The “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act”

On March 28, 2020, Congress passed, and President Trump signed, the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act).  The Act allocates approximately $2 trillion dollars of relief aimed at combating the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The package includes funds for public health spending to combat the coronavirus; cash relief to individuals; and various forms of relief, such as grants and loans, to small and mid-size businesses and vulnerable industries.  If you have questions about how the new laws affect your ability to get relief, please contact us today.

The CARES Act is 880 pages long, divided into the following sections:

  • Title I: Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act
  • Title II: Assistance for American Workers, Families, and Businesses
  • Title III: Supporting America’s Health Care System in the Fight Against the Coronavirus
  • Title IV: Economic Stabilization and Assistance to Severely Distressed Sectors of the United States Economy
  • Title V: Coronavirus Relief Funds
  • Title VI: Miscellaneous Provisions

While the bill provides for broad relief, this post focuses on provisions that directly affect individual workers’ employment.  Correia & Puth’s team can help you navigate your rights under the CARES Act.

Unemployment Benefits for Individual Employees Directly Affected by COVID-19

Under Title II of the Act, Congress established the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, a temporary program that expands unemployment insurance coverage to individuals unable to work due to COVID-19.  Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and part-time workers are eligible for coverage under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program even though they are not eligible for standard unemployment insurance benefits.  The program runs through December 31, 2020.  You may be eligible for coverage under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program if you are otherwise available and able to work, but you cannot work because:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are seeking a diagnosis due to COVID-19 symptoms;
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is seeking a diagnosis due to COVID-19 symptoms;
  • You are caring for a family member or member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is seeking a diagnosis due to COVID-19 symptoms;
  • You are caring for a child or other household member whose regular caretaking facility has been closed because of COVID-19;
  • You cannot reach your physical workplace due to a quarantine as a direct result of COVID-19; 
  • You cannot reach your physical workplace because a health care provider has instructed you to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  • You are scheduled to begin working but you do not have a job or cannot reach your job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • You have become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of household passed away as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • You quit a job as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • Your place of employment was closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

If you find yourself in any of these unfortunate situations, the CARES Act provides additional relief on top of available state unemployment insurance.  The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program provides an additional $600 per week for up to four months, with the goal of reaching closer to 100% of your normal income than you would reach under state benefits alone.  The Act extends unemployment benefits up to an additional 13 weeks, not to exceed 39 weeks total.  It also eliminates the standard one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance relief to kick in.

Title II also provides individuals with relief in the form of tax rebates.  The rebates are available even if an individual has no income, and no action is generally required.  The IRS will determine whether you qualify for a rebate and based on your 2018 or 2019 tax returns.  If you make less than $75,000 annually ($150,000 for joint filers), then you are eligible to receive a rebate in the maximum amount of $1,200 for a single filer or $2,400 for joint filers.  This amount increases by $500 for each child.  The maximum amount of $1,200 will be reduced by 5% of the tax payer’s adjusted gross income exceeding either $150, 000 for joint filers; $112,500 for heads of household; or $75,000 for other individuals.

Changes to Paid Family Leave and Paid Sick Provisions Originally Established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Title III of the CARES Act makes some changes to the Families First Act’s provisions affecting the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  The changes directly affecting employees are below.

While the Families First Act already expanded the definition of an employee eligible for FMLA coverage so that it includes an employee who has worked for the employer for at least the last 30 calendar days, the CARES Act sets forth a new rule regarding coverage for re-hired employees.  Under the CARES Act, a re-hired employee is eligible for FMLA coverage if she was laid off on March 1, 2020 or later and worked for the employer for at least 30 days of the last 60 calendar days before the layoff.

Also, the CARES Act authorizes the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to exclude certain federal government employers and executive branch employees from the expanded FMLA provisions.

An employer is not required to pay more than $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate in the form of paid family leave for each employee.  The Families First Act failed to specify whether this limit applied per employee.  Similarly, the CARES Act specifies that the Families First Act’s caps on employer spending for paid sick leave is also measured on a per-employee basis.   

For Employees

You can read the full text of the CARES Act here.  Employment laws are complicated, and during this pandemic, they are constantly changing.  Please contact the lawyers at Correia & Puth if you are seeking advice or if you’re experiencing any issues with your employer regarding COVID-19.  We can help clients determine their rights and consider ways to resolve the obstacles to relief.