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Trump Signs COVID-19 Relief Package

Trump Signs COVID-19 Relief Package

The bill provides free testing for COVID-19, plus paid sick leave to workers being treated for or caring for others with the virus.

Updated March 19, 2020; 11:45am EST

President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which guarantees free testing and offers paid sick leave for people infected with COVID-19 and those caring for family members with the virus. The law, signed on March 18, 2020, is an attempt to help American workers who may face significant disruption due to COVID-19.

The bill provides two weeks of paid sick days for those being tested or treated for COVID-19. People told to quarantine by a government official or doctor due to symptoms or exposure would also be eligible for sick leave benefits. Payments during leave would be capped at $511 per day, which is roughly equal to an annual salary of $133,000.

People who are caring for family members with COVID-19 or who are supervising children whose schools have closed are also eligible for two weeks of paid sick days at a rate of up to two-thirds of their salary, to be capped at $200 per day.

Ten weeks of emergency paid leave will be extended to workers caring for children who are home due to school or daycare closures, also at a rate of up to two-thirds of their salary.

The bill also guarantees free COVID-19 testing if a doctor says a test is needed, including those on Medicare and Medicaid.

The relief offered in the package, however, was not without limits. It restricts sick and emergency leave benefits to government workers and companies with 500 or fewer employees, with exemptions offered to small businesses employing less than 50 people.

The original bill passed by the House of Representatives called for greater sick leave benefits without exemptions. After the White House expressed concerns over the impact of mandatory paid leave on small businesses, an amended bill with exemptions quickly passed both the House and Senate.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for social distancing measures to be employed during the vote. He extended voting from 15 to 30 minutes and asked senators to come onto the floor, vote and quickly leave the chamber.

This is the second coronavirus-related bill to be signed into law. On March 6, Congress approved an $8 billion package to provide funding for medical response to the pandemic, including vaccine development. Lawmakers, with support from the White House, are currently drafting a third bill that would provide direct payments to taxpayers and loans to businesses, including a potential $50 billion in loans to the struggling airline industry.

Sources:
Lauren Egan. “Trump signs off on coronavirus aid bill.” NBCNews.com. March 18, 2020.
Clare Foran and Ted Barrett. “Trump signs coronavirus relief legislation into law.” CNN.com. March 18, 2020.
Abby Vesoulis. “Trump Signs Law to Grant Paid Leave Benefits Amid Coronavirus Crisis—But Millions Won’t Be Eligible.” Time.com. March 18, 2020.

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