Helping Employees During a Pandemic

Many businesses are obviously scrambling to figure out how to best help their employees during the current crisis. Here is a quick summary of some of the obligations and opportunities available to employers.

Most folks should be getting more familiar with:

1. Congress passed and the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. That legislation requires employers to provide family and medical leave, and sick leave to employees that meet certain qualifications. In exchange, employers will be able to take credits for benefits paid out under the law against payroll taxes it owes/pays on a quarterly basis. There will be some ability for smaller businesses and nonprofits to obtain a waiver from this program, but the details around that are still forthcoming.

2. If your business is subject to a Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, make sure you are complying with those requirements.

3. Employees may be eligible for increased opportunities to qualify for unemployment as a result of the crisis. Employers can find out more information here.

President Trump has declared COVID-19 a national emergency, which opens up some other options for businesses looking to support their employees.

1. Section 139 of the Internal Revenue Code excludes from an employee’s income (i.e., they don’t have to pay taxes on it) any amounts they receive as a “qualified disaster relief payment.” A qualified disaster relief payment can include payments for reasonable and necessary personal expenses. These amounts are also fully deductible by the employer.

2. Employers can set up an employer-sponsored disaster relief fund at a community foundation or other public charity to provide disaster relief grants to employees and their family members. The fund could be set up to receive contributions not just from the employer, but also employees or other interested community members that want to support the employees and their families. As long as the fund is set up to meet certain IRS requirements, it should be able to support the employer’s employees and provide the employer (and anyone else who donates to the fund) with a charitable contribution deduction.

If you have questions on any of the above, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our firm.


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