The U.S. House of Representatives on March 16 approved by unanimous consent a resolution making "technical corrections" to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that was passed late last week. This action sends the bill to the Senate, which has dispensed with other business to open the floor for the coronavirus relief bill when it arrives from the House. The Senate intends to try to reach agreement among senators to approve the bill on Tuesday, March 17.
The base bill of the Families First Coronavirus Act that passed the House in the early hours of March 14 would require insurers to fully cover coronavirus diagnostics and related services, require employees with fewer than 500 employees to provide affected employees with paid sick and family leave and create tax credits for affected employers, expand food and nutrition services, allow for emergency state unemployment insurance grants, and increase Medicaid funding to states, among other things.
NATSO joined 75 organizations in signing a letter urging the Senate to amend the House bill and replace the employer paid leave mandate with a federal program that provides direct distribution by the Social Security Administration to employees on leave for COVID-related absence or a similar program using unemployment insurance for leave. The Social Security Administration program or a similar unemployment insurance program, in conjunction with other incentives, will encourage employers to keep employees “on the books” and maintain health insurance, while the bill as currently written would encourage employers to reduce their workforce in the face of uncertainty and force workers to turn to unemployment insurance as a result of unemployment and medicaid.
In the letter addressed to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the organizations said that the leave mandates in H.R. 6201 presume liquidity and a tolerance for debt that simply does not exist at this time. “We fear that these mandates will accelerate small and medium business closures, causing many Americans to lose employer-provided health benefits while straining the administrative and financial resources of state unemployment agencies,” they wrote.
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