On December 21, 2020, Congress passed a $900 billion stimulus package. If signed into law, the second stimulus bill would extend some of the federal protections specifically created during the pandemic for workers and those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, while reducing some of the earlier protections.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed in March, required employers to provide paid leave to employees who become sick with COVID-1, take time off to care for a loved one with COVID-19, or must care for a child’s whose school is closed due to the pandemic. Under the second stimulus bill, effective January 1, employers are no longer required to provide such leave, but may voluntarily do so in exchange for a tax credit. Note, however, that this change does not impact eligibility for leave under applicable NY state law.

In the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020, the bill extends Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and sets the federal supplement at $300 per week (half of what was provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act). If signed into law, this federal supplement would take effect on December 26, 2020 and last until March 14, 2021. Individuals who qualify for payments, could receive the assistance for up to 24 additional weeks (up from 13 additional weeks), including those whose benefits already expired.

In addition, the stimulus bill extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits from the CARES Act. This would continue providing unemployment assistance to those not traditionally eligible for unemployment insurance, including self-employed and gig workers, from December 31, 2020 to March 14, 2021. However, new requirements have been added requiring the self-employed to substantiate wages earned. Individuals who qualify for PUA may receive a maximum of 50 weeks’ worth of assistance, but not beyond April 5, 2021.