Lesser known benefit may help local parents with child care amid pandemic

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As local schools continue to finalize plans for a safe return, many parents are scrambling to figure out how they’ll handle child care if students go online or virtual.

The federal CARES Act provides new tools if you lose your job or take time off because you or a loved one gets sick with COVID-19. 

But what you might not know is your employer could be required to keep paying you if your child doesn’t have in-person day care or school available.

Normally, as summer nears its end, families are enjoying a day at Penguin Park on a pretty day. But in this pandemic, many parents are still stressing over what learning option to choose for their kids this fall.

“She has asthma and she was a preemie, so trying to figure out if we’re going to send her back or not has kind of been a struggle,” North Kansas City parent Courtney Allen said.

Celeste Lacy is thankful she’s got good family support to help with her two sons if she chooses or the district requires virtual learning or a hybrid model of in-person and online classes. 

But the unknowns are still proving stressful.

“Knowing like where they’re going to be on times I might have to go to work, it’s been very challenging trying to figure that out,” Lacy said.

The good news is part of new federal legislation, called the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” includes generous benefits to help families in a pinch.

“If someone has a child that’s say, school has convened, and they are going to go back to work, there’s up to a minimum of two weeks, and more than that based on employer size,” said Clyde McQueen, president of the Full Employment Council of Kansas City.

The law provides two weeks of fully paid leave and up to 10 more weeks at 2/3 pay, for employers with under 500 workers. 

Some businesses with less than 50 workers are exempt, but others are offering benefits even more generous than what the law requires. 

And even if you think your boss won’t let you work from home, the Full Employment Council recommends you ask.

“Many employers, they’re trying to make those accommodations. They don’t want to let those people go because that means they have to train somebody all over again, and that’s very challenging, particularly in this environment,” McQueen said.

If you need to tap into these benefits, talk with your HR department or supervisor. If you get pushback, you can file a complaint with the US Department of Labor.

You can learn more about the legislation and eligible benefits by clicking here.

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