How to qualify for paid sick leave if schools close
Yes, you may be able to get unemployment benefits and paid sick leave if schools close.
Here’s what you need to know.
Paid Sick Leave
How will you manage working and taking care of your child in the Covid-19 era? Many parents will face this dilemma, as some schools will be remote-only or a hybrid model, which includes both in-person instruction and remote learning. Make sure you understand which paid sick leave and unemployment benefits, if any, are available to you as schools reopen this fall.
Let’s start with paid sick leave, which may be available due to coronavirus (broadly defined). In March, the president signed into law a bi-partisan federal emergency relief package, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, to help Americans who need to take off time from work due to coronavirus.
What paid sick leave benefits can I get?
- 2 weeks of paid sick leave if you have, need to be diagnosed or are quarantined for Coronavirus
- 2 weeks paid sick leave if you are caring for a family member impacted by the above
- 12 weeks paid sick leave if you’re caring for a child while their school is closed
It’s that last provision — regarding school closure — that would pertain to schools which are physically closed or partially closed. For example, the days on which your child must work remotely from home — whether part or all of the week — would qualify. So, you could get up to 12 weeks of paid sick leave to care for your child during this period. The paid sick leave does not need to be consecutive, so if your child is home three days a week, for example, you could take three days of paid sick leave each week.
How much money can I get?
Each day, you can receive a maximum cash benefit based on the following situations:
- You are sick or seeking a diagnosis: up to $511 per day
- You are caring for a family member: up to $200 per day
- You are caring for a child whose school is closed: up to $200 per day
So, for each day that your child attends school virtually, for example, and you care for your child on each day, you could receive up to $200 per day.
How do you qualify for paid sick leave?
Make sure that you understand all the paid sick leave requirements through your employer. Generally, and your employer may be different, these paid sick leave benefits apply if:
- You work at a small- or mid-sized company.
- You work for the government.
- You have been employed with your employer for at least 30 days.
Importantly, you would not qualify for these benefits if you work at an employer with 500 or more employees. If you work for a small business with 50 or fewer employees, your employer may be exempted from providing you these benefits if paying sick leave would cause material financial harm to the business (e.g., causing the business to go bankrupt). Check with your employer for more details. It’s also possible that your employer offers alternative paid sick leave or related benefits.
What about freelancers and part-time workers?
Part-time workers are covered, subject to the employer exemptions. Freelancers, and self-employed individuals also can benefit for these paid sick leave benefits through a federal tax credit in lieu of a cash payment.
How long are these paid sick leave benefits available?
These paid sick leave benefits are available through December 31, 2020.
It’s also important to understand unemployment benefits in the wake of Covid-19. For example, what if you become unemployed because your child’s kindergarten has closed and you need to remain home to care for your young child? You may be entitled to at least some of the following types of unemployment benefits:
- State Unemployment Benefits: State unemployment benefits are the traditional form of unemployment benefits. The amount of money you receive is dependent upon the state in which you last work, and each state manages its own unemployment benefit program. Most states provide up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, although the time period can vary. Typically, unemployment wages are paid weekly and can be up to half of your wages before you became unemployed, subject to a maximum benefit.
- $300 Weekly Unemployment: This month, after weeks of failing to secure a stimulus deal, the president issued an executive order that provides supplemental unemployment benefits. The federal government is funding supplemental $300 a week unemployment benefits through state grants based on this timetable.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: If your state provides less than 39 weeks of unemployment benefits, you can receive the difference through Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Make sure to check the requirements to ensure that PUA benefits apply to you if you are caring for a young, dependent child and are unable to work from home.
- Pandemic Compensation: There is another federal program called Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits, for a total of 39 weeks of unemployment benefits. Like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, make sure that you fully understand whether PEUC applies to your specific situation.