COVID-19 Paid Leave and Employer Relief Provisions

March 21, 2020

New information is available from the federal agencies responsible for administering the paid leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law on March 18. Following is a top-line overview with direct links to information available from the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Both agencies are expected to release more details during the week of March 22, which should provide answers to questions orchestras will have about how the requirements and relief apply to staff, musicians, and independent contractors who are not able to work due to rehearsal, concert, and program cancellations; inability to telework; and other impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. The League will keep you informed as to when those details become available.

Mandated Paid Leave for Employees: Employers with up to 500 employees will be required to provide expanded sick leave and family medical leave for specific reasons related to COVID-19, including federal, state, and local government quarantines or isolation orders and caring for a child whose school has closed, and more. By April 2, the U.S. Department of Labor must write the guidelines for implementation, and will also set the date on which the requirements take effect. In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Labor has posted an overview of coronavirus-related topics, and an outline of the paid leave requirements.
 
Relief for Employers: Those employers required to provide emergency paid leave are eligible to recover the costs of employee leave and health insurance through a refundable payroll tax credit for which nonprofits are eligible. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be eligible for an exemption from paid leave requirements if providing the paid leave threatens the viability of the organization. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is currently writing further guidelines for implementation. In the meantime, the agency provides an overview of employer relief provisions.
 
Paid Leave for Self-employed Workers: The law provides for equivalent emergency paid sick leave and family medical leave for self-employed workers through an individual refundable tax credit. The U.S. Department of Treasury is currently writing guidelines for how self-employed individuals may claim the credit. Guidelines are expected to be released in the week of March 22.

In addition to sharing updates about these provisions, the League will keep you informed about further COVID-19 relief currently being shaped by the federal government. It is important to note that the next relief package slated for a vote by Congress on Monday, March 23 may include Small Business Administration Disaster Loans (accessible to nonprofit organizations) with incentives to keep workers on the payroll, such as comprehensive loan forgiveness. See the League's advocacy alert to weigh in with Congress regarding this and other forms of relief.