Do Parents Qualify for Unemployment If Schools Are Closed? It Depends.

The current surge in coronavirus infections is creating a tight spot for parents who work full-time or have kids who need supervision. If schools move to full-remote or partial remote learning, parents will need to make drastic changes to their routines — including, for some parents, leaving the workforce.

However, some parents will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits following fall school closures. The Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA), which was passed in March, offers financial aid and an extended relief for parents who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days. Here’s the exact language from the FFCRA:

“Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee . . . is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.”

Unfortunately, some employers don’t qualify for the program, leaving as many as 106 million workers out of paid leave. Confusing, right? To help make sense of the law, here’s a breakdown of when a parent does and doesn’t qualify for unemployment benefits because their children’s schools are closed.

If you’re a full or part-time working parent

If you’re unable to work because your child (under the age of 18) is at home and needs supervision due to school closures, you’re eligible for an emergency paid sick leave of up to $200 per day through the FFCRA.

[ Read: Where to Find Financial Relief During the COVID-19 Pandemic ]

This relief will be granted so long as school or day-care locations are physically closed, even if a child has to register for virtual learning. Parents can also be eligible if school is partially open and can prove that the child has to stay home on other days of the week.

Families with young children who depend on child-care must provide proof that their regular options (nanny, grandparents, day care) are not available and, consequently, receive the emergency leave.

In addition, parents employed for at least 30 calendar days can also get an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave, which translates to $200 per day. Once a parent decides to take the 10 weeks of paid expanded leave, they can adjust when to take the paid leave. Parents are able to take the paid leave twice a week until the 12 weeks’ worth of leave are exhausted.

If you lose your job because you need to take full-time care of a child

With more than 12 states seeing spikes in new coronavirus cases, parents are struggling to balance work and care for school-age children. And while some can juggle the fatigue, 15% of parents are considering leaving the workforce altogether, according to a recent Care.com online survey of 1,000 parents with children under the age of 15.

Working parents who have lost their job due school closures can qualify for pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) with benefits reaching up to 39 weeks.

If you have to cut working hours to take care of your child

PUA benefits also include people who had to cut their hours at work to supervise children for part of the week. However, the benefits fall short if children in the household are old enough to care for themselves for most of the day.

[ Read: The Unemployment Crisis is Hurting Women More Than Men

As families continue to struggle to keep any form of normalcy at home, politicians are advising parents to check for their state’s unemployment services and contact senators that can support more communities through more protections and resources. All paid leave options provided by FFRC, as well as unemployment under PUA, are valid through December 31, 2020. 

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Andrea Perez

Personal Finance Editor

Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar specializing in personal finance. Prior to that she specialized in digital marketing content for online learning websites. She holds a master’s degree in journalism and media studies from the University of South Florida.