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Dear Supporter Ji,
On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which authorizes more than $100 billion worth of aid to address the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. This emergency legislation provides paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, expands food assistance and unemployment benefits, and requires employers to provide additional protections for health care workers.
This is the second bill that has been passed in order to address the pandemic, and the situation remains fluid. The first bill, passed on March 6, 2020, provided federal funding in healthcare preparation. Congress and the White House are also reportedly working on additional legislation that will further focus on stimulating the economy.
This is a high level summary of what the Families First Coronavirus Response Act means for you and your family here in the United States.
Impact on Citizenship
According to the Families First Act, non-U.S. citizens are also entitled to certain emergency benefits--specifically, COVID-19 medical care. However, you should be aware of how availing yourself of federally funded benefits, apart from those provided under the Families First Act, could impact future visa and citizenship applications. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has released a factsheet on the Public Charge Rule and has issued this statement. At this time, we are unclear whether the Public Charge Rule will be suspended given the extreme nature of COVID-19. We encourage any non-U.S. citizen seeking government assistance to speak with an attorney specializing in immigration law and/or public assistance programs who can advise you about what programs you may be eligible for and to what extent receiving these benefits may impact your immigration status.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
The new law mandates that all public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees provide 2 weeks of emergency paid sick leave and up to 10 more weeks of emergency family medical leave if impacted by COVID-19. However, this paid sick leave is not available to everyone: exemptions exist for health care workers, emergency responders, and small businesses with fewer than 50 employees.
What employees should know:
1. Workers will be entitled to emergency paid sick time at full pay, up to $511 per day or $5,110 total. (Full-time workers will be entitled up to 80 hours of paid sick time, and part-time employees will be entitled to the average number of hours they work over a 2 week period.)
2. People who are self-employed but work for another employer (like Lyft and Uber drivers) are eligible for a tax credit of up to 2 weeks of sick pay at their average pay and 12 weeks of family leave pay at two-thirds their normal rate.
3. Workers are also eligible for emergency paid sick time if they are caring for others who have been impacted by coronavirus. This also includes the worker who is caring for a son or daughter if a school or place of care has been closed due to coronavirus. Leave taken to care for children whose schools or daycares have closed is paid at two-thirds the employee's regular rate of pay, with a maximum of $200 per day, or $10,000 total.
4. Employers cannot force you to use up your vacation or other sick time before receiving this benefit.
5. Employees who take public health emergency leave are entitled upon return from leave to be restored to their job position or to an equivalent position with equivalent employment benefits and pay.
Whether people rely on their employer’s health care coverage, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, this emergency fund makes everybody eligible for COVID-19 testing. It also creates a new Medicaid option for states to cover uninsured individuals for testing, but this specific state Medicaid option does not provide COVID-19 testing for immigrants who are ineligible for federal nonemergency Medicaid. However, receipt of testing or other health care services through the National Disaster Medical System will not be considered a negative factor in a “public charge” determination, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Unemployment Insurance (UI)
As employees lose hours or their jobs because of temporary work closures due to COVID-19, individuals will need help. UI helps workers and their families get through hard times with cash benefits from states. Under the new emergency fund, $1 billion will be available for states to meet increased demand for UI benefits from people impacted by COVID-19. Contact your state’s unemployment office for additional information about eligibility and filing requirements should you need it.
Food and Nutrition Service
The emergency fund provides Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assistance to families with children who attend a school that has been closed due to COVID-19 and who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals. In order to be eligible, the child’s school must be closed for no less than five consecutive days. This fund also expands federal support for senior meals, food banks and additional food program flexibility to help children who depend on school meals.
The Sikh Coalition recognizes that millions of American families are being financially impacted by COVID-19, including many Sikh American families. As a civil rights organization, we are in the process of shifting some of our organizational priorities, and working with partners, as quickly as possible to better meet some of the unique challenges that we are facing as a nation.
Please expect more COVID-19 support and resources to follow from our team in the days ahead, including updates and additional information on COVID-19 federal emergency funds and legislation as they materialize.
Sim J. Singh
Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager
The Sikh Coalition
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