City and county governments evaluate how new federal laws could impact employees

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) -- UPDATE 3/27:

A conservation group is suing the U.S. Forest Service to stop a state-and-federal forest restoration project in northern Idaho the group says is clearcutting in one of the largest remaining old-growth cedar, hemlock and grand fir forests in the U.S. West. (Source: MGN)

Brown County Non-Supervisory Labor Association President Zachary Holschbach has responded to the county's implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. CLICK HERE for the statement and to read the policy.

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City and county governments are digesting how newly signed federal guidelines could impact employees if they were to contract the coronavirus.

Brown and Outagamie Counties and the cities of Green Bay and Appleton have all implemented its own sick leave policies related to COVID-19 before the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) takes effect on April 1.

"When Act-10 happened I thought I was walking in quick sand, and this is like Act 10 on steroids and it's changing so quickly and we're trying to navigate and get guidance," said Sandy Matz, human resources director for the City of Appleton.

The act will provide some type of compensation to those who need to take off work due to being diagnosed with COVID-19, quarantined due to having symptoms, take care of a family member with the illness or take care of a kids who are out of school or left without child care due to the virus.

Matz says Appleton's policy would allow employees to use any available paid leave. If they don't have any or not enough, a request can be made for unpaid time off.

The City will continue to pay the employer portion of all medical and dental insurance premiums for employees, even if the employee is on unpaid leave, through May, 2020.

Matz says the guidelines will be re-evaluated as they work through this situation and/or until further guidance or mandates are established by the Federal Government.

Last week, the City of Green Bay put a policy in place that reflects the guidelines under the federal act.

However, the FFCRA allows an employer to exclude emergency responders from the being covered under the act.

"That has not been defined in the act, so it is up to the employer to define it themselves. We have not had conversations with police and fire if we are going to exclude those employees but that is something we will be exploring next week," said Joe Faulds, human resources director for the city of Green Bay.

He says the act is likely written that way because emergency responders are considered essential personal. The city council will meet on April 1 to discuss how to proceed with its own policy when FFCRA take effect.

"We're still working through how we are going to define first responders. We are looking at defining it as any employee that has an impact on the safety or well-being of the community or the public; and we, right now, think that's all of it," said Matz.

Spokespeople for Brown County say emergency responders diagnosed with COVID-19 would be covered under the county's internal policy for up to 80 hours of sick leave and may be eligible for short term disability.

Outagamie county officials say they also have it's own temporary emergency policy in place which parallels the federal act, covering emergency responders for a period of time if they were to get the virus.

Specific details on either county policy were not readily available at the time of this report.