Today, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Aside from the much publicized direct $1400 stimulus payments to individuals, there are business-related relief provisions of note to employers:

  • The $300 additional unemployment compensation weekly supplement will continue through September 6, 2021;
  • The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, covering independent contractors and self-employed individuals and extending state limits on benefits, will continue;
  • COBRA insurance continuation coverage will be free from April 1, 2021 through September 2021 for individuals laid off or facing reduced hours;
    • Eligible employees and dependents do not have to pay COBRA premiums;
    • Self-insured employers will be reimbursed through a credit against their payroll taxes;
    • For fully-insured plans, insurers will be reimbursed;
  • An additional $7 billion was injected into the Paycheck Protection Act loan program, which, unfortunately, will still end on March 31, 2021;
  • A new restaurant and hospitality industry specific fund of $24 billion was created to allow employers in those industries to pay payroll, mortgage, rent, utilities, and vendor expenses;
    • Employers may receive up to $5 million, or $10 million for multiple locations, based on the drop in revenue between 2020 and 2019;
  • The FFCRA employee retention credit was extended until December 31, 2021 to encourage businesses with a COVID-19 related closure or business interruption to retain employees; and
  • Employers who voluntarily continue to offer paid sick and family leave similar to that required by the FFCRA will be permitted tax credits equal to the amount of paid leave provided through September 30, 2021;
    • The mandatory paid leave ended on December 31, 2020 and has been voluntary since January 1, 2021;
    • The law adds additional covered reasons for FFCRA paid sick leave:
      • Time spent receiving a COVID-19 vaccination;
      • Time spent recovering from any injury, disability, illness, or condition related to COVID-19 vaccination; or
      • Time spent seeking or awaiting the results of a diagnostic test or medical diagnosis for COVID-19 (or the employer requested a test or diagnosis).
    • On April 1, 2021, employers who choose to extend FFCRA paid leave can re-set (1) the amount of available sick leave to 2 weeks (10 days) and (2) the amount of available family leave to an additional 10 weeks, to be used through September 30, 2021.