On March 18, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act was passed by the U.S. Senate and signed into law by President Trump. The legislation, which goes into effect April 2, provides leave for employees who are unable to work due to school or childcare closure, or due to COVID-19-related sick leave.

A rundown of the legislation, prepared by the Paley Rothman law firm and shared with the members of the Small Business Legislative Council, of which PPAI is a member, identifies how it addresses leave benefits in two ways. It amends the Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to apply when an employee needs leave for school or childcare closure. It covers employers with 500 or fewer employees, and the employee must be employed for 30 days to be eligible, rather than the mandatory six-month employment requirement. Employees are entitled to 12 weeks of leave. The first 10 days may consist of unpaid leave, subject to other leave benefits that employee may elect to use, and then the employee must be paid at two-thirds their regular pay rate up to $200 per day/per employee ($10,000 aggregate/per employee). Employers with fewer than 50 employees can apply for an exemption.

The new federal paid sick leave aspects of the bill cover employers with 500 or fewer employees. The employee is covered from the first day of hire and is offered 80 hours of paid (pro rate for part-time employees) sick leave for certain COVID-19 issues. These include self-isolation, diagnosis of COVID-19 and compliance with an order to stay away from work due to the employee’s exposure to COVID-19 or employee’s symptoms of COVID-19, which are paid at regular rate and capped at $511 per day/per employee ($5,110/per employee); and care for a family member who is self-isolating or has COVID-19, care for a child whose school or childcare center has closed, which is paid at two-thirds regular rate, capped at $200 per day/per employee ($2,000/per employee). Employers with fewer than 50 employees can apply for an exemption.

Based on Paley Rothman’s reading of the statute, and absent of any additional legislation or regulatory guidance, if the business is closed and the employee would not otherwise be working, they will not be eligible for the paid leave.