As all eyes are on Washington, DC today with the inauguration of our 46th President. President Biden has laid out an “aggressive plan” to “change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery, and invest in racial justice.” The 19-page plan the incoming administration published last week calls for legislation to fund, among other things, a national vaccination program, expanded testing, direct payments to individuals and to take other steps including increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. President Biden also seeks to reinstate and expand the paid leave provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA’s mandatory paid leave provisions expired on December 31, however, Congress extended the tax credit for covered employers who voluntarily provide leave. Biden calls for legislation that would:
- Reinstate the requirement that employers provide paid leave and expand coverage to virtually all employers including those with more than 500 and less than 50 employees and provide benefits to healthcare workers and first responders. According to President Biden’s plan, these measures would “extend emergency paid leave to up to 106 million additional workers.”
- Expand paid sick and family medical leave to 14 weeks for the same reasons included in the FFCRA and for time off to get the vaccine.
- Provide a maximum paid leave benefit of $1,400 per-week for eligible workers. “This will provide full wage replacement to workers earning up to $73,000 annually, more than three-quarters of all workers.”
- Reimburse employers with less than 500 employees for the full cost of the leave by extending the tax credits and reimburse state and local governments for the cost of the leave. President Biden’s plan does not address tax credits for employers with more than 500 employees.
- Extend emergency paid leave measures until September 30, 2021.
Our eyes will be fixed on Congress over the next weeks as we watch for legislation which is bound to be hotly contested and unlikely to pass in exactly this form after negotiations. In the meantime, state legislators are also considering new paid leave bills around the country. We are monitoring all of these developments.