On Wednesday, March 18, the U.S. Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201), also referred to as “Phase 2” of several anticipated sweeping stimulus packages aimed at curbing the financial hardships befalling American businesses and workers as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. This package is the second in what is expected to be a series of bills that address different aspects of virus-related effects on the country’s healthcare, housing and small business industries.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires employers with more than 50, but fewer than 500, workers to provide sick, family and medical leave to employees affected by the pandemic. The bill ensures two weeks of fully-paid sick leave for individuals unable to work because they are infected and 10 weeks of family and medical leave—at two-thirds pay—for workers who are either facing childcare problems or caring for family members who were exposed to the coronavirus. It caps the daily rate for sick time at $511 per day and $200 per day for other time paid. Employers who have to pay workers under this bill will be made whole for all employees through tax credits. The bill also expands the unemployment insurance fund by $1 billion. These requirements will expire on December 31, 2020. The bill is estimated to cost more than $104 billion over the next 10 years.
Phase 1 of the response stimulus was an $8.3 billion influx to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, state and local health departments, vaccines and medicine, as well as “international activities” to help curb the spread of the virus abroad. President Trump signed it into law on Friday, March 6.
Talk of what will be included in the next package has shifted away from a variety of backstop measures to immediate cash payments to all American households, as well as mortgage and rental relief, which is expected to total more than $1 trillion. States and localities are also rolling out relief packages to aid individuals and temporarily-shuttering businesses. Of particular note for commercial real estate, the Senate draft of Phase 3 now includes a fix to qualified improvement property (QIP).
As COVID-19 continues to spread across the country and the death toll ticks upwards, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now “recommends that for the next eight weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.” The CDC clarifies that this does not apply to businesses or schools.
BOMA International advocacy staff will continue to monitor legislative activity and provide updates as they occur.