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Senate Passes, Trump Signs Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Friday, March 20, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Algeria Wilson
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Senate Passes, Trump Signs Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201)

March 19, 2020

 

 

Last night, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), hours after the Senate overwhelming approved the legislation. The legislation promotes food security for low-income and vulnerable people, provides paid leave to some workers, provides additional funding for unemployment insurance, and free testing for COVID-19.

 

This multibillion dollar coronavirus response is  considered “a vital down payment” (Food Research & Action Center)  for addressing this public health and economic crisis, but advocates are calling on Congress and the administration to immediately passing a comprehensive stimulus package that will both stabilize the economy and provide direct aid to individuals and families.

 

Brief Overview of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

 

Food Security

 

Provides $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19. 

 

Includes $250 million for increases in meals provided by senior nutrition programs housed in the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living. Food banks and emergency food providers will also receive much-needed commodity support.

 

Gives U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) authority to approve state plans to provide an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card to purchase food to households with children receiving free or reduced-price school meals in the event of school closures.

 

Allows states to request waivers from USDA to provide temporary, emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to SNAP households up to the maximum monthly benefit amount and suspends time limits on SNAP eligibility for unemployed and underemployed individuals.

 

Gives USDA additional authority to issue waivers to support access to the child nutrition programs, including issuing nationwide waivers which would reduce paperwork for states and help more schools, local government agencies, and community organizations quickly adapt and provide meals, waivers that can increase programmatic costs, and waivers to adapt meal pattern requirements in response to disruptions to the food supply.

 

USDA also will have the authority to allow child and adult care centers to operate as non-congregate sites.

 

Employer Leave Policies

Modifies the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and creates a new paid sick leave policy. Both policies include some exemptions for health care providers and emergency responders. Federal law and existing regulations implementing the FMLA define health care providers to include physicians, certain classes of advance practice nurses, podiatrists, dentists, physical therapists and others. The regulations do not include many classes of nurses, as well as many other forms of frontline health care workers, such as custodial staff or facility management personnel. The legislation directs the Secretary of Labor to promulgate regulations within 15 days of the date of effectiveness to address, among other things, the definition of “health care provider.”

 

·      Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. The legislation amends the FMLA to require that employers with fewer than 500 employees provide paid family and medical leave during and related to COVID-19 public health emergencies. The legislation specifically identifies certain child care scenarios that would entitle an employee to this family and medical leave. Specifically, employees can request such leave if their child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19. 

 

Employers may first require the employee take 10 days of unpaid leave, which the employee may substitute with any accrued vacation, personal, or medical or sick leave. Thereafter, the employee can take up to 10 weeks of paid leave. Paid leave under this law means that the employer must pay the employee at not less than two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, but no more than $200 daily or $10,000 in total.

 

The legislation includes several provisions regarding which employees may receive such benefits. Specifically, employers are only required to provide such leave for employees who have worked for the employer for at least 30 calendar days. In addition, employers may exclude from paid family and medical leave health care providers and emergency responders.

 

These provisions are temporary and effective through Dec. 31, 2020.

 

·      Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. The legislation requires employers to provide paid sick leave for employees in certain scenarios specifically related to COVID-19, including that the employee themselves may be awaiting testing or in treatment or quarantine for COVID-19, the employee is caring for someone in a similar scenario, or he or she is caring for a child who, as a result of COVID-19, is not in school or regular child care. Employers must make available 80 hours of paid sick leave for full-time workers, and the legislation provides a formula for determining the amount of paid leave that employers must make available to part-time workers. This leave must be available to employees immediately and is not subject to use of other leave first or dependent on amount of time in employment. Employers may exclude from such benefits health care providers and emergency responders.

 

 

Provisions Impacting Hospitals and Health Systems

 

·      No Cost-sharing for COVID-19 Testing and Testing-related Services

 

·      Temporary Increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) for Medicaid; Increased

 

·      Allotments for Territories

 

·      Medicaid Coverage for the Uninsured

 

·      Funding for Testing and Related Services for the Uninsured

 

·      Treatment of Personal Respiratory Protective Devices as Covered Countermeasures

 

 

Sources:

 

Food Action & Resources Center

https://frac.org/blog/preparing-for-the-impacts-of-the-coronavirus-on-health-well-being-and-food-security

 

 American Hospital Association

https://www.aha.org/advisory/2020-03-19-coronavirus-update-president-signs-families-first-coronavirus-response-act-hr


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