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Children study at home: in what cases parents are entitled to paid leave or financial assistance

The Labor Department has released new guidance to clarify when parents are eligible for paid leave or unemployment benefits if they have to take care of their children at home during the new school year. CNBC.

Photo: Shutterstock

According to a recent poll by, about 22% of parents consider cutting their work hours if their children need to stay at home at least part of the time while schools are closed. Another 9% say they will have to quit their jobs.

Two relief policies, adopted in March, are designed to give some working parents the opportunity to take part-time paid leave or receive unemployment benefits if they are forced to leave their jobs to take care of their children. However, some experts say the scale of these measures is limited.

With schools starting the new school year in multiple formats (face-to-face, part-time, or online voluntary) that can alternate each week, it is important to understand when parents can qualify for federally paid leave or unemployment benefits, and when they can these benefits are not allowed.

On the subject: Many US parents do not know they are eligible for benefits while their children are at home

Scenario 1: the school is completely closed, classes are only conducted online

Some workers are entitled to partially paid leave of up to 12 weeks under the Family Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Under the CARES Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, parents can qualify for unemployment benefits if they have to shorten their working hours or quit their jobs to look after their children at home.

If your child's school is completely closed, all education is online only, and you are your child's primary caregiver, you can qualify for FFCRA leave for up to 12 weeks and two-thirds of your normal wage rate.

This type of leave is only available to certain public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be exempted from parental leave if they can prove it could jeopardize their business. Some health care providers and emergency workers are also not eligible for such leave.

If you do not qualify for the FFCRA but must quit your job to look after your homeschooled child, you can qualify for PUA. If you work from home, you are still eligible for benefits if you can prove that, as your child's primary caregiver, “you must give the student such constant attention” that teleworking is not possible.

Scenario 2: the school is open for a few days for full-time study, but is closed the rest of the time

If your school district uses a hybrid model (children spend a few days in class and study remotely the rest of the time), the facility is considered closed on virtual class days and you may qualify for FFCRA paid leave or childcare benefits at home.

The same applies if schools are technically open at all times but have limited bandwidth and only select groups of students can be at school on certain days. On the days your child requires online education, the school is considered closed to your child in terms of eligibility for paid leave or unemployment benefits.

FFCRA paid leave can be taken intermittently (several days a week - this is when your child's school is closed and you have to take care of him). If you have already taken leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the past 12 months, the amount of time you can take leave during a pandemic will be reduced by that amount (deducted from 12 weeks).

If government paid leave is not available to you, you can discuss with your employer how to shorten your working hours when you need to be at home with your child. Depending on how shortened your schedule is, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits through the PUA. Many states will allow you to work for a certain dollar amount, number of hours, or number of days in a week and still receive partial benefits to recoup lost wages.

On the subject: California raised $ 140 for children doing their homework in the parking lot due to free WiFi

Scenario 3: the school is completely open to full-time education, but students have the opportunity to stay at home

If your school is open to all students again, but with virtual learning, and you decide that your child will study remotely, you will not be eligible for paid leave or PUA benefits if you leave your job to care for your child. at home.

Those who again decide to apply to the PUA, despite the reopening of schools, will be obliged to return benefits and prosecuted for fraud.

Family attorney Erika Moritsugu, of the National Partnership for Women and Families, says the recent memo is making life difficult for working parents.

“Management is forcing parents to risk the lives of their children by forcing them to go to school,” she said. - The number of cases of coronavirus continues to rise and children are susceptible to this virus. No parent should be punished for choosing to protect their child's life and provide a safe and stable learning environment. ”

She adds that women will be disproportionately affected by current management if they have to choose whether to take care of their children at home during the school year or continue to work and provide for the family financially. An analysis by the Center for American Progress found that in recent months, millennial moms were almost three times more likely than dads to give up jobs due to school and daycare closures.

“The Department of Labor is obliged to reverse this decision, and we must continue to work on a national paid leave program that will help all workers,” continues Moritsugu. “Too many families are still waiting for unemployment benefits, facing eviction, and cannot afford to miss out on vacation time to take care of themselves or a loved one.”

The paid leave options provided by the FFCRA and the Increased Unemployment Insurance Benefit under the PUA are in effect until December 31, 2020, with no additional clauses enacted by Congress and the White House at this time.

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