Congress Targets Series of Economic Stimulus Packages
With the coronavirus now reaching all 50 states, the U.S. Congress is acting on a series of economic stimulus packages predicted to be the largest in history.
These bills are being released in phases to try to cope with the health implications and economic uncertainty in the coming months.
Phase 1 was an $8.3 billion bill spurring coronavirus vaccine research and development to address the public health concerns surrounding the pandemic.
The Phase 1 package led to Federal Drug Administration approval of the fourth COVID-19 diagnostic test and human vaccine clinical trials.
But as doctors and hospitals prepare for the worst, businesses around the country must do the same.
With fears of soaring unemployment and some of the largest corporations furloughing workers, Congress’ Phase 2 and Phase 3 stimulus packages are focused on the economy.
The Phase 2 package, passed by the U.S. Senate March 18, contains several provisions that will impact employers:
The bill provides 12 weeks of job-protected paid Family and Medical Leave Act leave—of which the first 14 days may be unpaid—for employees of employers with fewer than 500 workers.
Employers with fewer than 500 employees must also provide full-time employees two weeks of paid sick leave at the regular rate of pay for specific circumstances related to the pandemic.
Part-time employees are entitled to the number of hours of paid sick time equal to the number of hours they work, on average, over a two-week period.
The bill also sets aside $1 billion in emergency unemployment insurance relief, including $500 million for costs associated with increased administration of each state’s unemployment insurance program and $500 million held in reserve to assist states with a projected 10% increase in unemployment.
While official language has not yet been released by the Senate for the Phase 3 stimulus package, the proposal is of unprecedented proportions.
A proposal released by Treasury requests $50 billion to the airline industry, with another $150 billion to “severely distressed” sectors.
Broader economic assistance will be provided directly to individual taxpayers.
$250 billion will be released April 6 and May 18 to families based on income.
The eligibility and the amount such individuals will receive is yet to be determined.
The proposal also creates a Small Business Interruption Loan program, which will appropriate $300 billion in funding.
Employers with 500 employees or less would be eligible and the loan would cover 100% of six weeks of payroll, capped at $1,540 weekly per employee, approximately $80,000 annualized.
The Senate is set to vote on this measure next week.
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