UPDATE: On March 18, President Trump signed the $100 million Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Read: What the Newly Passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act Means for You
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On Monday, March 16, the National Small Business Association, a nonpartisan advocacy group, released a poll of more than 950 U.S. small-business owners. The results show that the coronavirus is wreaking "real-world havoc" on those companies, with nearly half already experiencing reduced customer demand for their products and services.
The good news is that Congress is poised to address that concern: On Friday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It covers a relatively wide range of benefits designed to support, among others, employers and employees at small businesses throughout the rest of 2020.
To help understand what that could mean for your company if it passes the Senate, gets signed by the president, and becomes law, I got on the phone with Aaron Holt. He's a labor and employment attorney at Philadelphia-based Cozen O'Connor, ranked last year by The American Lawyer as one of the top 100 law firms in the country. Here are the top-line takeaways:
The bill would provide funding to support up to 14 days of paid sick leave, including coverage for those who leave work to care for others.
It would also amend the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 to guarantee family leave for workers at all companies with fewer than 500 employees. That would involve 14 days of unpaid leave, followed by up to 66 days of leave with two-thirds pay.
It would expand funding for unemployment benefits, and make them easier to obtain.
Employers would be eligible for refundable tax credits equal to the paid leave wages they've paid (capped at $511 daily per employee for sick leave, and $200 daily per employee for family leave).
All of these changes would run through the end of 2020.
To be clear, the bill isn't law yet--and Holt says to expect potential alterations as the Senate sinks its teeth into the subject. "No one really knows what's going to happen as far as changes, because it's all still currently being negotiated," he says. "But everyone appreciates that time is of the essence, and I would expect [a law to be passed] within the week."
He also anticipates seeing more small business-friendly legislation down the road, as the situation continues to evolve. If that happens, Inc. staff writer Kevin Ryan will be tracking it on his ever-growing list of government programs offering financial assistance for small businesses amid the coronavirus crisis. I recommend bookmarking that link--it could prove very useful in the coming months.