Expanded Employee Retention Tax Credit

The new COVID-19 Economic Relief Package significantly expands the employee retention tax credit beginning on January 1, 2021. The credit expires on June 30, 2021. The prior credit was 50% on $10,000 in qualified wages for the whole year (or a maximum of $5,000 per employee). The new credit is 70% on $10,000 in wages per quarter (or a maximum $14,000 per employee through June 30th).

The new law also expands which employers are eligible. Prior to the new law, the employee retention tax credit applied only to an employer who experienced a decline in gross receipts of more than 50% in a quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019. Eligibility is now expanded to include employers who experienced a decline of more than 20%.

In addition, the employee cap under which it is easier to claim the tax credit has been raised to 500 employees from 100 employees. Now, employers with 500 or fewer employees can claim the credit for wages to paid to employees irrespective of whether the employee is providing services.

Employers can now also receive both the Employee Retention Tax Credit and a PPP loan, just not to cover the same payroll expenses.

Family Forward NC COVID-19 Rapid Response Program

A newly-launched Family Forward NC COVID-19 Rapid Response program is providing employers with HR experts, resources and support as they face family workplace issues as they return to work or retool their business.

Family-friendly business practices such as support for child care, along with paid leave, flexible work options, and other policies and practices are more important than ever to help employers return to business (and employees to return to work) in a way that allows for continued viability for business and continued health and well-being for the families of all workers.

Through Family Forward NC’s Rapid Response program, employers can access:

Learn more about Rapid Response.

CDC Guidance for Businesses & Employers

Health and government officials are working together to maintain the safety, security, and health of the American people. Small businesses are encouraged to do their part to keep their employees, customers, and themselves healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the most up-to-date information on COVID-19. This interim guidance is based on what is currently known about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

For updates from the CDC for business and employers, see the following:

NC Unemployment Benefits

For Employers

Unemployment insurance tax is a tax on employer payrolls paid by employers from which unemployment benefits are paid to qualified unemployed workers. In accordance with Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 118, employers’ accounts will not be charged for individuals who are paid benefits for reasons related to COVID-19. Visit www.des.nc.gov for more details or contact their call center at 919-707-1150 for assistance.

For Employees

Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order 118 lifts some restrictions on unemployment benefits to help workers unemployed due to Covid-19 and those who are employed but will not receive a paycheck. Additionally, it adds benefit eligibility for those out of work because they have the virus or must care for someone who is sick.

It directly aids workers who may have lost wages in restaurants and meeting places due to mass gathering restrictions. Among other changes:

Employees can apply for benefits online at www.des.nc.gov 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or by calling the Customer Call Center at 888-737-0259 on Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. An account must be created to file an application for Unemployment Insurance online. To create your online account, you will need your Social Security Number and a valid email address.

Implementation of CARES Act unemployment programs in NC

The NC Division of Employment Security (DES) has received official guidance from the US Department of Labor on implementing the three unemployment programs under the CARES Act. DES is working to modify their systems to make sure people receive accurate payments.

DES is implementing the programs in the following order:

  1. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): This program provides an additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits to eligible claimants. DES anticipates making the first payments by April 17, 2020.
  2. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): This program provides unemployment compensation for individuals not eligible for regular unemployment insurance or any extensions to unemployment insurance. Independent contractors and self-employed workers can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance starting Friday April 24, 2020. Read important information (how to, payment criteria, tips) before applying.
  3. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): This program provides up to 13 additional weeks of benefits for those who have exhausted their state unemployment benefits. A definitive timeline for completing system updates for this program is not yet available.

Individuals due any benefits prior to the full implementation of these programs, you will be paid retroactively. For additional information, visit the DES website.

CARES Act Economic Impact Payments – Status Check

To help everyone check the status of their Economic Impact (or Stimulus) Payment, the IRS is launching a tool that will provide the status of a payment, including the date it’s scheduled to be deposited or mailed. The "Get My Payment" application (coming mid-April) will also allow individuals to confirm the payment type (direct deposit or check), and enter bank account information for direct deposit if needed. For more information, see www.irs.gov/eip or #COVIDreliefIRS.

