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Here's everything you need to know about coronavirus sick leave.

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the U.S., numerous Americans are seeking paid sick leave benefits. While many are consulting financial advisors to brace for a looming recession and hoping to get their coronavirus stimulus checks soon, it’s equally crucial to stay up to date on current federal legislation offering financial support to those directly impacted by the virus. In this guide, we explore the First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and other paid sick leave options available to U.S. employees. 

What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

The FFCRA mandates that employers provide paid sick or family leave benefits to employees affected by COVID-19. The act, enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), includes three key provisions.

The first is that eligible employees receive up to two weeks, or 80 hours, of paid sick time at their regular pay rate in circumstances where the employee cannot work because of: (1) quarantine or (2) because he or she is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.

Secondly, the bill offers an employee up to two weeks of paid sick time at two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay rate where the employee either has to care for an individual subject to quarantine or care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose childcare provider or school is closed due to coronavirus-related reasons.

Finally, the bill’s third provision offers up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave at two-thirds the rate of the employee’s pay rate where, an employee who has been employed for 30 calendar days, cannot work because they need to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed for reasons related to COVID-19. The provisions are expected to take place on April 1, 2020.

COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave: Who Qualifies?

Here's everything you need to know about coronavirus sick leave.

The DOL deems all employees under “covered employers” eligible to receive the FFCRA’s paid leave benefits. But exactly which employers are covered? The bill’s guidelines apply to certain public employers, as well as private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Many federal government employees aren’t covered by the family leave and medical provisions of this act, but they’re covered by Title II of the Family and Medical Leave Act. But the paid sick leave provision still applies to federal employees, according to the DOL.

All employees of covered employers qualify for the expanded paid sick leave provisions offered by the FFCRA. For instance, if you work for a private company with fewer than 200 employees, you will be eligible for paid sick leave if you meet any of the FFCRA’s qualifying reasons for leave. But what are considered qualifying reasons? We look further into those below.

What Are Qualifying Reasons for Leave?

The FFCRA allows employees paid sick leave if they are unable to work, or telework, due to the following six reasons:

  1. The employee is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. The employee is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. 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; or
  6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and Treasury.

The calculation of pay varies based on an employee’s qualifying reason for leave. For instance, for reasons (1), (2) or (3), employees taking paid sick leave can receive pay at their regular pay rate or the applicable minimum wage, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate. For reason (5), employees on paid sick leave earn compensation at two-thirds their regular pay rate or the applicable minimum wage, up to $200 per day and $12,000 in aggregate. Employees meeting reasons (4) and (6) earn two-thirds their pay rate or two-thirds of the applicable minimum wage, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in aggregate.

Do Paid Sick Leave Options Vary By State?

Though the FFCRA provides paid sick leave benefits at the federal level, Washington, D.C. and the following 13 states currently offer their own paid sick leave laws: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington. However, New York could soon be the 14th state to enact its own paid sick leave law.

On March 17, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a bill that would provide statewide COVID-19 benefits and mandatory paid sick leave. The bill hasn’t been passed yet, but it would offer a range of coronavirus unemployment benefits, family leave, sick leave and disability benefits for workers across the state. However, on a local level, New York City and Westchester County already provide paid sick leave.  If you’re a resident of any of the previously mentioned states, you may even be able to substitute FFCRA’s sick leave provisions for your state’s.

Bottom Line

Here's everything you need to know about coronavirus sick leave.

If you find yourself experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or if you need to care for an individual or child impacted by the virus, it’s important that you do your research on the FFCRA’s provisions and other relevant state or local laws. The federal act offers three key provisions for employees who meet its qualifying reasons for paid sick leave. But 13 states, along with Washington, D.C., also offer paid sick leave laws for eligible employees. As the pandemic surges on both a national and global level, it’s wise to take precautionary measures to ensure you’re financially protected if you or someone you know is affected by the disease.

Tips for Managing Your Money in Times of Crisis

  • Portfolio management, financial planning and pension consulting are just a few of the various areas of wealth management financial advisors provide guidance in. But in order to find the most suitable advisor, you’ll need to determine things like your risk tolerance, time horizon and short- and long-term goals.
  • Make sure you understand the ins and outs of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, the coronvavirus stimulus package, so that you can receive all the benefits to which you are entitled.
  • If you’d prefer a different method, consider using SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service to connect with up to thee advisors in your area. All you’ll need to do is complete a short questionnaire about your financial situation, and the tool will pair you with advisors within minutes.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/olm26250, ©iStock.com/Tero Vesalaine, ©iStock.com/pixdeluxe

Rickie Houston CEPF® Rickie Houston writes on a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset. His expertise includes retirement and banking. Rickie is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). He graduated from Boston University where he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He’s contributed to work published in the Boston Globe and has worked alongside award-winning faculty for the New England Center of Investigative Reporting at Boston University. Rickie also enjoys playing the guitar, traveling abroad and discovering new music. He is originally from Wilmington, North Carolina.
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