The current coronavirus pandemic is hitting families in the New York area particularly hard and making life much more of a challenge than it normally is. In response, the federal government passed the Family First Bill, officially known as the H.R. 6201 – Families First Coronavirus Response Act, to help alleviate some of the burdens that families are feeling.

Here is an overview of the Family First Bill and what New Yorkers can do to ensure they receive the full support available from this legislation.

Paid Emergency Leave from Work

Many New Yorkers are out of work due to coronavirus restrictions but the Family First Bill is helping to lessen the blow of unemployment and reduced income. The bill requires certain employers to allow employees to take emergency paid sick leave due to the pandemic. It also includes provisions so that employees can take paid family medical leave to care for children who are now at home because schools are closed.

COVID-19 Testing Coverage

Adequate testing is a major component to controlling the spread of coronavirus, and so the Family First Bill addresses coverage for virus testing and other medical provisions. Most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, are now required to cover COVID-19 tests at no cost to the person being tested. However, insurance plans are not required to pay for treatment for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.

Unemployment Benefits While Under Quarantine

Unemployment benefits have also been expanded as a result of the government’s COVID-19 response so that emergency funding can flow to state unemployment trust funds. The purpose of this provision is to increase access to unemployment benefits for people who are affected directly by the pandemic.

Other Appropriations and Programs

The Family First Bill has expanded other programs as well to support the needs of people who have been medically and financially affected by the pandemic and quarantine restrictions. For example, there have been program modifications made to the Department of Agriculture’s food assistance programs, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program. The bill is providing additional funding to the Department of Defense, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to address pandemic-related needs as well.

Other Things to Know About the Family First Bill

After being passed in both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Donald Trump in March 2020, this bill has come at a cost of billions of dollars to address the relevant needs. The bulk of these funds are staying domestically in the U.S., while a small portion of funds is being allocated for international efforts.

To ensure that you are getting the support you are entitled to during the pandemic, it is advised to inquire with your employer about new benefits that may be available. Local human services nonprofits may be able to offer guidance about getting the support you need that is now covered under the federal coronavirus response act.

Ted Alatsas
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Trusted Brooklyn, New York Family Law Attorney helping NY residents with Elder Law and Asset Protection
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