OKLAHOMA CITY — The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted commerce across the country and left small business owners searching for solutions to financial and personnel questions they have never before been confronted with.
The myriad of new laws, regulations, executive orders and ordinances enacted by governmental entities at all levels to combat COVID-19’s human and economic impact often add to the confusion.
Crowe & Dunlevy is monitoring the rapidly evolving legal and policy developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help small businesses navigate the uncertainty of these unprecedented times, attorneys from the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Group have identified the top issues impacting employers.
Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave
The first package of federal legislation, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) brought sweeping changes to the nation’s employee leave laws. The FFCRA’s Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provision requires, with certain exceptions, private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide employees with certain absences related to COVID-19 up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave, with all but the first 10 days being paid leave, subject to certain limitations.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
The Act also requires that all employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide employees with a qualifying COVID-19 leave of absence with two weeks of emergency paid sick leave. This means 80 hours for full-time employees and a typical number of hours over two weeks for part-time employees. The Act also sets the rate of pay for this leave.
FFCRA Employer Tax Relief
Finally, the Act provides employer tax relief for both emergency FMLA and paid sick leave. Each quarter, private sector employers subject to the paid FMLA requirement are entitled to a fully refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified FMLA wages paid by the employer. As for paid sick leave, each quarter, private sector employers subject to the paid leave requirement are entitled to a fully refundable tax credit equal to 100% of the qualified sick leave wages paid by the employer. Both are subject to caps.
Another piece of the federal response, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, contains numerous programs to assist employees, employers and others affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paycheck Protection Program
The CARES Act established a Paycheck Protection Program that provides a forgivable loan to cover eight weeks of payroll costs and some other business costs. This loan is forgiven if a business maintains its workforce and payroll during the eight-week covered period of the loan and the business does not reduce employees’ wages and benefits by more than 25% during the eight-week covered period.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans
The CARES Act also provides advance grants for Economic Injury Disaster Loans as well as a refundable payroll tax credit for 50% of wages paid by businesses to employees if operations were suspended or partially shut down, or gross revenues decreased by 50% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Extended Unemployment Benefits
For employees, the CARES Act extends unemployment benefits by 13 weeks not to exceed 39 weeks, waives the usual one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits and adds an additional $600 per week on top of the unemployment benefit amount paid under Oklahoma law for up to four months.
Crowe & Dunlevy says local, state and federal agencies continue to respond to this pandemic, it is incumbent upon employers to stay informed and compliant in an ever-changing legal and regulatory landscape. Employers can find legal developments, policy updates and other coronavirus information at their website resource center: crowedunlevy.com/covid-19-resource-center.