VIDEO: A policy update on the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

On Wednesday March 19, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This package builds on the $8.3 billion measure passed the week before which provides direct resources to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies to tackle the disease.

Our community is particularly vulnerable during this crisis. For example, Latino children make up one-third of all students receiving free and reduced-priced lunch.

Latinos are also overrepresented in low-wage or hourly positions where remote work is not possible, and despite the success of the Affordable Care Act covering more than four million Latino adults and 600,000 Latino children, many in our community are still uninsured.

The legislation covers a number of issues, including:

  • Free testing for Coronavirus – Private insurance plans are required to provide free tests, as are Medicare, Medicaid, and federal retirement programs. All copays are waived. There is also $1 billion in the package to test uninsured people. Additionally, the federal FMAP (federal matching fund to state Medicaid) is boosted by 6.2% to help states.
  • Paid Sick and Family Leave – This bill establishes a temporary benefit (expires January 2021) paid for by employers with fewer than 500 workers that provides workers 100% of their wages if they have coronavirus and are self-quarantining, and two-thirds of their pay if they are caring for a sick family with the virus. It also permits up to 12 weeks of job-protected family or medical leave at two-thirds pay. The first 14 days of leave could be unpaid, though a worker could choose to use accrued vacation days, personal leave, or other available paid leave for unpaid time off. Following the 14-day period, workers would receive a benefit from their employers that will be at least two-thirds of their normal pay rate. In both cases, businesses would be reimbursed by the federal government through a refundable tax credit.
  • Nutrition Aid – The bill provides $1.3 billion in emergency food aid for low-income pregnant women and their young children, senior citizens, and food banks. It allows states to provide food stamps to make up for lost school lunch benefits if their children are kept home from school and directs $100 million of the funds to U.S. territories.
  • Unemployment Benefits – Workers laid off because of the coronavirus outbreak are already eligible for unemployment benefits, but the legislation provides $1 billion for additional caseloads and administrative costs to encourage temporarily furloughed workers to obtain unemployment benefits.
  • Protection for First Responders – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would be required to issue a temporary rule requiring increased protections against the coronavirus.

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