New Covid-19 Relief Bill Provides For Voluntary Extension Of FFCRA Benefits, Refundable Tax Credits Continuation, And Expansion Of Unemployment Benefits

As a result of the signing of the $900 billion pandemic relief bill (hereinafter, the “Relief Bill”) by the President of the United States on December 27, 2020, employers who choose to provide voluntary extension of leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) will be entitled to refundable tax credit continuation. Notably, however, the requirement that employers provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020.

Optional FFCRA Tax Credits Extended Through March 31, 2021

The Relief Bill did not extend the FFCRA requirement where covered employers must provide Emergency FMLA Leave and Emergency Paid Sick Leave to qualifying employees. As a result, after December 31, 2020, FFCRA-covered employers may voluntarily provide continued leave benefits to employees who did not exhaust their FFCRA allotment prior to said date and may allow them to enjoy the unused leave if such leave would otherwise be covered by the FFCRA. To incentivize employers to continue providing leave benefits on a voluntary basis, the new dispositions provide for FFCRA-covered employers that elect to extend FFCRA-like benefits voluntarily, to continue to reap the refundable dollar-for-dollar payroll tax credit associated with the program through March 31, 2021.

Extension of Unemployment Benefits

The Relief Bill expanded unemployment insurance benefits available to workers through the CARES Act Unemployment Programs through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program (“FPUC”). FPUC allows individuals who are currently unemployed and receiving any unemployment benefits, to receive an additional $300 in benefits for each week of unemployment between December 26, 2020 and March 14, 2021. Also, the Relief Bill extends benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (“PEUC”) Program, by providing for up to 24 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to eligible individuals who have exhausted the unemployment benefits available under Puerto Rico law. With the newest extension to 24 weeks, eligible recipients can now receive up to 50 weeks benefits between state programs and PEUC. These extended benefits are also available through March 14, 2021.

Likewise, the Relief Bill extends benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (“PUA”) until March 14, 2021. After that date, new claimants will be unable to apply for PUA benefits, but individuals who were receiving PUA benefits and who have not exhausted their total 50 weeks of PUA as of that date will continue to receive benefits until April 5, 2021.

If you have any questions or comments regarding this matter or if you’d like assistance to revise or modify your practices and policies accordingly, please contact any of the following attorneys from our Labor & Employment Practice Group at your convenience:

Juan J. Casillas Ayala787
Luis F. Llach-Zúñiga787
Israel Fernández Rodrí
Luis R. Ramos


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