coronavirus-related complications, is paid for by your insurance and copay. If you don’t have enough health insurance, you can check out this list of resources for free or reduced medical care. 

Food Assistance During the Coronavirus Outbreak

The government will continue to provide food security if you’re on low-pay, get laid off, or struggle financially. So, if your kids already get free school meals, they will continue to be fed. You’ll also be glad to know that you continue to get food support. If you’re on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) or get food stamps, nothing changes. 

The good news is that more people will qualify for food stamps (SNAP benefits) if they can’t make ends meet during the crisis. So, if you were laid off due to Coronavirus or have experienced financial hardship because of it, chances are that you’ll qualify for food stamps. 

Unemployment Benefits

As part of government aid packages during the Covid-19 crisis, more help is being given to cover unemployment insurance. The impact of the virus in the broader economy means that layoffs are expected. According to the government’s website, local state authorities can adjust their rules to assist more people who’ve lost their jobs. These can include any of the following situations: 

  • A business closes down due to the impact of coronavirus
  • You get quarantined but expect to return to work after
  • Voluntarily leaving your job to look after a family member
  • You quit your job due to the risk of infection

Families First Act

The new laws will give some relief to millions of Americans during this health crisis. However, these laws are only in force until the end of the year. So, we’ll have to wait and see how the pandemic unfolds and see what response the government will make once the dust settles.