COVID-19 is a global pandemic affecting millions of individuals and small businesses. Whether employees have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, they stand together to face an uncertain future. To help sustain the nation's economy, Congress has passed two bills in support of the deadly virus: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Both packages include several programs aimed to help employees get access to financial support, sick leave, and COVID-19 testing assistance.


Here's a list of the relief programs that are inclusive in the packages:


1. Emergency paid leave

The emergency paid leave is a provision of the FFCRA that offers full-time employees up to 80 hours of paid time off if the employee is sick due to COVID-19. This also extends to employees who are taking care of a child whose daycare is closed. This law applies to both full time and part-time employees. If employees are working part-time, then their leave will depend on the number of hours worked for two weeks.


You can apply time off due to COVID-19 from myPayWow by using Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Extended Family and Medical Leave policies.


2. Penalty-free 401(k) withdrawals

Usually, if employees make withdrawals before the age of 59 1/2, they must pay 10% of the money they withdraw as a penalty. There are certain tax implications as well and employees must meet specific conditions. 


Until the 31st of December 2020, employees who are affected by the novel coronavirus can make withdrawal up to $100,000 from their retirement account without incurring any penalty. 


3. COVID-19 testing and preventive care

If employees are covered under individual or group health insurance, they can get their COVID-19 testing and prevention through their insurance. However, employees must first check with their insurance carriers on what's included in their bulletin regarding the virus. 


The FFCRA covers all the eligible coronavirus tests approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and is marked appropriate for the coronavirus diagnosis by the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).


4. Expanded tax savings

The CARES Act has expanded the use of tax-advantaged health accounts like a flexible savings account (FSA) or a health savings account (HSA), where employees can purchase essential services and supplies free of any taxes.


They can purchase over-the-counter medications using their HSA or FSA accounts. If a retailer doesn’t accept an FSA or HSA card, employees may seek reimbursement. 


5. Help for the unemployed and underemployed

Many unemployment benefits have been made available. Congress has also made more employees eligible for the unemployment programs. To use this benefit, employees must apply for the unemployment benefits through the state regardless of the program they qualify for. 


6. Other ways to save

Due to COVID-19, if employees are working from home or taking public transit to work, they may reduce their commuter benefit election. 


Also, employees may reduce their Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA) election if they have paid for childcare using funds from their DCFSA.