Michael S. Powers

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House Recalls Coronavirus Relief Act for Revision, Sends Amended Version to Senate

The U.S. House of Representatives has taken the somewhat unorthodox step of recalling the Families First Coronavirus Act Bill it had sent to the Senate over the weekend for what were described as “technical corrections.”  Changes were made to the Bill which passed unanimously before the Bill was returned to the Senate.  For additional details on this Bill, please see https://www.mcmahonberger.com/house-of-representatives-passes-the-families-first-coronavirus-act-what-employers-need-to-know/.

Most notably, the new version appears to reduce the types of qualifying eligibility for the Bill’s new FMLA leave provisions.   Under the prior version there were three categories of leave related to Coronavirus, all of which would apply to employees who had worked for at least 30 days for an employer of fewer than 500 employees.  The new version retains only reasons related to caring for a child under the age of 18 due to a need created by the pandemic.

Other changes include strengthening the tax credits for employers impacted by these leaves.  These appear aimed at increasing the amount of sick leave costs that employers can recover.  Additionally, the Bill authorizes the Department of Labor to implement regulations to exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees if compliance would threaten the employer’s continued viability.

These changes have been described as “technical corrections,” described as and administrative fix due to the manner in which the original Bill was hurriedly brought to a vote, but the actual changes seem to run somewhat deeper than administrative cleanup.  To some extent, the qualifying reasons that have been removed from the newer version duplicated the reasons for leave offered under the paid sick leave provisions.  However, that could also be said of the childcare-related reasons which were retained.  House leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has stated that additional relief measures will be forthcoming.

At this point, details on the changes are scarce.  Line item changes were read on the floor of the House prior to the passage of the revisions.  The Senate seems likely to vote on the Bill either Wednesday or Thursday, and it may only be then that a clear picture of these new policies emerges.  The Senate had originally hoped to vote on the Bill Wednesday morning, until the inclusion of a last-minute amendment by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY_.  Senator Paul has refused to withdraw the amendment.  As such it will require a vote, which has delayed the vote on the Bill itself.  Senator Paul’s amendment, which addresses disparate topics such as withdrawal of U.S. military from foreign engagements, has been described as “doomed” and is not likely to pass.

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