Employment Benefits from Covid-19 Relief Bills

Due to the economic effects of the Covid-19 virus, U.S Congress has passed a series of bills hoping to alleviate its economic impact and help those who might be affected. Families First Coronavirus Response Act was one of the first to help everyday workers in this trying time.

The bill provides employees with new leave benefits if they work for an employer with less than 500 employees. The Act allows for eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of job protected leave if they are unable to work because they must take care of a child whose school or daycare is closed due to the coronavirus. To be eligible, employees must have been on the payroll for 30 days. However, businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt if these conditions threaten the viability of the business. Healthcare provider employers may choose to be exempt from these conditions.

According to the bill, the first 10 days of leave may be unpaid, although the employer can substitute vacation, personal, or sick leave for unpaid leave. For the remaining 50 days, the employer is required to pay at least two-thirds of an employee’s regular salary up to $200 per day or $10,000 total. For those hourly employees with varied hourly schedule, the paid leave rate is calculated by looking to the average number of hours the employee worked per day over the 6-month period prior to taking leave.

Furthermore, this Act dictates that eligible employees who are returning from emergency leave will be restored to their previous or equivalent position. Employers are exempt from restoring the position if the positon no longer exists due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus. However, employers are required to make reasonable effort to restore to an equivalent position, and will contact the employee if an equivalent position opens up within 1 year of the employee’s leave.

Additionally, employers are required to provide 2 weeks of paid sick leave for eligible employees. To be eligible, the employee must not be able to work due to a government quarantine order, advised to quarantine by a healthcare provider, suffering from coronavirus like symptoms, caring for somebody in quarantine due to a government order or under medical advice, or caring for a child whose school /daycare has closed due to the coronavirus. The employee must also work for an employer who employs less than 500 employees. Employers with less than 50 employees may be exempt from providing the mandated 2 weeks’ sick leave if it jeopardizes the viability of the business. Healthcare providers may also be exempt from this provision.

Full-time employees will have 80 hours of sick leave while part-time employees will have the average number of work hours over a 2-week period. Similar to the 12 weeks of protected leave, the 2-week sick leave for hourly employees with varied schedules is the average daily work hour over the 6-month period prior to taking leave.

For those employees who are unable to work due to a quarantine order by the government or medical provider, or are experiencing coronavirus like symptoms, they are entitled to be either paid at regular rates, or at minimum wage if their regular rates are lower. Paid-sick leave benefits under these conditions are capped at $511 per day. Employees who are unable to work due to caring for somebody else, either a child whose school has shut down or a person suffering from coronavirus like symptoms, are entitled to be paid at two-thirds their regular rate. Paid-sick leave benefits for these employees are capped at $200 per day.

This bill also requires health insurance providers to provide coverage for Covid-19 testing for no cost to the insured, including co-pays and deductibles. The no-cost sharing provision also extends to Medicaid and Medicare programs.

In addition to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Congress has recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to ease the economic impact of the virus. Among the numerous provisions of the CARES Act, the most impactful will be a widespread payment to most taxpayers. A $1,200 check will be sent to people who have made less than $75,000 in their most recent tax returns. For every $100 earned over $75,000, the coronavirus relief check will decrease by $5. Those who made more than $99,000 will not be eligible for a relief check. Married couples who filed joint tax returns will receive a $2,400 check if they made less than $150,000 annually. Similar to those who filed individual taxes, the amount married couples will receive will decrease if they make over $150,000. Married couples who earned more than $198,000 will not be eligible for a relief check. Although no specific date has been set for when checks will be received, it is estimated that the checks will be sent out in early April, and again in mid-May.

As the government tries to help everyday workers through this difficult time, the most important thing for the general public to do is to exercise healthy and hygienic practices. Be sure to wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds, practice social distancing by avoiding close contact with groups of people, avoid touching your face, cover your mouth if you have to cough, and stay at home if you are not feeling well.

Here at Zhang & Associates, we try to keep you informed and ready. If you have any questions or concerns regarding any immigration related issue, our seasoned staff will be happy to help. For a free evaluation on your case or situation, please email us at info@hooyou.com.

Former U.S. Consular officer, Attorney Sechyi Laiu joined Zhang & Associates, P.C. on June 26, 2017

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu specializes on Consular Processing cases and business development. Attorney Laiu also focuses on TN visas, E visas, CBP administrative proceedings (monetary confiscation, deferred inspection), and overseas financial compliance.

Prior to joining Zhang & Associates, P.C., Attorney Laiu worked for the U.S. Department of State as a Chinese and Portuguese speaking diplomat. As a consular-coned officer who served in Vancouver (Canada), Shenyang (P.R. China), and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Attorney Laiu processed over 30,000 visa cases and worked in every section of Consular Affairs overseas (Fraud Prevention Unit, Immigrant Visas, Non-Immigrant Visas, and American Citizen Services).

He will use his experience and expertise to deliver the highest quality of service to our clients.

Founded in 1996, Zhang & Associates, P.C. offers legal services to clients worldwide in all aspects of U.S immigration law. We have successfully handled over ten thousand immigration cases.

At Zhang & Associates, P.C., our attorneys and supporting professionals are committed to providing high-quality immigration and non-immigration visa services. We specialize in NIW, EB-1, EB-5, PERM, I-485 I-130, H-1B, O, L and J cases. In the past twenty-two years, we have successfully helped over ten thousand clients get green cards. If you plan to apply for a green card, please send your CV to Attorney Jerry Zhang (info@hooyou.com) for a free evaluation.

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