Another week has passed during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we have seen the DMV governors close all non-essential businesses, schools closing for another month or even the rest of the school year, the legislatures are working to provide relief to employers and employees. The number of positive cases rise even as we wait with baited breath to see whether all the collective effort is “flattening the curve”.
We have talked to many of you this week about the difficult operations and employment decisions that you are facing. We appreciate the trust you place in us to have conversations which provide you with up-to-date information, integrative advice, and a sense of confidence that you are making solid decisions. As we continue to monitor the policy and legal changes that affect you, we wanted to provide you with some important updates:
- Unemployment. In the DMV, the governments have taken steps to make unemployment compensation more available to employees, including if they have reduced hours or are temporarily furloughed. Employees file for unemployment in the state where they work and not where they live. Please check your jurisdiction for the most up-to-date information.
- Maryland Employers: https://www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/unemployment.shtml
- Virginia Employers: http://www.vec.virginia.gov/
- D.C. Employers: https://does.dc.gov/service/unemployment-compensation-process
- Health Insurance. A common question among our clients is whether they can continue to pay their employees’ health insurance costs if they need to reduce or temporarily eliminate hours. It depends on the employer’s health insurance policy. Many of them are tied to the amount of hours that an employee works so employees may be ineligible if hours are cut and, as of now, no action has been taken to waive this requirement. If this occurs, the employee can elect COBRA. They also may be able to obtain health insurance on the exchange (Maryland and D.C. have opened it up for enrollment now) or be eligible for Medicaid.
- Government-Backed Loans and Grants. Some local, state, and federal governments are creating programs for employers to request money to help them through this time. While many programs are still being developed, you can find a regional run-down in the Firm’s article on financial relief for businesses.
- Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act . Starting next week, employers with less than 500 employees are required to provide paid sick leave and childcare leave. The U.S. Department of Labor has the authority to exempt employers with less than 50 employees that would not be able to continue as a “going concern” because of these paid leaves. It has indicated that the regulations outlining its requirements for this exemption will be released in April. It has also suspended its enforcement of the Act for 30 days as long as employers act in good faith. Despite this reprieve, it is important for employers to begin to implement a policy now to comply with the Act.
We are here for you during this difficult time. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.