The Families First Act, also known as FFCRA and HR 6201, provides paid sick leave if you can’t work because of the Coronavirus pandemic. To say that COVID-19 is causing chaos is putting it mildly. Everyone’s life seems to be in turmoil or at least on hold for the moment. Before this happened, you may have already been finding it tough to make ends meet. Now, your job could be under threat, you might have to self-isolate, or you might have to look after the kids under quarantine.
The main question is, how can you avoid financial ruin if you can’t work because of COVID-19?
With this new legislation and things changing daily, it’s challenging to know where to find the answers about getting benefits during this health crisis. For example, since the Families First Act was passed, the Coronavirus Relief Bill came into law. This law makes it easier to claim unemployment benefits if you’re laid off or can’t work as a freelancer.
If you’re an employee, what do you need to know about the FFCRA (HR 6201)? How can you qualify for paid leave if you need to go into quarantine or look after someone under Coronavirus lockdown? This article will answer your most common questions about the Families First Act and how it can help you.
What’s the Families First Act?
Its official name is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA – bill H.R.6201) It has been signed into law and takes effect on April 1, 2020. It basically requires most companies to offer employees paid sick leave. But the act contains several other benefits to families. These include the following:
- Free testing for COVID-19 without paying copays or deductibles
- More unemployment benefits for people laid off due to the impact of the Coronavirus
- Paid leave if you need to take time off work due to the Coronavirus
- Extension of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Related reading: what the Coronavirus response bill means for you.
Who Qualifies for Relief Under the FFCRA?
For employees, the Families First Act is welcome news. Your employer must give you paid leave if you need time off because of COVID-19. Which businesses does the law apply to? Here are the criteria:
- All companies with fewer than 500 employees
- Businesses 50 employees or less can apply for an exemption if giving paid leave could jeopardize the business
- Companies with more than 500 employees are excluded — these firms usually have paid sick leave policies
So, all great if you’re in a medium-sized company. But, if you work in a small company, you might not get help under FFCRA (HR 6201).
Families First Act (FFCRA – HR 6201) FAQs
If you’re an employee, what should you know about COVID-19 and your rights to paid leave? What are your chances of getting extra money during the coronavirus pandemic? Read on to find out answers to your questions about paid sick leave.
How does the Families First Act work for employees who have symptoms of COVID-19?
Let’s say you start to show symptoms of COVID-19, and you make an appointment with your doctor. Your boss has to give you up to 10 days of emergency paid sick leave. The amount of pay you receive in the two weeks is your regular rate but capped at $511 per day.
Reasons to qualify for full-pay if you’re sick with the novel Coronavirus include:
- You are subject to quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19
- A doctor advises you to self-isolate because of the Coronavirus
- You are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seek medical care
The FFCRA (HR 6201) and the Family and Medical Leave Act
The Families First Act also has provisions to allow you as an employee time off to care for others. COVID-19 has turned everyone’s life upside down. We’re constantly handwashing, schools are closed, stores seem empty, businesses are shutting down, and family members are getting sick.
What government assistance is available if you’re not sick, but need time off to deal with the COVID-19 impact on your family life?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers the following scenarios:
- You can’t work because you have to care for a family member who’s been quarantined
- Your kids are off school because of a Coronavirus lockdown and you need to be home for them
Under the FMLA, the first 14 days are unpaid. After that, you get your salary at two-thirds of your regular rate.
Under the Families First Act, what can I do if my kid is sick?
Let’s face it, you’re probably freaking out if your kid gets sick. So, the last thing you want is to be worrying about your job. How does The Families First Act help you out?
Here’s an example as to how it works.
Say that working mom Jane has to take time off because Johnny’s started coughing. Her doctor recommends two weeks of isolation to make sure he doesn’t infect others. Jane can get paid sick leave at two-thirds of her regular rate of pay. This amount is capped at $200 per day and up to $2,000. However, Jane needs to remember that the first two weeks of the leave is unpaid. But she can use any accrued paid time off, including sick leave or vacation time.
Related reading: Best Single Parent Government Resources
Can I get emergency family sick leave if my child’s school is closed?
Yes, the FFCRA (HR 6201) gives a parent the chance to take up to three months of paid, job-protected leave. So, if your kids are off school, your employer must provide you up to 12 weeks of at two-thirds of your regular pay.
Does the Families First Act help me if I can’t work from home?
The advice for working during the Coronavirus outbreak is to work from home. But what if your job is such that you can’t do that? What if you get sick and you need time off?
Let’s say that Bob works in a factory. The factory remains open because it’s an essential industry, and the employer has strict social distancing rules. But he develops a nasty cough. So, Bob decides to go into isolation and arranges a free COVID-19 test. In these circumstances, Bob is entitled to ten days — two weeks — of full sick leave. If his symptoms worsen and he develops full-blown COVID-19, he qualifies for sick paid leave for up to 12 weeks.
Can I get paid leave if I’m self-employed?
If you’re self-employed, you can get the same benefits as employees get from their employer. The benefits for self-employed folks under the Families First Act come in the way of tax credits.
This is how the Families First Act works for the self-employed:
- If you show signs of Coronavirus and can’t work, you get tax credits up to 100% of your average income. This is capped at $511 per day for up to ten days.
- If you have to care for a sick family member, you get 67% of your average income, up to $200 per day for ten days.
- If you need emergency family-leave credit, you can get up to $200 per day for a maximum of 50 days. This could also be used if your child’s school is closed due to COVID-19.
The FFCRA (HR 6201): A Takeaway
The Families First Act came into law on April 1, 2020, and is in effect until the end of the year. If you work for a company with fewer than 500 employees, you are guaranteed paid leave if you’re sick or have to care for a family member. This provision also includes being in quarantine, looking after kids if they’re sick, or if schools close.