President Biden Signs $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Bill

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[This article has been updated from an earlier version.]

On March 11, President Joe Biden signed into law the latest round of COVID-19-related legislation, which will provide additional relief to workers and employers through tax credits, expanded federal unemployment benefits and additional small-business aid.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a version of the American Rescue Plan Act on Feb. 27. The U.S. Senate passed a revised version on March 6, which the House recently approved and sent to the president's desk. 

We've rounded up resources and articles from SHRM Online and other trusted outlets on the news.

FFCRA Tax Credit Extension

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which provided certain workers with COVID-19-related paid sick leave, expired on Dec. 31, 2020. Although employers are no longer required to offer such leave, Congress extended the tax credit in prior legislation for employers that voluntarily continued to offer it through March 31. The American Rescue Plan Act extends the tax credit again through Sept. 30.

(Fisher Phillips)

Extended Unemployment Benefits

The federal government's $300 weekly supplement to unemployment benefits was set to expire on March 14. The House initially proposed extending the benefits at a higher weekly rate, but the Senate approved an extension of the unemployment payments at $300 a week through Sept. 6. The first $10,200 in unemployment benefits will be tax-free for households earning up to $150,000. 

The bill also extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for self-employed and gig workers and other workers who don't qualify for state unemployment benefits, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which gives people who have been unemployed long term additional weeks of state benefits. More than 18 million people were collecting unemployment benefits as of mid-February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

(CNBC)

Relief for Restaurants and Others

The bill allocates $50 billion to small businesses, including $28.6 billion for a new grant program that will provide funds to bars, restaurants and other venues that had to close during the pandemic. The bill also expands the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to cover more nonprofits and digital media companies and adds $15 billion to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Grants Program. The bill will also provide financial assistance to individuals and families, schools, and state and local governments. Additional funding will be allocated to COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution.

(U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship)

100% COBRA Subsidy Through September

Under the American Rescue Plan Act stimulus legislation, the government will subsidize 100 percent of COBRA premiums for laid off workers and covered relatives, allowing them to stay on their company-sponsored health plan through September 2021.

(SHRM Online)

$15 Minimum Wage Removed

The initial House version of the stimulus package had included phased increases to the federal minimum wage, which would raise it to $15 an hour by 2025. The Senate parliamentarian, however, ruled against including the minimum wage hike in the pandemic relief bill, which was fast-tracked through the budget reconciliation process. So the final version of the bill did not include the minimum wage provision. 

(NPR)

Employers May Be Eligible for a Second PPP Loan

An economic relief package that was passed in December 2020 also expanded the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act's Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP aims to help struggling businesses keep workers employed during the COVID-19 crisis. Employers that received loans through the program last year may be eligible for a second loan if they meet certain criteria. 

(SHRM Online)

Coronavirus and COVID-19 Resources for the Workplace

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we work and manage employees. Here are some resources from the Society for Human Resource Management to help you work your way through the pandemic.

(SHRM Online)

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