Spring City says federal law expiration will create a problem
By Rhett Wilkinson
SPRING CITY—The Spring City mayor displayed concern for employees through a legislative lens, saying the pending expiration of a federal law helping city employees creates a “problem.”
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) has requirements for employers regarding paid leave for employees who come down with COVID_19. However, the FFCRA expires on Dec. 31.
Mayor Cynthia DeGrey emailed Utah’s congressional representatives about the issue and only heard back from Sen. Mike Lee’s office as Thursday, Dec. 3, the night of the meeting.
Lee’s office said it wasn’t sure what will happen, DeGrey said.
“So they’ll probably try to get something else in place, but we’ll just keep our employees healthy,” DeGrey said.
“That’s right—they’re not allowed to get sick,” Councilman Cody Harmer joked.
“My biggest concern is this has impacted cities on both sides of us,” DeGrey said. She noted that Ephraim’s City Hall was shut down because of infected employees and Mt. Pleasant City has had employees not able to work, causing Spring City lineman Kent Kummer to have to help Mt. Pleasant. As a smaller city, Spring City doesn’t have a lot of backup, DeGrey noted.
“Can we create a fund out of the CARES Act money?” Councilman Chris Anderson asked, referring general assistance the city received for expenses related to the pandemic.
“I would be really nice, but no, we can’t,” DeGrey said. “That money has to be spent by Dec. 31.”
In an interview, Mayor DeGrey said the city offers sick leave, with the number of days based on the number of years of service, and follows Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave if an employee is unable to work because of a health condition or needs to take care of a spouse, parent or child.
At this point, she said, the city council hasn’t decided whether to offer expanded benefits if an employee is affected by COVID-19.
“We didn’t really decide anything,” she said. “We’re going to wait and see if something is renewed. If it’s not, we’ll have more discussion.”
In contrast to the city’s standard leave policy, the FFCRA requires “two weeks of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.”
It also covers up to 12 weeks of paid leave at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay if the employee is unable to work because of a need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
While the act applies to both public and private employers, private companies with 50 or fewer employees can get an exemption if they can prove the leave requirements would hurt them financially. But local governments are not exempt, even if they only have one employee.