On Wednesday, March 18, President Trump signed H.R. 6201, aka the Families First Coronavirus Response Act , into law. I’ll just go ahead and quote the bill summary, instead of trying to re-summarize it myself:
This bill responds to the coronavirus outbreak by providing paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requiring employers to provide additional protections for health care workers.
Specifically, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes the following provisions:
- Additional funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and additional flexibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients
- Additional funding for emergency food assistance, including specific assistance for children who might depend on school lunch programs for food
- Additional funding for Indian Health Services
- Additional funding for aging and disability services programs
- Additional funding for veterans’ health services
- Expanded unemployment benefits
- Expanded Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits
- Emergency paid sick leave for certain types of employees
- Full cost coverage for COVID-19 testing (costs will be covered either by the insurer or the government)
However, just because these provisions are in the bill doesn’t mean that everyone is provided for. Not all of us will be eligible for paid sick leave, for example. As the Washington Post notes:
The law extends paid sick leave to workers diagnosed with or in quarantine for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. However, the guarantee only applies to employers with more than 50 and fewer than 500 employees. Many essential industries have few companies of that size.
Only 12 percent of workers in essential industries work for companies that will be guaranteed coverage by the bill. The problem is particularly acute for general merchandise companies, such as Target and Walmart. According to the latest estimates from the Census Bureau, 98 percent of workers in the general merchandise industry work for a business that is too large to be eligible for paid sick leave under the new law.
It’s also worth mentioning that, as the bill itself states (and yes, I read the whole thing), “This Act shall take effect not later than 15 days after the date of enactment of this Act.”
So if you get sick between now and April 1 (or maybe April 2, depending on how they’re counting it), you might not be eligible for free COVID-19 testing or emergency sick leave.
But I’m hoping you won’t get sick. Keep social distancing, keep washing your hands, and keep checking back for the latest coronavirus updates.