The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 (CAA) was signed into law by President Trump on December 27, 2020. The Act includes a provision in Section 286 addressing the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act’s (FFCRA) paid sick and extended family leave requirements. The FFCRA was enacted initially in March of 2020, and its paid leave provisions are expired on December 31, 2020. However, the CAA gives employers the option of extending the availability of FFCRA leave through March 31, 2021.

The FFCRA created requirements for certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and family leave for specific qualifying events related to COVID-19 exposure and school and childcare closures. Refundable tax credits for employers have helped offset the cost of employee salaries and health benefits during these periods of paid leave. As the expiration date of December 31, 2020, has passed, it is critical to understand the CAA did not extend the mandatory leave law. Employers can now voluntarily offer this paid leave and receive the related tax credits through March 31, 2021.

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Extending paid leave became an option for employers as of January 1, 2021. Many employers may want to offer paid leave voluntarily. In that case, they need to do so in just the same way that they handled the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) originally. Functionally, the leave criteria and related rules and the tax credits/refunds to employers will remain the same as they have since March of 2020. The change is that employers may choose to provide the leave or not.

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