Last night, President-elect Joe Biden unveiled his plan to provide much-needed relief from the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the need for a more aggressive vaccination rollout and additional cash payments to Americans to help the country recover.
Called the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s plan is expected to cost $1.9 trillion.
Along with a general overview of the proposed economic relief plan, employers got a sneak peek into the new administration’s plan for paid leave. Touting that his Plan would extend leave benefits be to 106 more million employees, the President-elect intends to broaden leave obligations for a host of new employers and sweeten the amount of leave available to employees.
Here are the high level points on Biden’s wish list:
- Covered employers expanded: Biden’s paid leave plan would effectively cover all employers with a one-two punch. First, it would require employers with under 500 employees to again provide leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Second, the plan would require employers with 500 or more employees to provide FFCRA leave. Biden also would remove any exemptions for those employers who are smaller than 50 employees.
- Eligible employees expanded: The Biden plan would restore leave rights to first responders, a group which often was exempted by their employers from leave under the FFCRA. Under the FFCRA, employers had the flexibility to deny leave to this group of employees. But not in a Biden administration. Closing this “loophole,” Biden noted, would extend emergency paid leave to up to 106 million additional workers.
- Amount of leave increased: Under the Biden plan, employees would be eligible to take “over 14 weeks of paid sick and family and medical leave to help parents with additional caregiving responsibilities when a child or loved one’s school or care center is closed; for people who have or are caring for people with COVID-19 symptoms, or who are quarantining due to exposure; and for people needing to take time to get the vaccine.”
- Federal employees covered: Under the FFCRA, federal employees were entitled to paid sick leave, but not paid FMLA. Biden’s plan would provide paid FMLA leave to federal workers, which would expand protections to approximately 2 million Americans who work for the federal government.
- More money: Biden would increase the maximum paid leave benefit to $1,400 per week which, he claims, would provide full wage replacement to workers earning up to $73,000 annually.
- Tax credit: Under the Biden plan, smaller employers would fare far better, as the plan would reimburse employers with less than 500 employees for the cost of paid leave, as was the case under FFCRA. As for those employers with 500 or more employees? No soup for you! Larger employers would not reimbursed.
- State and local governments would be reimbursed for the cost of this leave, which was not the case under FFCRA. The Biden lacked any details as to whether school and other public employers would fall within this scope.
Under the American Rescue Plan, President-Elect Biden would extend these emergency paid leave measures through September 30, 2021 “to limit the spread of COVID-19 and provide economic security to millions of working families.”
See the Biden team’s fact sheet (page 7-8) for more details.
Of course, this is simply the President-elect’s opening demand. Buckle up – employers are in for a wild ride.