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Need Time Off Due to the Coronavirus? You May Be Entitled to Paid Sick Leave

By Christy Bieber – Apr 10, 2020 at 9:45AM

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A federal stimulus bill may entitle you to paid leave even if your employer doesn't normally offer it.

Across the United States, almost 34 million workers lack access to paid sick leave. That's a big problem because millions of Americans may be forced to stay home if they develop symptoms related to the novel coronavirus, if they need to care for a sick family member, or if their child's school or daycare is closed.

The good news: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) extends paid leave to many more Americans who don't normally have this benefit. If you have to take time off to deal with issues related to COVID-19, you should find out if you're one of them. 

Doctor in a white coat talking to older patient.

Image source: Getty Images.

Who gets paid sick leave under the FFCRA?

Under the FFCRA, most public and private employers with fewer than 500 employees are required to provide expanded paid sick leave. The law entitles covered workers to the following:

  • A maximum of two weeks or 80 hours of paid sick leave at their regular pay rate if they're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and waiting for a diagnosis, or if they can't work as a result of being quarantined on the advice of a medical professional or to comply with federal, state, or local orders. The maximum pay is $511 per day and $5,110 total for up to two weeks of pay.
  • A maximum of two weeks or 80 hours of paid sick leave at two-thirds their normal pay rate if they can't work due to caring for someone under required quarantine or caring for a child under 18 whose school or care provider is unavailable because of COVID-19. The maximum rate of pay is $200 per day and $2,000 total over two weeks. 
  • Up to 10 weeks of extended leave at two-thirds of their regular pay if they've been employed for at least 30 days and can't work now because they have to care for a child whose school or care provider is unavailable because of COVID-19. The maximum pay is $200 per day and $12,000 total over 12 weeks (this includes the initial two weeks and the 10 extended weeks). 

However, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees can request to be exempt from some of the new requirements if their business operations would be jeopardized by providing leave due to school closings or due to the unavailability of child care.

Employers who provide paid leave under the law are entitled to receive refundable tax credits to cover their costs. 

Make sure you know your rights

The paid sick leave provisions under the FFCRA are just part of the federal efforts to help Americans hurt financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are also other federal stimulus bills, including the CARES Act, which provides expanded unemployment benefits and entitles most Americans to receive a check for up to $1,200 per person or $2,400 per couple and up to $500 per covered child. 

If you're struggling, be sure you learn about the help available to you so you can keep your finances as strong as possible until the current crisis passes. 

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