House Bill Would Allow For Paid Leave, Testing & Tax Credits To Lessen Impact Of Coronavirus
By Anne Rowe for DPS board, April 10, 2020
As numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in the United States, the federal government is taking actions to reduce the impact on individual and business taxpayers.
COVID-19 is the official name for the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, as of March 14, 2020, there are 142,538 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 135 territories and countries. According to Johns Hopkins, the United States has 2,572 confirmed cases.
As part of the response, the House passed H.R. 6201, Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Here are some of the highlights in the bill:
Funding for nutrition assistance programs. Specifically, funds are designated for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) and the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Also, there is a provision to allow state plans to provide food assistance to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals if not for their schools being closed due to the COVID-19 emergency.
Funding for the Senior Nutrition Program in the Administration for Community Living (ACL). Provides approximately 25 million additional home-delivered and pre-packaged meals to low-income seniors, including those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, who depend on the Senior Nutrition programs in their communities.
Reimbursement for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and services provided to those without health insurance.
Funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Funds will cover the costs of COVID-19 diagnostic testing for veterans receiving care through Medical Services or through Medical Community Care.
Job-protected leave. Government employees and employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees* who have been on the job for at least 30 days will have the right to take job-protected leave. The leave can be used for quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; to care for an at-risk family member quarantined due to exposure to or symptoms of coronavirus; and to care for a child of an employee if the child’s school or child care has been closed or is unavailable due to coronavirus. *The 500 employee language is intended to be more inclusive than the existing protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) but does leave out some employees; you can read more about the controversy from Vox and the New York Times.
Emergency transfers for Unemployment Compensation administration. The bill provides $1 billion for emergency grants to states for activities related to processing and paying unemployment insurance benefits.
Health plan testing coverage. The bill requires private health plans to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, including the cost of a provider, urgent care center, and emergency room visits. Also, Medicare Part B and Advantage, TRICARE, Medicaid, and CHIP must cover expenses for provider visits during which a COVID-19 test is administered or ordered.
Tax credits for paid sick and paid family and medical leave. The bill provides for a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified paid sick or family leave wages paid by an employer for each calendar quarter. The tax credit is allowed against the employer portion of Social Security taxes. The credit applies to amounts paid to employees who are sick or quarantined; a lesser credit applies to amounts paid to employees caring for a family member or for a child whose school or place of care has been closed. Caps and limits apply.
Tax credits for leave apply to self-employed individuals, too. Self-employed individuals qualify for the refundable credits, too, including those who must self-isolate, obtain a diagnosis, or comply with a self-isolation recommendation for coronavirus. Again, those self-employed individuals caring for a family member or for a child whose school or place of care has been closed due to coronavirus, are allowed a lesser refundable tax credit. As with employees, caps and limits apply.
And here’s what’s not in the bill:
No extension of the tax filing deadline in 2020. Fortunately, that no longer matters. On March 20, 2020, the tax filing and payment deadlines were officially extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.
No payroll tax cuts. President Trump called for payroll tax relief to last through the election, but neither party in Congress seems inclined to agree. Why? Primarily because it’s expensive: estimates suggest the cost could reach $90 billion per month.
The vote on the measure was 363-40. You can see how your Representative voted here. You can read the text of the bill here (downloads as a PDF). The Senate has not yet weighed in, but President Trump has endorsed the bill on Twitter, tweeting:
Keep checking back for details.
Some states and local tax authorities are also offering tax relief. For a continually updated list, click here.