Unemployment Benefits Under the CARES Act

The CARES Act allows individuals who are unemployed because of the COVID-19 pandemic to receive temporary UI benefits called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Eligible individuals include workers who would not otherwise qualify for UI benefits under their applicable state (or federal) law for any reason, such as because they:

  • Are self-employed;
  • Are seeking part-time work; or
  • Do not have sufficient work history.

An individual may receive PUA benefits for up to 39 weeks if he or she is otherwise able to work and available for work (as defined under state law), but is unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of at least one of a variety of specified reasons related to COVID-19. The table on page 2 of the attached compliance bulletin provides an outline of these specified reasons. The DOL may establish additional qualifying reasons.

An individual is not eligible for PUA benefits if he or she is:

  • Able to telework; or
  • Receiving paid leave benefits of any kind.

This Compliance Bulletin provides a summary of the CARES Act’s expanded UI benefit provisions and includes information from related guidance issued by the DOL on April 2, 2020, and on April 4, 2020. Additional guidance is expected in the near future.

Contact your NEEBCo representative with questions.

Unemployment Benefits for Coronavirus under the CARES Act

DOL Regulations for Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued temporary regulations under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA created new employer requirements to provide paid sick leave and partially compensated, expanded FMLA leave for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The regulations include important clarifications to the law and earlier DOL guidance on the FFCRA that will help employers understand their obligations under these new paid leave mandates.

The regulations expand on features of the law such as:

  • The small business exemption; The implications of teleworking;
  • Employee leave rights when caring for someone else; and
  • The effect of existing paid leave policies and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave on the new leave mandates.
  • Documentation of need for leave

See the attached Compliance Bulletin for details and contact your NEEBCo representative with questions.

DOL FFCRA Regulations

Employee Compensation and Benefits During Closures and Furloughs

As business closures increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are faced with questions about compensation and health benefit coverage for their employees. Government relief measures may provide compensation for businesses and individuals in certain situations. In other cases, existing rules on employee rights will apply.

This Compliance Overview provides a summary of the issues that employers may encounter when terminating or suspending employment due to COVID-19.

Employee Compensation and Benefits During Closures and Furloughs

Federal Student Loan Relief under the CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday, March 27, 2020, includes several provisions that apply to certain federal student loans owned by the Department of Education.

Specifically, payments on non-defaulted Direct Loans and Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) that are owned by the government are suspended until Sept. 30, 2020. Interest will not accrue on loans that are in payment suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The CARES Act also suspends involuntary collection of defaulted Direct Loans and FFELs that are owned by the government until Sept. 30, 2020, which includes nonjudicial wage garnishment and federal benefit offset, and other types of government collection.

Borrowers must contact their lenders in order to request loan forbearance (i.e., a suspension of payment).

CARES Act and Student Loans

Look-Back Measurement Method and COVID-19

The evolving coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused some confusion and uncertainty in applying the look-back measurement method during periods of layoff, furlough, and COVID-19 related periods of paid and unpaid leave.

Federal agencies have not issued guidance regarding the ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, the general rules for determining employee status apply.

This ACA Compliance Bulletin provides information for employers regarding how the look-back measurement method applies to COVID-19 related absences.

Look-back Measurement Method and COVID-19

Responding to an Employee’s Positive Coronavirus Test

Employers across the country are dealing with the difficult situation of responding to an employee’s positive COVID-19 test.

Employers are responsible for handling the situation swiftly to protect the health of other employees while preserving the affected employee’s confidentiality. This article provides an overview of how the employer can respond to finding out an employee has COVID-19, including responding to the employee, notifying employees and customers and evaluating leave policies.

Responding to an Employee’s Postive Coronavirus Test

Exemptions to Coronavirus Paid Leave Laws

The FFCRA requires covered employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.

The US Department of Labor (DOL) has issued frequently asked questions (FAQs) that address exemptions to the paid leave requirements under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

The FFCRA includes an exemption for small businesses and an exemption for certain types of employees.

  • Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
  • Employers of health care providers or emergency responders are not required to provide these types of employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA.

The DOL’s FAQs on these exemptions address:

  • When the small business exemption applies.
  • Who constitutes a “health care provider” or “emergency responder” who may be excluded from paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave.

This Compliance Bulletin includes the DOL’s FAQs on the FFCRA’s exemptions.

DOL Clarifies Exemptions to Coronavirus Paid Leave Laws

Health Plan Changes under the CARES Act

The CARES Act makes a variety of changes affecting health plans, including coronavirus testing, preventive services and vaccines related to COVID-19, telehealth and HDHPs, as well as over-the-counter medications and products being eligible through tax-advantaged accounts like FSAs, HRAs or HSAs.

While many of the changes are mandatory, there are some discretionary changes that employers can decide whether to make (in consultation with their issuers or benefits administrators). Refer to the attached compliance bulletin for details and contact your NEEBCo representative with questions.

CARES Act Makes Changes for Health Plans

Employee Retention Tax Credits for Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) creates an employee retention tax credit, which is designed to encourage eligible employers to keep employees on their payroll, despite experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19.

The employee retention credit is a fully refundable tax credit equal to 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. This tax credit applies to qualified wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before Jan. 1, 2021. The maximum credit for qualified wages paid to any employee is $5,000.

Eligible employers are those that carry on a trade or business during calendar year 2020, including a tax-exempt organization, and that either:

  • Fully or partially suspend operation during any calendar quarter in 2020 due to orders from a governmental authority limiting commerce, travel or group meetings (for commercial, social, religious, or other purposes) due to COVID-19; or
  • Experience a significant decline in gross receipts during the calendar quarter.

This Compliance Bulletin contains the IRS’ new release regarding the employer retention tax credit.

Employee Retention Tax Credits for Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus

CARES Act – Small Business Loan Overview

The CARES Act includes the following provisions:

  • The Act includes nearly $350 billion for a federal small business loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program. The program is designed to get cash in the hands of suffering small businesses quickly, with less stringent eligibility requirements than the existing U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) loan programs. Paycheck Protection Program loans are designed to incentivize business owners to keep employees on payroll.
  • In addition to businesses already eligible for SBA programs, most businesses with 500 or fewer employees are now eligible for disaster loans of up to $2 million for working capital. Those businesses will also be eligible for an emergency cash advance of $10,000 within days of making the application, which is not repayable even if their loan application is denied.

Below you will find an overview of the eligibility requirements, key loan terms, and how to apply for each program.

CARES Act – Small Business Loan Overview

Paycheck Protection Program Employer Application

Paycheck Protection Program Information Sheet for Borrowers