covid19

Coronavirus—Protecting you and the AB Financial staff

We understand that everyone is concerned about Coronavirus. AB Financial Group is as well, which is why we are taking precautions to keep our clients and our staff safe.

While the threat of Coronavirus exists, we are asking clients to refrain from visiting the AB Financial Group office. If you have tax documents to deliver or need to communicate with our team, please do so through your client portal.

 


 

Latest Federal Updates

U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offering disaster assistance in response to COVID-19

March 21, 2020

Under the recently enacted Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act (the Act), small businesses that have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19 can apply for low-interest federal disaster loans through SBA. Small businesses and nonprofits can apply for working capital loans of up to $2 million.

We’ve highlighted the following key details of the Act for you here, but you can also learn more by visiting the COVID-19 disaster assistance page on SBA’s website.

  • State governors must first request access to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Once the declaration is made, information on the application process for disaster loan assistance will be made available to affected small businesses within the given state.
  • Loans carry an interest rate of 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofits.
  • Loans can be used to cover accounts payable, debts, payroll and other bills.
  • Loans can be offered with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable—up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Businesses will apply for loans online and select “Economic Injury” as the reason for seeking assistance.
  • SBA offers disaster assistance via its customer service center. If you have questions or want to check if your state is eligible, contact U.S. Small Business Administration via phone at 800-659-2955 (TTY: 800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

The coronavirus situation is changing rapidly, as are the updates to various relief efforts. We will continue to monitor news and keep you updated as clarification is provided.

If you have questions, be sure to reach out to us. Our entire team is here to support and guide you!

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) expanded to provide relief to those affected by COVID-19

 


 

March 20, 2020

“The Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (FFCRA), which goes into effect April 2, 2020 and expires December 31, 2020, responds to the coronavirus outbreak by providing additional assistance in the areas of COVID-19 testing, sick leave, food assistance and more. We’ve compiled key details of FFCRA that we believe you need to know.

In summary, the Act:

  • Requires private insurance plans to provide free COVID-19 testing.
  • Requires employers to provide emergency paid sick leave to workers affected by COVID-19 and expands family and medical leave.
  • Offers increased funding for state unemployment insurance, food stamp and nutritional programs.

More specifically, here’s what FFCRA means for both business owners and employees in the areas of sick leave and expanded family and medical leave.

  • Employees are eligible for up to two weeks of sick leave (full pay for self, 2/3 pay for family care) for illness, quarantine or school closures.
  • Employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of FMLA leave for school closures (10 days unpaid and then up to 10 weeks at 2/3 pay).
  • FMLA expansion covers:
    • Employers with fewer than 500 employees.
    • Employees who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days (some exclusions may apply).
    • Employees who must care for children under the age of 18 in the event of school and place-of-care closures or if care provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency with respect to COVID-19.
  • Emergency paid sick leave covers:
    • Employers with fewer than 500 employees.
    • All employees no matter the length of employment (some exclusions may apply).
  • Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.

The coronavirus situation is changing rapidly, as are the updates to various relief efforts. We will continue to monitor news and keep you updated as clarification is provided.

If you have questions, be sure to reach out to us. Our entire team is here to support and guide you!

Tax filing extension

 


 

March 20, 2020

On March 20, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin announced that the tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020. According to Mnuchin, “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.”

Note that this is a follow-up announcement to Notice 2020-17 that had previously only extended the payment deadline until July 15, 2020.

Tax update: Treasury Department and IRS defer tax payment deadline 90 days

 


 

March 19, 2020

The Treasury Department and the IRS have announced special payment relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This information is contained in Notice 2020-17. Key details are as follows:

  • The income tax payment deadline for individual returns is automatically extended until July 15, 2020 for up to $1 million of 2019 tax due.
  • Payment relief applies to all individual returns—including self-employed individuals and all entities other than C Corporations (e.g., trusts or estates).
  • For C Corporations, the income tax payment deadline is also automatically extended until July 15, 2020 for up to $10 million of 2019 tax due.
  • Tax payment relief also includes estimated tax payments for 2020 that are normally due April 15.
  • Postponement of tax payments applies to federal returns only.
  • While payments can be deferred, the filing deadline has NOT been extended. Taxpayers are expected to file returns by April 15, 2020, or file an extension.
  • The IRS encourages Americans who can file their taxes before April 15, 2020 to do so in order to take advantage of any refund due to them.

Additionally, President Trump has signed into law emergency legislation known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to assist American families and businesses. (Please note that further guidance will be issued this week. Please note that further guidance will be issued this week).

 


 

Overview of the new law

The intent of the new law is to provide emergency paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave, as well as additional funding to food assistance and unemployment programs, in response to COVID-19. According to Pew Research, almost a quarter of American workers do not have paid sick leave. Many of these people work for small businesses that employ between 1 and 100 employees. Likewise, the US doesn’t have nationally mandated paid family and medical leave.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) steps in to close the gap for these workers by providing two weeks of paid sick leave. It also provides up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave by making amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Please note: These benefits are not permanent; they only apply to a public health emergency (PHE) due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Because this is an additional cost for small businesses, the FFCRA also provides some exemptions and tax credits for those who qualify. These benefits and credits are also available to the self-employed and gig workers, although the FFCRA has a few extra requirements for demonstrating that such workers comply with the rules.

So if you’re ready, let’s wash our hands, give each other six feet of space, and go through the details of this new law together. OK? Alright.

Timing

The FFCRA was signed into law on March 18, 2020 and the benefits must begin within 15 days of that date. All of the benefits will expire on December 31, 2020.

Food assistance for low-income families

The first part of the FFCRA relates to assistance for families who normally receive reduced or free school lunches. There is additional funding for food programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP).

