President Biden has proposed an outline of his requests for the next coronavirus relief bill with an estimated $1.9 trillion price tag to extend many relief measures through the end of September. Some items of interest to employers and their benefit plans include:
- Instituting a fresh round of paid leave protections through September 30, 2021
- This would bring back the FFCRA’s EPSL/EFML requirements, with key changes
- All employers, even those with 500+ employees and the federal government, would be subject
- The 100% tax credit would remain limited to employers <500, but employers in the public sector would be eligible for the tax credit this time around
- It would eliminate exemptions that allowed employers to deny certain leaves to health care workers, emergency responders, and employers with <50 employees
- It would extend a fresh 14 weeks of EPSL/EFML with full wage replacement to $1,400/wk (so those earning up to $73K/yr would receive full wages)
- Aggressively ramping up testing (including rapid testing) and vaccine community distribution centers, hiring 100,000 public health workers to nearly triple the number of community health workers in the US, and doing everything they can to ensure schools can reopen and remain open
- Increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr, and ending the lower sub-minimum wages for tipped employees and those with disabilities
- Extending unemployment insurance protections, including $400/wk enhancements and full federal funding of state works sharing programs, through September
- He also calls for building in an automated pathway to keep extending if the pandemic continues to warrant further extensions past September without having to wait on further Congressional approval
- Subsidize COBRA through the end of September 2021 and increase the Premium Tax Credits available through the public health insurance Exchange Marketplaces
- Proposal for Congress to authorize OSHA to issue a COVID-19 Protection Standard that covers even those workers not typically covered by OSHA, with additional funding for enforcement
- $1,400 direct payments to households, along with extended protections for housing/rent, nutrition, child care, etc.
- This includes a 50% refundable dependent care tax credit of $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for more than one child, phasing out starting at $125,000 in household income
- He’d like the Child Tax Credit to be fully refundable this year and to be increased to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children through the year they turn 17 instead of 16
- $15 billion in grants to more than 1 million of the hardest hit small businesses
- $350 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments
The President also included language indicating he will contact CEOs across the country to urge them to provide generous back hazard pay to frontline workers, but this comment didn’t appear to include an appeal to Congress to force such retroactive pay to occur.
IMA will continue to monitor regulator guidance and offer meaningful, practical, timely information.
This material should not be considered as a substitute for legal, tax and/or actuarial advice. Contact the appropriate professional counsel for such matters. These materials are not exhaustive and are subject to possible changes in applicable laws, rules, and regulations and their interpretations.