Federal Policies and Actions Related to COVID-19

By Richard Nugent, Jan Gartner

U.S. Capitol Building

The federal government is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with a number of efforts that have an impact on employees and their employers. We are providing summaries and links to further information here. Currently, this page covers:

  • January 4, 2021: We will publish information about the newest federal relief package, including the new PPP loan program, when we learn more. Thank you for your patience.
  • Executive Order on deferral of payroll taxes (added August 30)
  • Families First
  • CARES Act

Be sure to see our general Congregations as Employers During the COVID-19 Pandemic page, with information about paying staff, benefits, working from home, supervision, and more.

General Information about Federal Programs

Executive Order Deferring Payroll Taxes

On August 8, an Executive Order was issued that deferred the withholding and payment of the employee portion of Social Security taxes (6.2% of pay) for those earning less than $4,000 per biweekly pay period. The IRS released guidance on August 27. In brief:

  1. It's optional.
  2. The payback period is January through April, 2021.
  3. Responsibility for paying back the deferred taxes appears to rest with the employer.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (Public Law 116-127)

The Families First Act was signed into law on March 18, 2020. This new law requires employers to provide:

  • 80 additional hours of paid sick leave to full-time employees (pro-rate for part-time) to employees affected by COVID-19 including those caring for a child whose school or childcare program has closed due to the pandemic;
  • Up to 12 weeks of paid Family and Medical Leave to employees who are unable to work due to school or childcare program closures.
  • Families First provides employers with a 100% refundable payroll tax credit to the wages paid for either paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave under this law.

Further Information on Families First

Coronavirus Aid, Response, and Economic Security Act (CARES)

Congregations can apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans and Economic Injury Loan and Grant Programs regardless of whether they have their own 501(c)(3) determination letter. See the Guide for Small Businesses and the SBA Faith-based FAQ below, as well as these slides from webinars presented by Rev. Richard Nugent (PDF).

The Cares Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020. This Act is a comprehensive economic stimulus package which numerous subsections. The OCSF/UUA CARES Fact Sheet (PDF) addresses:

  • The expansion of Unemployment Insurance to individuals traditionally not eligible for unemployment assistance, including congregational staff;
  • Refundable payroll tax credits for retaining employees;
  • Loans to employers to support retaining staff and other expenses during this pandemic; and
  • Retirement plan changes including waiving of the 10% tax penalty for early distributions, expanded loan benefits, waiver of Required Minimum Distributions during 2020. (The UUA Retirement Committee has opted to authorize participants to take advantage of these provisions. See TIAA and CARES Act (PDF).)

Further Information on CARES

General CARES Resources

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Resources

January 4, 2021: We will post information about the new PPP program when available.

Did your congregation apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan? Or choose not to? We are interested in learning about congregations' experiences. Please complete our survey.