How families qualify

If schools for children of these families are consecutively closed for five days or more, the families will be eligible for additional food assistance through meals at home.

 

How it’s administered

These benefits will likely be provided through the regular electronic benefit transfer (EBT) system currently used for these programs.

 

Emergency paid leave 

One of the new benefits created by the FFCRA is what’s known as “emergency paid leave.” If an individual is unable to work because COVID-19 has affected them in one of the ways detailed below, they may be able to take up to two weeks (10 workdays) off and still get paid.

 

How employees qualify

There are several instances where an employee will qualify for emergency paid leave, including the following:

  1. The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.
  2. The employee is quarantined at the direction of a health authority or healthcare provider to prevent spread of COVID-19.
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a diagnosis.
  4. The employee is caring for another person who is subject to #1 or #2 above.
  5. The employee is caring for a child or another person due to closure of a school or other facility due to COVID-19.
  6. The employee is experiencing similar conditions that have been specified by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

 

How much paid leave 

Full-time employees are eligible for 80 hours and part-time folks get their average number of hours worked in a two-week period.

 

Rate of pay

The amount of the benefit depends on how the employee qualifies. For example, if an individual is subject to #1, #2, or #3 above, they will be paid the greatest of:

  • Their regular rate of pay;
  • The Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage rate; or
  • The state or locality’s minimum wage rate.

The maximum benefit is $511 per day for 80 total hours (i.e., two work-weeks), which works out to a total maximum benefit of $5,110.

If an employee qualifies because of #4, #5, or #6 above, then the amount is two-thirds of the applicable rate, with a maximum benefit of $200 per day and a total max benefit of $2,000.

 

Conditions apply

Always! Both employers and employees are subject to some conditions under this new kind of leave. We’re breaking them out to keep things clear.

For employees:

  • Emergency paid leave does not carry over from one year to the next.
  • Emergency paid leave ends as soon as the employee’s next scheduled shift starts after they no longer qualify for the paid time.
  • Employees don’t have to find anyone to cover for them if they’re taking emergency paid leave.
  • Employees can use emergency paid leave before their regular accrued paid sick time, if they have it.
  • Emergency paid leave does not reduce other accrued leave that an employee may have already.

For employers:

  • Employers have to post all this information in a conspicuous place, like a break room. The US Department of Labor (DOL) will provide an example (usually a poster).
  • An employer cannot fire, discipline, or discriminate against any employee for using or requesting emergency paid leave.
  • Employers who are subject to bargaining agreements must contribute expected amounts to a fund, and the union will distribute to its members as requested.

Any exceptions?

Yep. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt, but only with permission from the US Secretary of Labor. Also, employees who are healthcare workers or emergency responders can be excluded by their employers because, you know, they’ll probably be working during a PHE.

 

Emergency paid leave amendments to the Family Medical and Leave Act

During normal business circumstances, the FMLA protects workers by preventing businesses from dismissing them for certain medical or family situations.

The FFCRA amends the FMLA to include paid leave for public health emergencies when an employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a school or child care facility closure, or if the individual is unavailable as a result of COVID-19 precautions.

So FFRCA not only provides paid sick leave for employees who have been impacted by COVID-19, it also provides them emergency family leave, and protects them from losing their jobs.

 

The benefits of PHE leave under FMLA

Paid family and medical leave under the FMLA will be slightly different from the emergency paid leave that we described above. Here are the details:

  • Employees are eligible for two-thirds of their regular pay based on the hours they’d normally work.
  • Benefit cannot exceed $200 per day or the aggregate of $10,000 and 50 days.
  • Variable-hour employees will be eligible based on the average number of hours they worked in the six months prior to the start of their leave.
  • If the employee didn’t work the last six months, then it will be based on the amount that was anticipated when they were hired.

 

Who’s eligible?

Employees are eligible if they have been employed for at least 30 days and are unable to work because of the need to care for a child under 18 years of age whose school or place of care has been closed, or if they are unavailable due to a COVID-19 PHE. Just like the emergency paid leave, employees who are healthcare providers and emergency responders are not eligible for this benefit.

 

Who’s subject to these new rules?

These FMLA amendments will apply to employers with fewer than 500 employees.

 

Conditions apply

Just like for emergency leave, we’ve broken out the conditions between employers and employees.

For employees:

  • An employee may elect to use other accrued paid sick, personal, or vacation time during the first 10 days of leave. This would allow employees to still get paid during the initial period of emergency leave under FMLA.
  • An employee must provide the employer with notice as soon as is practical, and the employer may require documentation to support the need.

For employers:

  • Like all leave under the FMLA, the employer must restore the employee to their position after the leave has ended.
  • An employer does not have to pay an employee for their first 10 days of leave, but must pay for every day of leave after the first 10 days have passed.
  • Employers of unions must contribute to a fund that will be distributed by the union to its members based on their hours worked.

Any exceptions?

Employers with 50 employees may be exempt from these requirements if the US Secretary of Labor determines that they will jeopardize the business’s viability as a going concern.

Employers with fewer than 25 employees can be exempt from restoring an employee to their position after their leave but only if they meet the following criteria:

  • The position no longer exists due to economic conditions caused by the PHE
  • The employer makes reasonable efforts to restore the employee to a similar position with equivalent compensation and benefits
  • If the above fails, the employer makes reasonable efforts in the year following the end of the leave (or 12 weeks after the leave starts, whichever is earlier) to let the employee know when an equivalent position exists again

Consistent with the FMLA, these new amendments make it very difficult for an employer to dismiss a worker for taking this leave. And they can only do so after trying to provide recourse via another equivalent position.