The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Extends the FFCRA and other Employee Benefits
On March 11, 2021, one year after the pandemic began in the United States, Congress passed and President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA-21). ARPA-21 extended the coronavirus-related unemployment and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and created new COBRA premium assistance.
Extension and Expansion of FFRCA Paid Sick and Family Leave Tax Credits
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) that was originally signed into law on March 18, 2020 provides for emergency paid sick leave and extends the existing Family Medical Leave Act to provide for paid leave in some cases related to Coronavirus. An employer may be entitled to receive tax credits equal to 100% of the benefits provided under the FFCRA. ARPA-21 extends the availability of FFCRA payroll tax credits through Sept. 30, 2021 for certain wages paid by covered employers that voluntarily provide qualifying FFCRA leave.
ARPA-21 expanded the paid sick leave portion of the FFCRA by creating a new annual allotment of up to 80 hours per employee of qualifying paid sick leave, excluding the first quarter of 2021. It also expanded the reasons that an employee can qualify for paid sick leave to include:
- seeking or awaiting the results of a diagnostic test for, or a medical diagnosis of, COVID-19 and such employee has been exposed to COVID-19 or the employee’s employer has requested such test or diagnosis;
- obtaining immunization related to COVID-19; and
- recovering from injury, disability, illness, or other condition related to a COVID-19 immunization.
In addition, the ARPA-21 expands the emergency family leave portion of the FFCRA by expanding the qualifying reasons for emergency family leave to include the reasons for paid sick leave (as expanded by the ARPA-21), increasing the per-employee aggregate tax credit cap for emergency family leave from $10,000 to $12,000 and eliminating the requirement for the first 10 days of emergency family leave to be unpaid.
The Extension of the Coronavirus-related Unemployment
ARPA-21 extended the pandemic unemployment assistance (PUA) benefits that were originally created under the CARES Act from 50 weeks to 79 weeks (through September 6, 2021). It also extended the Federal Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides direct payments of $300 per week through September 6, 2021.
Cobra Premium Assistance
ARPA-21 provides COBRA premium assistance for qualified beneficiaries for the period beginning on April 1, 2021 and ending on September 30, 2021. The premium assistance is equal to one hundred percent of the premiums plus administrative fees. COBRA premium assistance is not available to individuals who are eligible for other group health plan coverage. Employers will be reimbursed by the federal government for the premium assistance through a credit or refund of payroll taxes.
Amy’s employment practice includes advising business clients in regard to various employment-related matters including hiring and firing, wage and hour issues, employment agreements, non-compete agreements and the preparation of employee handbooks.
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