American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Basics

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) of 2020 required employers with less than 500 employees to provide emergency paid leave to those unable to come to work due to a COVID-19 qualifying event. A tax credit was provided for these employers to claim against amounts paid to employees who took emergency leave during this time. The benefits of the FFCRA officially expired on December 31, 2020.

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This Act expands benefits during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. ARPA allows employers to voluntarily extend the FFCRA benefits through September 30, 2021 in order to continue to receive the tax credits. In addition, the Employer Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) passed under FFCRA which urges employers to retain employees on their payroll during a shutdown or reduction of revenue, was expanded by the Taxpayer Certainty Disaster Tax Relief Act through the end of 2021. CLICK HERE for a summary on ARPA from The National Law Review.

Covered Employers –

ARPA still applies to employers with 500 or fewer employees, with health care providers or emergency responders still possibly being exempt.

Paid Sick Leave –

FFCRA provided:

80 hours (or PT equivalent) of paid sick days if employee:

  • had been told to quarantine by government or doctor
  • shows symptoms of COVID
  • was caring for a family member showing symptoms or in quarantine
  • needed to care for child/ren due to unavailable child care or school closing
  • time off for self-care (employees were compensated at the higher of their regular rate of pay or federal minimum or local minimum wage
  • EFMLA to care for a family member or child not in childcare or school (employees were compensated at two-thirds their regular rate of pay only if employee could not perform work or telework)

ARPA includes the above requirements and was expanded to include tax credits for providing an additional 80 hours of leave as of April 1, 2021 for:

  • time off to acquire a COVID-19 vaccination
  • time off due to any adverse reaction to the vaccination
  • wait time for a COVID-19 test and/or test results

Emergency Family Medical Leave –

ARPA expands the EFML tax credit to employers for voluntarily providing up to 12 weeks of leave for the qualifying events listed above provided the employee has not already exhausted their EFML under FFCRA.

Unemployment Insurance –

Federal unemployment programs have been extended through September 6, 2021. These programs include:

  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PECU) – provides for those who have exhausted their state benefits
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – provides benefits for those whose may not otherwise qualify for regular state benefits
  • A provision for an additional $300/per week for those receiving unemployment benefits

CLICK HERE for more information on Unemployment Insurance through ARPA.


ARPA provides guidance for an employer’s responsibility to provide COBRA assistance to employees who meet the requirements during April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021. Employees are eligible for federal COBRA if they experience a reduction in hours or are involuntarily terminated from employment due to COVID. ARPA does not change state mini-COBRA program requisites or requirements. The DOL has provided a Model Alternative Notice of ARP Continuation Coverage Election Notice for use by insured coverage subject to state continuation requirements between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021. CLICK HERE for additional information on the ARPA COBRA Subsidy.


Through ARPA, OSHA secured additional funding in order to provide employers and employees with information and guidance to provide a healthy and safe workplace environment during a pandemic situation. CLICK HERE for more information on protecting your workplace.

EAF members can call or email us if they have questions on ARPA.

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