People within the Minnesota dairy farm community are testing positive for COVID-19. With many Minnesotans in the agricultural and processing sectors now being tested and some testing positive for COVID-19, it is likely that more of us will see cases impact our farms and the families that serve them.

What can you expect if a worker is laboratory-confirmed with COVID-19? (MN Dept. of Ag.)

For laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) will call the ill employee to interview them. They may make recommendations about high-risk contacts of the infected person to stay at home (self-quarantine) for 14 days. The personal protective equipment (PPE) normally utilized at your workplace and the social distancing that you have instituted to limit person-to-person spread of COVID-19 among employees will influence the number of contacts who may be considered to be of high or medium risk during this process. If you have any questions, please call MDH at 651-201-5414.

More information available at https://www.mda.state.mn.us/covid-19-agriculture.

Do I need to pay family members or employees with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19? (MN Dept. of Labor and Industry)

The FFCRA (Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act) requires certain employers to provide employees with expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. The expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers and to private employers with fewer than 500 employees. 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.

Generally, the FFCRA provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:

  • If the employee is quarantined: two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay (up to $511 a day and $5,110 in the aggregate), where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to federal, state or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • If the employee is caring for another person subject to quarantine, or childcare: two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (up to $200 a day and $2,000 in the aggregate), where the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an  individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to federal, state or local government order or advice of a health care provider) or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19; and
  • If school or childcare has closed or is unavailable: up to an additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay (up to $200 a day and $12,000 in the aggregate), where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Call the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, at 866-487-9243 with questions or visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave#_ftn3.

Will I be paid back if I am paying an employee for COVID-19-related leave? (Internal Revenue Service)

Eligible Employers are entitled to receive a credit in the full amount of the qualified sick leave wages and qualified family leave wages, plus allocable qualified health plan expenses and the employer’s share of Medicare tax, paid for leave during the period beginning April 1, 2020, and ending December 31, 2020.  The credit is allowed against the taxes imposed on employers by section 3111(a) of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) (the Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance tax (social security tax)) and section 3221(a) of the Code (the Railroad Retirement Tax Act Tier 1 rate) on all wages and compensation paid to all employees.  If the amount of the credit exceeds the employer portion of these federal employment taxes, then the excess is treated as an overpayment and refunded to the employer under sections 6402(a) or 6413(a) of the Code.  The qualified sick leave wages and qualified family leave wages are not subject to the taxes imposed on employers by sections 3111(a) and 3221(a) of the Code and employers (other than those that are subject to the Railroad Retirement Tax Act) are entitled to an additional credit for the taxes on employers imposed by section 3111(b) of the Code (Hospital Insurance (Medicare tax)) on such wages.

Eligible Employers that pay qualified leave wages will be able to retain an amount of all federal employment taxes equal to the amount of the qualified leave wages paid, plus the allocable qualified health plan expenses and the amount of the employer’s share of Medicare tax imposed on those wages, rather than depositing them with the IRS.  The federal employment taxes that are available for retention by Eligible Employers include federal income taxes withheld from employees, the employees’ share of social security and Medicare taxes, and the employer’s share of social security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.

If the federal employment taxes yet to be deposited are not sufficient to cover the Eligible Employer’s cost of qualified leave wages, plus the allocable qualified health plan expenses and the amount of the employer’s share of Medicare tax imposed on those wages, the employer will be able file a request for an advance payment from the IRS.  The IRS expects to begin processing these requests in April 2020.

Eligible Employers claiming the credits for qualified leave wages , plus allocable qualified health plan expenses and the Eligible Employer’s share of Medicare taxes, must retain records and documentation related to and supporting each employee’s leave to substantiate the claim for the credits, as well retaining the Forms 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, and 7200, Advance of Employer Credits Due To COVID-19, and any other applicable filings made to the IRS requesting the credit.

For more detail on the refundable tax credits and the procedures to receive payment of the advance credit, see “How to Claim the Credits.”

I have fewer than 50 employees, aren’t I exempt? (U.S. Department of Labor, adapted)

If providing childcare-related paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. To elect this small business exemption, you should document why your business with fewer than 50 employees meets the criteria set forth by the Department, which will be addressed in more detail in forthcoming regulations.