US workers will soon have access to these federally-funded COVID-19 benefits

While the federal government hashes out the details of the third phase of its economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which may include direct payments to taxpayers, here’s a recap of the main coronavirus benefits and protections on the books.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was signed into law last week, will go into effect on April 2 and remain available until at least the end of 2020.

For workers, there are two key parts of the FFCRA: Partially-paid leave for parents forced to take time off from work due to childcare obligations, and emergency paid sick leave. Here’s how the coronavirus-related benefits work.

Paid leave for parents:

This parental benefit is essentially an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), allowing eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks of leave for coronavirus-related childcare reasons without worrying about losing their jobs. The first 10 days of leave may be unpaid (though workers can use their existing sick, vacation or other paid time off benefits, if available). After 10 days, the law requires employers to pay workers at least two-thirds of their regular earnings. Click here for further details about how pay is calculated.

Who’s eligible? In general, all public employees and anyone who works for a private company with less than 500 workers. However, an employee must have been on the payroll for at least 30 days to qualify for the benefit, known as Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL).

Emergency paid sick leave:

This benefit requires employers to provide up to 10 days (80 hours) of emergency paid sick leave (above and beyond a worker’s existing sick leave benefits) for certain types of coronavirus-related situations. Those situations include if a worker is under government or heath care provider-ordered quarantine, caring for an individual (not necessarily a family member) in quarantine, showing COVID-19 or similar symptoms and seeking diagnosis, or must care for a child due to school closures or childcare unavailability.

Who’s eligible? Again, generally speaking, all public workers and anyone who works for a private company with less than 500 workers, regardless of how long they have been on the payroll.


Health care workers and emergency responders may be excluded from both benefits, though other emergency benefits are available to them. The smallest employers may have the right to not provide the benefits in certain cases.

Summit Law Group has published a nuanced breakdown of the FFCRA here.

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