Legislative bodies on both the state and federal level are working on measures to blunt the enormous economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some key elements that law firms may want to keep in mind.
Paid sick and medical leave
Among the provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by President Trump on March 18, is the requirement that small and medium-size businesses offer two weeks of emergency paid sick leave and 10 weeks of paid emergency family medical leave under certain circumstances related to COVID-19. The law applies to employers with less than 500 employees, though employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempted by the U.S. Secretary of Labor if the requirements of the law would “jeopardize the viability of the business.”
Under the law, covered employers will get tax credits against their portion of quarterly Social Security tax payments for paid FMLA and sick leave taken under this new law. The Department of Treasury is working on regulations to implement that tax credit.
Loans for Small Businesses
The federal Small Business Administration is currently offering loans of up to $2 million for small businesses to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid because of the pandemic. The SBA’s website has experienced volumes of applications, so don’t be alarmed if attempts to contact them are slow.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority also has coronavirus-related loans and breaks available. More information is available here.
State programs on medical leave
On Wednesday, Gov. Murphy signed S2304 (Sweeney) into law. The bill expands the scope of the State’s temporary disability insurance law so that workers may obtain temporary disability insurance or family leave insurance benefits by expanding that law’s definition of “serious health condition” to include an illness caused by an epidemic of a communicable disease, a known or suspected exposure to a communicable disease, or efforts to present spread of a communicable disease. This would cover people who were recommended by a healthcare provider self-quarantine or undergo self-isolation as a result of suspected exposure to a communicable disease because the presence in the community of that individual or family member would jeopardize the health of others. The bill also eliminates the current one-week waiting period for disability benefits for epidemic-related cases. Finally, the bill modifies the Family Leave Act so that employees have the right to be reinstated and earned sick leave is preserved as well.
$2 trillion federal stimulus package approved by U.S. Senate
The Senate came to a bipartisan deal early Wednesday morning on a major, $2 trillion federal stimulus package and voted to approve it late Wednesday. One of the proposed legislation’s key elements would provide Small Business Administration loans to employers to cover payroll from March 1 to June 30. If the employer maintains a certain number of employees and a certain level of compensation, the loans would be forgiven. The package is currently being debated in the House of Representatives.