Businesses implement federal program for paid leave amid COVID-19

U.S.

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) —  The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is providing financial relief to families and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re in survival mode,” said Doug Dunlay, owner of Four Star Restaurant Group.

Dunlay has been forced to lay off some of his 400 employees and shutter two of his restaurants because of the pandemic. He’s mandated to operate at only 25% capacity.

“It’s extremely scary right now. We’ve had our businesses decimated,” Dunlay said. “We’ve unfortunately had to close two restaurants. And to have more responsibilities dropped on our shoulders, it feels like we’re being left out to dry, so it is a scary time.”

These times have also been turbulent for Melissa Davenport, who makes a living at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, helping people get back on their feet.

Davenport said the financial relief, even at only 60% of her pay, has been her lifeline.

“Honestly, I think I would have had to have left my job, because I put my family first, before everything,” said Davenport.

Keesha Strong, vice president of human resources at Urban League St. Louis, has been tasked with figuring out how to implement the paid leave program for hundreds of employees like Davenport.

It’s an interesting space to be in.

Generally, the legislation outlines that employees of covered employers are eligible for:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to federal, state, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to federal, state, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the secretary of health and human services, in consultation with the secretaries of the treasury and labor; and
  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Strong suggests that employers consult with HR and legal counsel before implementing the program. The act applies to businesses with fewer than 500 employees, but businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt.

Things to know:

  • Independent contractors are not included. Government employees are covered in the program except for the majority of federal government employees.
  • Part-time employees are entitled to paid sick leave for their average work hours in a two-week period. They may take medical leave for that average for 10 weeks after that.
  • Healthcare providers and emergency responders may be excluded.
  • If you are home with your child because school or daycare is closed or if child care is unavailable, you may be eligible for both paid sick leave and expanded family medical leave for a total of 12 weeks. After the first 10 days, you will receive two-thirds of your pay for the subsequent 10 weeks.
  • The paid leave doesn’t apply if your employer’s business is closed, if you are furloughed or if you’re collecting unemployment benefits.

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