On February 27, 2021, the House of Representatives passed the American Rescue Plan Act
of 2021 (H.R. 1319). This bill would aid federal employees during this pandemic by providing 600 hours (15 weeks) of COVID-related emergency paid leave for civilian federal employees who are required to quarantine, are ill with COVID-19, are caring for a child whose child care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions or whose school or place of care has been closed or requires or makes optional a virtual learning hybrid in-person/virtual instruction model, or those who are caring for a family member incapable of self-care whose care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19. This leave could also be used to obtain immunization from COVID-19 or for time off due to illness as a result of the immunization. While this benefit is capped at $1,400 per week, it ensures that no employee will go without income while dealing with pandemic-related issues. It expires after September 30, 2021.
The bill would also raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next 4 years
and ensure that federal employees who came into contact with the public or co-workers in the
course of their duties who are then diagnosed with COVID-19 are presumed to have a work-
related illness for purposes of eligibility for workers’ compensation.
In addition, the bill would task the IRS with delivering a third round of economic impact
payments of $1,400 per person and provide families with advance payments of their Child Tax
Credit for tax year 2021. To carry out these new responsibilities, the bill authorizes more than
$1.8 billion in funding, including dedicated funds to integrate, modernize and secure IRS
systems. It would also provide $500 million in no-year money to support COVID-19 activities at
the NTEU-represented Food & Drug Administration (FDA). This will help ensure that FDA has
the funds it needs as its workload grows and shifts in response to the pandemic.
NTEU sent a letter to all the members of the House urging them to support this bill. The bill now goes to the Senate, where the rules on budget reconciliation are stricter than in the House which may force some changes to the bill. NTEU will continue to fight to ensure federal employees are supported and protected throughout the pandemic and I will keep you informed on developments of this bill.
Anthony M. Reardon