In January 2020 when COVID-19 was first becoming a part of our daily vocabulary, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declared a national public health emergency (PHE). What does that mean? The website PHE.gov explains how they work, what authority they give Secretary Azar, and the effects they can have on government programs. It also maintains a list of current PHEs.
Employer group benefits are affected by PHEs as insurance carriers and retirement plan administrators temporarily modify their processes to accommodate the emergency. Since PHEs can be extended as the need arises, employer groups have the added responsibility of keeping up with changes that happen faster than handbooks can be updated.
See a list of PHE extended deadlines here.
Beginning June 25, 2020, New York State (along with New Jersey and Connecticut) has issued a travel advisory for anyone who lives in or travels to a state with a 10% or higher average COVID-19 infection rate then returns to New York. Visitors and travelers, upon entering New York, are required to self-quarantine for 14 days. The above link includes information on exemptions for essential workers.
With summer vacations increasing out of state travel, employers in New York should inform employees who choose to travel to those states for personal reasons that they will NOT be eligible for New York’s Paid Sick Leave. This does not apply if the employee travels for work or at the employer’s request.
The list of applicable states changes weekly and should be monitored by those planning to travel.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has revised the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application and also created a shortened form for those who meet the requirements. (Previously the guidelines for loan forgiveness were changed to give more flexibility in the amount of time to use the funds and the amount required to be used for payroll.)
Additional details and links to the applications
For employers struggling with how to use the funds from their PPP loan, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act (PPPFA) was signed into law on June 5th, 2020. It includes an extension of the amount of time allowed to use the funds and requires a smaller percentage to be used for payroll in order to have the loan forgiven. Additional details
FFCRA (Federal Leave)
- Effective April 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020
- Applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees
- Emergency Sick Leave
- 2 weeks at regular salary (capped at $511/day and $5,100 total) OR
- 2 weeks at 2/3 of regular salary (capped at $200/day and $2,000 total)
- Emergency FML Expansion
- Additional 10 weeks at 2/3 pay (capped at $200/day and $10,000 total)
- To care for minor child whose school or childcare provider has closed because of COVID-19 public emergency
- Businesses with fewer than 50 employees
- If leave is requested for childcare reasons related to COVID-19
- If the viability of the business would be in jeopardy
- Required Employee Notice
- Employer pays the benefit and is reimbursed via tax credit on Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.
- Employer Infographic
New York Paid Sick Leave
- Effective March 18, 2020 to December 31, 2020
- Job protection and compensation for employees under quarantine authorized by government entity only (or qualified quarantine of dependent under their care)
- Employee must be unable to work from home
- Coordinates with PFL/DBL Expansion
- Employer size as of 1/1/20 and net annual income determines length of leave and compensation
- 10 or fewer employees – must provide unpaid, job-protected sick time during an employee’s period of ordered quarantine or isolation (and then PFL/DBL)
- 10 or fewer employees with net income of more than $1 million – must provide five days of paid sick leave (and then PFL/DBL)
- 11 to 99 employees – must provide five days of paid sick leave (and then PFL/DBL)
- 100 or more employees – must provide up to fourteen days of paid sick leave (no additional PFL/DBL)
- Employer Fact Sheet
New York Paid Family Leave (PFL)/DBL Expansion
- Effective March 18, 2020 to December 31, 2020
- After April 1st, for New Yorkers whose pay exceeds FFCRA Federal Leave salary cap or whose quarantine lasts longer than 14 days
- Applies to employers with fewer than 100 employees
- Supplements the FFCRA benefit up to NY benefit cap
- For employee unable to work while under qualified quarantine, combination of PFL and DBL to $2,884.62/week max
- To care for minor dependent under a qualified quarantine, PFL to $840.70/week max
- Eligibility Infographic
New York now has loans available for those small businesses that did not get Federal aid through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for COVID-19 in 2020. Eligible businesses have fewer than 20 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, and the loans are paid back over a 5 year term. Additional details
To see if your business qualifies for reopening, use this link to enter your county and business category.
In response to the national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Labor announced on May 4th, 2020 a ruling extending deadlines related to employer group benefit plans. Plan Sponsors and employers have extensions to provide some of the required notices, and plan participants/beneficiaries have extended deadlines including Federal COBRA election/premium payments, special enrollment periods, and disability claims. Additional details
Gov. Cuomo announced additional guidelines that each region of the state must meet before they can reopen. He also listed safety precautions that businesses should implement to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.
On April 26th, 2020 Governor Cuomo announced a plan to reopen New York in three phases beginning with construction and manufacturing. The plan will consider regional differences in COVID-19 infection rates and whether businesses are “more essential” and “lower risk.” Additional details