Quit Your Job to Take Care of Your Kids? You Might Qualify for COVID Relief

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You may not have to choose between your family and your income.

Many parents are understandably worried about sending their children back to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but keeping them home brings other stresses, especially for working parents who have to supervise their children and earn enough money to provide for them at the same time.

But you might not be totally on your own. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed in March, gives paid sick leave to some parents who stay home to care for children who cannot attend school or daycare. Here's what you need to know about the law, and what to do to claim benefits.

Who qualifies for FFCRA paid sick leave?

The FFCRA provides for paid sick leave for people quarantined for COVID-19 or who are caring for someone quarantined, as well as for parents caring for children unable to attend school or daycare due to closures.

In order to qualify under that last scenario, you must work for the government or a privately owned company with fewer than 500 employees. Employees of companies with 500 or more employees can't take advantage of these benefits, but these employers may offer their own paid leave for affected employees. Check with your company's HR department to learn about any assistance it's offering to parents remaining home with children.

Companies with 50 or fewer employees may be exempt from providing FFCRA paid sick leave if the employee's extended absence would cause the business serious financial harm. In this case, you should also reach out to your employer to see if the company is making alternative arrangements for employees who need to remain home with their children, like allowing telework.

How much money will you get?

Under the FFCRA, you'll receive the lesser of two-thirds of your pay or $200 per day. The most you're eligible to claim under this program is $12,000. If you're unsure how much you'd qualify for, talk to your company's HR department.

How long can you claim FFCRA paid sick leave?

All eligible employees may claim paid sick leave benefits for at least two weeks. Employees who have been with their employers for at least 30 days are eligible for 10 additional weeks of paid sick leave.

You don't have to take these days consecutively. If your child attends school two days per week and is home the other three, you can take three days of paid sick leave per week, enabling you to extend your benefits for a little longer.

If you're a part-time employee, you are eligible for paid sick leave benefits as well, but how many days of paid leave you get depends on how much you typically work. If you usually work three days per week, you qualify for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for three days of work per week.

FFCRA paid sick leave is currently only available through the end of 2020, though it's possible the government could extend that if it is still necessary as we enter 2021.

How do you claim FFCRA paid sick leave benefits?

You apply for FFCRA paid sick leave benefits with your employer. The government reimburses your employer through refundable tax credits.

You must provide your employer with the following information orally or in writing:

  • Your name
  • The date(s) for which you are requesting leave
  • The reason for your leave
  • The name(s) of your child(ren)
  • The name of the school, daycare, or other childcare provider that has closed or become unavailable
  • A statement saying that no other suitable person is available to care for your child and that you are therefore unable to work

Your employer will advise you on next steps. If you have questions about your benefits, talk to your company's HR department.

FFCRA paid sick leave benefits might not be enough to replace what you would've earned while working, but they can help get you by until your children return to school or you can make alternative arrangements. If you believe you qualify for these benefits, reach out to your employer to get the process started.

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