Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) benefits small businesses and families

April 28, 2020 : H&R Block

As the coronavirus continues to shake up the globe, the U.S. government is jumping in to help small businesses. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law on March 18 to help American families — and small businesses —during the outbreak.

The FFCRA could offer help if your small business is struggling with COVID-19 chaos.

But what is the FFCRA, and what does it cover? We’ve broken down all the need-to-know info for you.

And for more on how your small business can make it through this pandemic, check out the H&R Block small business tax resources for coronavirus.

What is the FFCRA?

Small Businessman Learning About FFCRA

The FFCRA is a new law with several elements, like guaranteed free coronavirus testing, a boost to unemployment insurance, and improvement to food safety programs. The main focus of FFCRA, though, is paid leave.

This act offers employees with paid sick leave through two new laws:

  • The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA)
  • The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA)

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) offers up to 10 weeks of paid leave to eligible employees for coronavirus-related reasons. Employees are eligible if they can’t work (or telework) because they need to care for a child whose school is closed, or whose childcare provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 precautions.

Under standard FMLA guidelines, employees get 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave. With EFMLEA though, the first two weeks can be unpaid, but for the next 10 weeks your qualified employees should be paid two-thirds pay while on leave (as long as they’ve worked for you for at least 30 calendar days).

Your employees can also use any paid personal, medical, or sick days to cover the first 14 days of unpaid leave. Or, as an employer, you can require them to do so.

But does this leave need to be taken all at once, or can your employees spread it out? It depends.

If your employees are still coming into the workplace, they can only break up the leave if you agree, and if it’s because childcare is unavailable. If they’re working from home, however, they can’t spread this leave out under this act; it must be all taken together.

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

Okay, now for part two of FFCRA.

The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) gives full-time employees up to 80 hours, or two weeks, of paid sick leave for coronavirus-related reasons.

An eligible employee is someone unable to work (or telework) because of COVID-19-connected circumstances:

  1. The employee is ill and quarantined, advised to self-quarantine, or seeking a medical diagnosis
  2. The employee is caring for someone who is ill and subject to quarantine or is caring for a child whose school is closed or whose childcare provider is unavailable

Part-time employees are also eligible for sick leave, but only for the average number of hours worked during a regular two-week schedule.

Discrimination or retaliation

We know you’re probably stressed right now with all of the unexpected changes and trying to keep your business afloat. But it’s important to remember that these two acts also prevent employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who use the benefits provided by the act, file complaints against employers, or initiate proceedings against employers.

Are you exempt from FFCRA? What are the requirements?

Are you worried about paying for employee sick leave under this new law? Some employers are exempt.

Your small business may be exempt from both EFMLEA and EPSLA if you have 50 employees or less, and certain other requirements are met. The Department of Labor for more information.

If money is a problem for your small business right now, take a look at these four small business temporary assistance programs.

Are you eligible for FFCRA tax credits?

Tax credits are available to help with the cost of providing paid leave to your employees. Employers can receive credits for giving employees paid sick leave or for family leave.

To be an eligible employer for these credits, you must be a business or tax-exempt organization with 500 employees or less. Your employees on leave, temporary leave, or those who are temporary with a continuing relationship count towards your eligibility. But any independent contractors you employ don’t count towards that 500-employee rule.

Also, you need to offer your employees up to 80 hours (or two weeks) of paid sick leave at 100% of their pay. Your employees must use the paid sick leave due to:

  • COVID-19 symptoms
  • Quarantine
  • Obtaining a medical diagnosis

Additionally, you need to offer your employees 80 hours, or two weeks, of paid sick leave due to the employee being ill, subject to quarantine, or advised to self-quarantine. Employers must pay 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate of pay for employees who are caring for someone in quarantine, or providing childcare because of school or daycare closures, with a limit of $200 per day ($2,000 total).

To qualify for tax credits, your employees need to take the EFMLEA leave between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020.

What are the FFCRA tax credits?

What credits do small businesses actually get? There are two.

You can get a refundable sick leave credit for the amount you paid to employees who are under quarantine, ill, or seeking diagnosis. The credit is for an employee’s regular amount of pay — under EPSLA that is up to $511 a day and up to $5,110, for 10 days total.

And you can also get a tax credit for paying employees under EFMLEA who were acting as caregivers by claiming a credit for the employee’s paid leave: two-thirds of the employee’s standard pay — up to $200 a day and up to $10,000, for 10 weeks total.

Eligible employers can also receive additional credit based on what they spend on health care for qualified employees throughout the leave.

What if you’re self-employed?

Being a small business means you have others who work for you. But what if it’s just you running your business?

FFCRA provides a credit for self-employed individuals carrying on any trade or business if they would be allowed paid leave under the expanded FMLA (EFMLEA).

If you’re self-employed and regularly work for yourself, you could also be eligible for this tax credit (even if you telework for up 10 days throughout the year). You’re self-employed if you are:

  • An independent contractor or sole proprietor
  • A member of a partnership
  • In business for yourself, including part-time

The FFCRA credit is an offset from your self-employment tax, which includes Medicare and Social Security. Read more about paying self-employment tax.

If you take leave for yourself, it must be because you can’t work or telework due to:

  • A federal, state, or local isolation or quarantine order
  • Advisement from a health care provider to self-quarantine
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 leading you to seek a medical diagnosis

Taking a leave for yourself is based on the number of days during the tax year that you can’t work due to the reasons we described above. The credit is the number of days you are on leave multiplied by whichever of these two numbers is smaller:

  • Your average daily self-employment income for the year
  • $511 (the average daily income)

If you need to take leave to take care of a family member because of the coronavirus, it must be because you are unable to work or telework and are:

  • Caring for someone who is under a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order
  • Caring for a child due to a school or daycare closure
  • Experiencing a closely similar scenario

The credit you can receive for caring for someone else is equal to the number of days you can’t work, multiplied by whichever of these two numbers is smaller:

  • Two-thirds of your average daily self-employment income for the taxable year
  • $200

For more specifics on what you could receive if you’re self-employed, check out the IRS website.

How can you get the FFCRA tax credits?

Doesn’t all of this sound great? Okay, now how do you actually get these credits?

You’ll be able to start funding qualified leave by using the money you have reserved for deposit with the IRS for federal tax deposits. Reduce your federal employment tax deposits (which are for federal income taxes and FICA taxes) by the value of the credit. Or, you can also request an advance from the IRS.

And you can include your share of the Medicare tax on those wage payments and the health insurance coverage cost for employees during sick leave. You’re not required to pay your portion of Social Security of FICA on wages you pay an employee for leave.

Report your qualified leave wages and credits on your quarterly Form 941 (the first and second quarter returns are now both due on July 15, 2020).

To take the FFCRA tax credit, you must continue to:

  • Withhold federal income taxes and Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes, which include Social Security and Medicare taxes, from your employees’ regular paychecks
  • Pay these taxes to the IRS with an amount from your portion of the FICA taxes
  • Withhold federal income tax based on the employee’s W-4 form

The FICA tax (together for you and your employees) totals 15.3% of an employee’s gross pay for Medicare and Social Security.

Okay, done! Now, we know that was a lot to digest. These numbers can be complicated. But follow the simple steps in the last section and you can figure out how to get some of the help the government is providing for small businesses right now.

And, as always, reach out to an H&R Block small business expert if you have any tax or accounting questions.

Related Topics

H&R Block

H&R Block