Families First Coronavirus Response Act



March 20, 2020

canyon_conservationistsGiven the quickly evolving coronavirus situation, we want to update you on the latest congressional action.  On March 14, the House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. President Trump has announced his support for the bill, and it is expected to pass the Senate early next week.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has announced that there will be additional technical corrections to the bill as soon as Monday.

This bill provides paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanded food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requires employers to provide additional protections for health care workers.

Concerns have been expressed about liquidity problems paid sick leave and paid family leave could create for some small businesses, since employers will have to wait for federal reimbursement under the bill.  The US Chamber of Commerce expects technical corrections announced by Secretary Mnuchin will help mitigate any problems. The House bill includes flexibility for Treasury to waive penalties for businesses not submitting their payroll taxes if they do so in anticipation of a refund under this bill.

With respect to paid family leave, the House bill gives Treasury the authority to exempts businesses with fewer than 50 employees if paid family leave will jeopardize the business.

The bill allocates an additional $1 billion to states for unemployment compensation, and permits flexibility in unemployment eligibility rules, such as waiting periods.  It is expected that some businesses who face a severe revenue disruption and are unable to pay employees – whether they are at work or not – may elect to furlough employees, which would allow them access to unemployment compensation.

The US Chamber states that it is essential that the final bill include meaningful financial assistance for businesses facing revenue problems as a result of the coronavirus.

The bill provides more money to several nutrition and food assistance programs, including

> The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
> The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
> Nutrition assistance grants for U.S. territories.

The bill also provides funds for nutrition programs that assist the elderly, and modifies USDA food assistance and nutrition programs to

> Allow certain waivers to eligibility requirements school meal programs
> Suspend the work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
> Allow states to request waivers for emergency SNAP benefits.

These appropriations are designated as emergency spending, which is exempt from discretionary spending limits.

In addition, the bill requires OSHA to issues an emergency rule requiring certain employers to implement an infectious disease exposure control plan to protect health care workers.

Appropriate and timey Congressional action is a top Chamber priority and we will continue to keep you updated on our travel advisory page on VisitSedona.com and the COVID-19 Bulletin on SedonaChamber.com. We encourage you to also sign up for weekly updates through our Local email newsletter. It is free to sign up at SedonaLocalNews.com.

                                                          –Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO