Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Updated: March 23, 2021

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    The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) guarantees free testing for COVID-19, establishes paid leave for employees, increases Unemployment Insurance, increases federal funding for Medicaid, and expands existing programs to help provide food assistance for families across the country.

    Families First Coronavirus Response Act The FFCRA was passed to ensure that individuals throughout the United States have access to health care, nutrition programs, and expanded family and medical leave or paid sick leave for reasons related to the Coronavirus outbreak. Most of these new requirements will apply from April 1, 2020 through Dec. 31, 2020, while some may last until next year.

    Paid Sick Leave and Family and Medical Leave

    The new requirements for paid leave are administered and enforced by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Employers that are covered by the Act are required to provide the following to their employees:

    • Up to 80 hours of paid sick leave, at the employee’s regular pay rate when the employee is unable to work due to being quarantined (due to the advice of a healthcare provider, or in accordance with Federal, State, or local government orders) and/or has symptoms of COVID-19 and is in the process of being medically diagnosed
    • Up to 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular pay rate when the employee is not able to work due to a need to care for an individual who has been quarantined (due to the advice of a healthcare provider, or in accordance with Federal, State, or local government orders) or to care for a child whose child care provider or school is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19

    Covered employers must provide the following to all employees that have been employed for at least 30 days:

    • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay rate when the employee is unable to work due to having to care for a child whose child care provider or school is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19

    Under the FFCRA, employees qualify for paid sick leave if they are unable to work (or telework) because of the following:

    • The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local isolation or quarantine order due to COVID-19
    • The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine
    • The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a diagnosis from a health care provider
    • The employee is caring for someone who is subject to quarantine, isolation, or self-quarantine orders
    • The employee is taking care of a child whose child care facility or school has been closed due to COVID-19
    • The employee is experiencing any other qualified condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services

    Additionally, employees are qualified for expanded family leave if they are caring for a child whose child care facility or school is closed because of COVID-19.

    Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide two weeks worth (80 hours) of paid sick leave for employees impacted by COVID-19 in the ways mentioned above. Employers will receive tax credits in order to help offset the costs of providing this paid leave to employees. Under the FFCRA, employers are not allowed to require employees to find a replacement worker for themselves, or to require employees to use other paid time off. The FFCRA also provides up to three months of paid family and medical leave, which must be equivalent to no less than two-thirds of the employee’s pay.

    Testing for COVID-19

    The FFCRA also includes funding to provide free testing for COVID-19 to the public, and to ensure that patients do not have to pay copays or deductibles. The Act provides a variety of waivers to help cover the cost of testing by government programs or insurance companies. The Act also provides one billion dollars for the National Disaster Medical System to provide reimbursement for COVID-19 testing and diagnostic services for individuals without health insurance.

    Additionally, the Act includes a temporary 6.2 percent increase in federal payments to states for Medicaid. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will also include the temporary coverage of diagnostic products for low-income children who utilize the program.

    Nutrition programs and food access for families

    The FFCRA will also provide almost one billion dollars to provide meals to individuals experiencing food insecurity. Of those funds, $400 million will be allocated to an emergency food assistance program that will be available through September 2021. The FFCRA also allows waivers to increase the number of people who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and suspends the work requirements for the program.

    This funding will ensure that the country’s nutrition assistance programs will have the necessary resources to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The FFCRA will provide $500 million to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children, to insure that low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children can still access healthy food. Additionally, the Act provides $400 million to food banks around the country to meet the increased needs of families during the pandemic. There is also funding provided for households with children who would receive reduced-price or free meals at school, but whose schools are closed for five or more consecutive days.

    How does the FFCRA impact the military?

    The FFCRA includes $82 million for the Department of Defense to cover diagnostic testing for COVID-19 for all beneficiaries receiving care through the Defense Health Program. It also includes $60 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for COVID-19 diagnostic testing for veterans.

    Additionally, the FFCRA ensures that all individuals who are enrolled in TRICARE, federal workers, and covered veterans are provided COVID-19 diagnostic testing without having to pay cost-sharing.

    More information on FFCRA

    The FFCRA is designed to help provide support to families and businesses during this uncertain time. For more information on the programs and services covered under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, click here.


    About The AuthorHeather Maxey works at a non-profit that addresses military ineligibility. She is an Army spouse, and met her husband while working as a Health Educator at Fort Bragg.


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