As summer winds down, families dealing with the ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic may now be faced with issues brought about by the beginning of a new school year. Some schools have reopened with full-time in-person classes; others have adopted full-time remote learning. Additionally, some schools have opted to create a hybrid model that mixes the two. In another example, some schools are giving parents the choice as to whether they want their child to attend in person or remotely. Working parents may face a difficult decision on how to manage these new circumstances as well as maintaining their own work situation.

In response to these concerns, on August 27th, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor added three Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to its FAQs webpage. The new questions address circumstances under which a working parent may — or may not — receive paid leave under the FFCRA.

FFCRA Childcare Provisions Basics

As stated in the FFCRA, an otherwise eligible employee may become eligible to receive paid FFCRA leave due to a COVID-19-related school closing to care for a child under the following situations:

  1. the child’s school is closed;
  2. the employee must “actually care” for the child “during that time,” and
  3. “no other suitable person is available” to care for the child.

Eligibility for paid FFCRA leave also requires that the employee is NOT able to work onsite OR through telework during the time they are caring for a child.

Summary of New FAQs

The three questions recently added to the FAQs webpage consist of the following:

  • FAQ #98 states that when a child must adhere to a school-mandated hybrid schedule, which designates certain days for in-school attendance and the other days for remote learning, the school qualifies as “closed” to the child on the days that prohibit in-school attendance. Accordingly, a parent who satisfies the second and third criteria listed above is entitled to paid FFCRA leave for the child’s remote-learning days.
  • FAQ # 99 explains that when a parent has the choice between full-time, in-school instruction and remote learning, and elects remote learning for their child, the parent is ineligible for paid FFCRA “school closure” leave because the child’s school is open and remote attendance was the employee’s choice. The FAQ does state, however, that the parent of a child under a quarantine order or who has been advised by a health care provider to self-isolate or self-quarantine, may have access to FFCRA child care benefits, regardless if the child’s school is open.
  • FAQ #100 confirms that parents, whose children’s schools have not reopened to in-person instruction yet, may take FFCRA leave while the school remains closed.

Employer Takeaway

The COVID-19 pandemic remains a fluid situation with new and updated guidance issued on a regular basis. It is important to remember, however, that employers still need to be in compliance with the obligations as stated under the FFCRA. For more information on FFCRA provisions, access the FFCRA Employer Fact Sheet.