Congress on Wednesday passed a sweeping $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan, which will provide federal employees with a few new benefits.
The Senate passed the COVID-19 relief package with some modifications on Saturday, sending it back to the House for another vote.
The House cleared the final version of the bill Wednesday afternoon with a 220-211 vote. No Republicans voted for the bill. President Joe Biden signed the bill into law Thursday afternoon.
The COVID-19 relief package includes $570 million to pay for additional emergency paid leave, a program that sparked some debate among members of Congress in recent weeks.
Full-time federal employees will be able to receive up to 600 hours, or 15 weeks, of paid leave to recover from COVID-19, quarantine or care for a sick family member or a child who is attending virtual school due to the pandemic.
Employees could also use the leave for the purposes of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine or recovering from any symptoms or conditions related to immunization.
There are, however, a few exceptions. Employees can’t use this new emergency paid leave at the same time as any other kind of paid time off, and the leave benefits will be capped at $1,400 a week.
Notably, leave paid to employees will reduce their total service for the purposes of calculating their federal retirement benefits, according to the legislative text.
The vast majority of federal employees are eligible to use this new type of emergency leave, including workers at the Postal Service, Postal Regulatory Commission, the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and the D.C. courts.