The Covid-19 pandemic is a time of uncertainty and great change in our work, educational, and social lives. You or someone you know may need information about your rights are if you are sick, if you have to care for a child whose school was closed, if you are told to work from home, or if you are laid off, among other questions. The following material is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice or assistance. The information below is based on current law. Legislative and executive actions at the state and federal levels could change or expand the protections and benefits discussed below. Finally, this is not an exhaustive list of information or resources. Check with your local Community Action Agency, United Way, or other social service agency for additional assistance.
ALERT: The following information will likely change. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and the Administration and Congress are discussing economic stimulus legislation. CHECK BACK HERE for updates on new paid leave, benefits for families and children, unemployment benefits, and economic stimulus provisions.
COVID-19 or Other Public Health Emergencies and the Fair Labor Standards Act Questions and Answers https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/pandemic
- If you are laid off, you should receive your last paycheck. If you do not receive your last paycheck, you can find information about filing a wage and hour complaint at https://labor.mo.gov/DLS/General.
- Generally, the Fair Labor Standards Act only requires an employer to pay you for hours that you actually work. The Department of Labor is encouraging employers to work for flexible solutions to help employees as much as possible.
- Your employer can require you to use your accrued leave if they need to close the office.
- Click on the above link for more information about wage and hour laws.
Pandemic Flu and the Family and Medical Leave Act: Questions and Answers https://www.dol.gov/whd/healthcare/flu_FMLA.htm
- Family Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for an eligible employee who is sick or caring for a sick family member.
- Leave to avoid exposure to an illness is not covered by FMLA.
- There is currently no law protecting leave to care for healthy children, for example if the child’s school is closed but the child is not ill.
- An employer is not required to provide paid sick leave, the Department of Labor is encouraging employers to help employees as much as possible.
- An employee cannot be discriminated against because he or she requested FMLA.
- Click on the above link for more information about the Family and Medical Leave Act
EEOC – Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/pandemic_flu.html
- If you are a person with a disability and that disability puts you at high risk, you may request telework as a reasonable accommodation.
- Employers cannot discriminate against employees on the basis of a protect status such as race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, disability, religion, or age including when making decisions about requiring employees to work from home or laying-off some employees.
- Click on the above link for additional information on the ADA.
Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations – Unemployed Workers
If you are laid off and meet the eligibility requirements, you may be qualified to receive unemployment benefits. You can find information about how to apply for unemployment benefits at https://labor.mo.gov/unemployed-workers. The U.S. Department of Labor has issued guidance to states on how to extend unemployment benefits, and news reports are that Missouri is attempting to augment unemployment benefits.
Handwashing is key to protecting yourself and preventing the spread of flus, and that is impossible if you do not have water. Many utilities have suspended shut-offs during the COVID-19 crisis for unpaid bills including the following:
The Columbia Missourian reported on March 13, 2020, that the City of Columbia will not shut-off utilities for unpaid bills during the COVID-19 crisis. Customers will still be responsible for past and present balances. You can contact the City to discuss payment options. https://www.como.gov/utilities/ucs/
Missouri American Water will also suspend shut-offs during the pandemic and will begin restoration of water service that had been shut-off. https://amwater.com/moaw/customer-service-billing/turn-service-on-off.
Ameren Missouri will not shut-off services for unpaid bills. If you need assistance with past or future balances, contact Ameren Missouri about payment options. https://www.ameren.com/missouri/account/customer-service/payment-options/payment-assistance
If you have lost income, are having difficulty paying your bills, and your utility company is not listed here, call your provider to find out if they are suspending shut-offs and if they will work with you on payment options.
Unfortunately, some people will try to take advantage of the health crisis to steal information from you and scam you out of your money. The Missouri Attorney General is warning consumers to be wary of price gouging schemes in which people are charged high prices for items they need. You also need to be on your guard against phishing attempts, which are emails from people pretending to be health or government officials (like the Centers for Disease Control) asking for your personal information. For more information or to report a scam call 1-800-392-8222 or file a complaint online at https://ago.mo.gov/app/consumercomplaint. Ameren Missouri is urging customers to be aware of scammers pretending to be Ameren Missouri employees and threatening to discontinue services if you do not pay them. Ameren provides some tips to protect yourself at https://www.ameren.com/account/customer-service/stop-scammers?wt.mc_id=Scam-COV-Page
Moratorium on Foreclosures and Eviction suspended for FHA insured home loans https://www.fhfa.gov/Media/PublicAffairs/Pages/FHFA-Suspends-Foreclosures-and-Evictions-for-Enterprise-Backed-Mortgages.aspx and USDA Single Family Housing Direct Loans https://www.usda.gov/coronavirus
- The Federal Housing Financing Agency is providing payment forbearance up to 12 months to those impacted by the coronavirus, which means a temporary halt on payments. Homeowners should not just stop making payments. Homeowners should call their loan servicer right away to work out a plan if they are having trouble making their monthly mortgage payments.
- Forbearance does not mean homeowners do not have to pay back the loan, but it gives them time to hopefully find work and reach an agreement with their loan servicer.
- The Federal Housing Finance Agency has directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend all evictions and foreclosures for at least 60 days. This impacts homeowners with a federal government-backed single family mortgage.
- The USDA has issued a foreclosure and eviction moratorium for 60 days effective March 19, 2020, for borrowers with USDA Single Family Housing Direct loans. Contact your local USDA Service Center.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act will go into effect on April 2, 2020. It includes, among other provisions, the following:
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave
- Covers employers with fewer than 500 employees.
- Covers leave for the following reasons:
- “The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19.
- The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID–19.
- The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in subparagraph (1) or has been advised as described in paragraph (2).
- The employee is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions.
- The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
- An employer of health care providers or emergency responders can elect to exclude employees from these leave provisions.”
- Provides 80 hours of paid sick leave to full time employee. For part-time employees, a number of hours equal to the average number of hours the employee works over a 2-week period. Benefits will be capped at $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate if you use the leave for yourself, and will be capped at $200/day or $2000 in the aggregate if you use the leave to care for others. Compensation for leave if caring for a family member will be two-thirds.
- “An employer may not require an employee to use other paid leave provided by the employer to the employee before the employee uses the paid sick time” under this emergency paid leave act.
- The leave does not carry-over and the act sunsets December 31, 2020.
- Employers with 50 or fewer employees can request an exemption if “the imposition of such requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.”
Emergency Family Medical Leave Act Expansion https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave
- Only covers leave for an employee who is unable to work or telework due to the need for leave to care for a son or daughter under the age of 18 whose school or place of care is closed due to the public health emergency.
- Covers employers with fewer than 500 employees.
- Covers employees who have worked at least 30 days for the employer.
- Provides 12 weeks of job-protected leave.
- The first 10 days of leave can be unpaid, but the employee can elect to use any accrued leave. Following that, employees will receive two-thirds pay, but pay cannot exceed $200 a day or $10,000 in the aggregate.