The Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on Wednesday, but many did so while holding their noses. The measure, while providing free coronavirus tests and economic relief to millions of Americans who need it, also stands to have negative consequences on small businesses who can't sustain the enhanced benefits they're mandated to provide to employees.
Rep. Fred Keller (R-PA) insisted in a new letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that the next phase of their coronavirus relief effort must provide "immediate small business relief," because those entities are "extremely vulnerable" to the changes. Under the current Family and Medical Leave Act, employers with 50 or more employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But the new measure they just passed provides paid leave in two new laws. The Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act will offer up to 10 weeks of protected paid leave to eligible employees for a coronavirus related reason, and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act gives full-time employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for the same reasons.
“A recent survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses conveyed that 23 percent of its small business members have already experienced a negative impact due to the Coronavirus and that an additional 43 percent expect to see negative effects on their businesses going forward,” Keller writes in his letter to the leaders. “As you know, this is a critical issue for many business owners and their employees, especially small businesses. Congress needs to properly balance the need to protect public health while limiting financial strain on our small businesses.”
President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law Wednesday night. The first phase of Congress's response was an $8.3 billion emergency relief bill focused on mitigating the spread of the disease.