COVID-19 Response Act: FMLA Expansion

(Summary provided by TRP Sumner)

On March 18, 2020, the COVID-19 Response Act was signed by the President. The recently passed Act includes separate sections that directly affect employers and employees. Three of the COVID-19 Response Act sections are:


  1. Covers employers with fewer than 500 employees, including small employers who are not covered by the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act).
  2. Employees need only to have been employed for 30 days to be eligible for the new leave.
  3. An eligible employee is allowed 12 weeks of FMLA leave.
  4. Paid leave must be provided for each day of leave after the first 10 days of leave and is subject to a cap of $200 per day or $10,000 total.
  5. The Secretary of Labor has authority to issue regulations for certain reasons to exclude workers in certain essential industries and exempt certain small businesses.
  6. Effective date: No later than April 2, 2020 through December 31, 2020.


  1. Imposes requirements to provide two weeks of sick pay. This covers the 10-day gap of the FMLA Expansion Act.
  2. Covers any employer with under 500 employees.
  3. All employees are covered without a minimum time of employment.
  4. Employers must pay sick leave to any employee unable to work (including teleworking) who is affected by the COVID-19 virus. Included are individuals who have the virus, are quarantined, are seeking a medical diagnosis, are caring for an infected family member, and other related issues to the virus.
  5. Employers must pay full-time employees for 80 hours.
  6. Part-time employees are paid for two weeks based on hours historically averaged over a six-month period.
  7. Under the new regulations, employees who are on sick leave because they are sick can receive their full pay, up to $511 per day or $5110 total.
  8. Leave taken to care for children whose school or daycare has closed is paid at two-thirds the employee's regular rate of pay, with a maximum of $200 per day or $10,000 total.
  9. Employers cannot force you to use up your vacation or other sick time before receiving this benefit. There is a ten-day waiting period before this benefit applies. Employees can use existing sick or vacation time to cover these days.


The Act provides a series of refundable tax credits for employers paying paid sick leave or family medical leave including tax relief for self-employed individuals. These tax credits will apply against the employer portion of Social Security taxes.

  1. Employers receive tax credits for 100 percent of what they pay out to employees, with the above-noted limits.
  2. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees can be exempted from these requirements by the Secretary of Labor.
  3. Employers with fewer than 25 employees do not have to restore employees to their previous positions.

The imposed pay limits may impact the amount of the tax credit. However, employers will receive a refund if their costs for qualified sick leave or qualified family leave wages exceed the taxes they would owe.

IRS/DOL Joint Guidance – Refundable Payroll Tax Credits

The IRS and DOL recently issued joint guidance enabling small and midsize employers to begin taking advantage of the two new refundable payroll tax credits designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing Coronavirus-related leave to their employees.

Click here to review a summary provided by JDSupra.

DOL Guidance on Paid Sick Leave and FMLA

The US Department of Labor has issued additional guidance explaining the paid sick leave and Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) provisions under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. It includes links to a Fact Sheet for Employers, Fact Sheet for Employees, and a Q&A document. Click here for their news release.

Managing Remote Workers

Tips for Managing Your Mental Health During COVID-19

Do you feel hopeless or lack initiative? Are you sleeping less and drinking more? Maybe you feel anxious or are worried about the health of your family or your employees’ families. Those are just a few of the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression that might manifest during a prolonged or unexpected crisis like COVID-19. And, these feelings don’t discriminate. Your family, friends, neighbors, and employees are likely struggling with the same pressures. Click here to view the infographic with tips for managing your mental health during COVID-19.

Managing Your Virtual Office 

Just a few weeks ago, only 5.2% of US employees reported working from home all of the time and another 43% said they did so occassionally. By now, that figure has skyrocketed. Most of us are probably juggling cats on keyboards, sharing office hours (and bandwidth) with our spouses and children, and coordinating Zoom meetings rather than carpools. (In fact, Zoom reports their usage is up 649% in the last month!) For some people, this has been a rude awakening. Others are hoping this is a sign of things to come. Click here to view the infographic with tips on how to manage your virtual office.