On July 14, 2020, the Oregon legislature approved more than $200 million of CARES Act funds to provide economic support "to assist vulnerable Oregonians whose lives have been turned upside down" in recent months. The money will go directly to individuals as well as certain qualified businesses through five different programs.
Significantly, the fund creates a benefit that will provide certain employees working for large employers, hospitals and first responders paid time off when subject to a quarantine. These employees were exempted from the paid sick leave benefits previously provided under the federal relief acts.
Quarantine Time Loss Program
$30 million of the $200 million allotment will be used to create a "COVID-19 Leave Fund" which is designed to cover certain employees who cannot take advantage of the leave entitlements of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA). FFCRA only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees and allows healthcare employers and first responders to opt out of coverage. The new Leave Fund allows employees of larger companies (500 or more employees), healthcare workers, and first responders to collect a daily payment of $120 for each day of government-required or healthcare-provider-advised quarantine during which the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work.
Unlike FFCRA's paid sick leave entitlement, the Leave Fund is not capped at 80 hours per employee in 2020, thus allowing employees to collect benefits for the entire duration of their quarantine. Employers are encouraged to proactively inform eligible employees of this Leave Fund, to ensure employees are quarantining when appropriate.
Eligible beneficiaries will apply directly to the Department of Consumer and Business Services certifying the following information:
- Applicant is being directed by a healthcare professional or contact tracer to quarantine and identifies that individual in the application.
- Applicant is unable to work because they are quarantined (pursuant to federal, state, or local government order or advice of a healthcare provider) and/or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- Applicant is not currently receiving or seeking time loss payments through an active worker's' compensation claim related to their COVID-19 status.
- Applicant is not seeking unemployment benefits covering their lost time.
- Other COVID-19 leave is not available to applicant due to one or more of the following:
- Their employer has claimed exemption from the paid emergency COVID-19 sick leave provisions of the FFCRA.
- Their employer is not subject to the provisions of the FFCRA and has provided no COVID-19 sick leave benefits for the year 2020.
- The employee has exhausted the COVID-19 sick leave benefits their employer has provided for quarantine purposes for 2020.1
- Applicant does not anticipate earning more than $60,000 individually in 2020, or their household income will not exceed $120,000 in 2020.
- Applicant agrees in writing to reimburse the state of Oregon the full value of any Quarantine Time Loss payments found by agency staff to have been secured through fraudulent means.
The $30 million will cover both the benefit payments and the administrative costs to manage it. In other words, once that money is exhausted, the benefit will cease.
Unemployment Emergency Relief Checks
$35 million will fund a program to provide $500 Emergency Relief checks to Oregonians who are still waiting for unemployment benefits.
Small Business Relief: $25.6 million in emergency assistance for small businesses facing financial shortfalls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only businesses with 25 or fewer employees that have not received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or any other funds directly from the CARES Act are eligible.
Support for the Arts: $50 million will support music, culture and community venues and organizations that have been closed, cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. Recipients of the grants are listed in the press release.
Black Relief and Resiliency Fund: $62 million to provide economic relief to Black individuals and businesses. The money would be provided as a grant to two entities working in partnership. That partnership will then provide grants ranging from $500 to $3,000 for individuals and $2,000 to $100,000 for businesses and community based nonprofits.
The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.
DWT will continue to provide up-to-date insights and virtual events regarding COVID-19 concerns. Our most recent insights, as well as information about recorded and upcoming virtual events, are available at www.dwt.com/COVID-19.
1 Although the announcement refers to "COVID-19 sick leave," throughout this bullet point, we presume that exhaustion of any paid sick leave benefit provided by the employer is a prerequisite to qualifying for the new Leave Fund.