On March 12, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) was signed into law, providing an estimated $1.9 trillion stimulus package to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the ARP’s key provisions include a number of employment-related sections that build upon prior legislation to create a scaffold of employer obligations and worker entitlements arising from the pandemic’s impact on the U.S. economy.
On August 8, 2020, President Trump authorized the creation of the Lost Wage Assistance (LWA) program to provide lost wage assistance to unemployed individuals as a result of COVID-19. The LWA is intended to provide additional unemployment assistance after the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s $600 per week supplement expired on July 31, 2020. Under the LWA program, eligible claimants may receive $300 or $400 in supplemental benefits.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will provide grants to participating states, territories and the District of Columbia for lost wage assistance. States may provide eligible claimants $400 per week, with a $300 federal contribution, in addition to an individual’s regular weekly unemployment benefit (UI) amount. The benefit is funded using 75% from the Disaster Relief Fund administered by FEMA and the remaining 25% through state unemployment insurance funding.
As return-to-work orders begin to take effect across the country, businesses have started to emerge from the shadow of COVID-19. This can be a daunting challenge. Extended shutdowns have put many companies on unsure financial footing, leading to a rush to reengage in revenue-generating activities. At the same time, the risk of disease transmission remains potentially high, and businesses must protect their workforces and customers from unnecessary exposure. Balancing these competing forces, while also remaining legally compliant, is no small task.
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On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was signed into law, providing an estimated $2 trillion stimulus package to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the CARES Act has a number of employment-related provisions (as discussed here), a central piece of the legislation expands existing unemployment insurance programs, making far more individuals eligible and providing greater benefits than existing programs. As employers consider workplace actions during this time of uncertainty, understanding the impact of the new unemployment insurance landscape and the options available will inform employers as they make critical decisions suited to their circumstances and workforce.
As COVID-19 cases have swept across the country, state and local governments have reacted by issuing various orders and guidance affecting employers and their employees. Although it is not possible to discuss all related state and local developments that have occurred, this update provides a brief overview of some of these developments to help you maintain compliance for your organization.