Families First Coronavirus Response Act offers help for parents

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A federal coronavirus relief plan is making sure workers can stay home with their kids when schools are closed and still get paid.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is a form of emergency family leave but a lot of families haven’t even heard of this law.

“I do have family members that would actually take advantage of that,” Sonya Lente of Albuquerque said.

The act, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump, guarantees workers get two-thirds of their regular pay rate for up to ten weeks after taking two weeks of either unpaid leave or using paid sick days.

News 13 reached out to New Mexico’s five congressional delegates to find out what this means for the state, where students could be alternating weeks at school.

Three of them, including Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and Sen. Martin Heinrich said they believe these benefits would also apply to New Mexicans staying home when schools pivot into the hybrid learning model.

“As we look to a future when more parents get back to working outside their homes and children are still learning at home, we need federal support to ensure child care providers and parents have sufficient paid leave to navigate the pandemic. It’s why we included emergency paid leave in the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, why I supported the Child Care is Essential Act, and why I held a listening session with child care providers and educators earlier this week. I’ll continue looking for family-friendly solutions that support New Mexicans during this challenging time,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland, who is also a member of the House Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.

“Looking after a child is a full-time job, and parents who telework need the flexibility to take time off to care for their children. The Families First Act, which I voted to pass in March, has provided a lifeline to parents during school closures. Families will need continued support as they navigate the upcoming school year,” Congressman Ben Ray Luján added in an emailed statement.

Haaland and Lujan’s offices also believe the paid leave weeks can be taken intermittently, meaning workers could arrange with their employers to take every other week off when their students are distance learning.

People said families need this help through the pandemic.

“If schools aren’t going to be open, as a former parent of a kid while both of us worked, you know, it would’ve been nice to have some sort of option,” David Jones of Albuquerque stated.

Qualifying employees include those at companies with fewer than 500 workers and most government workers.

Lujan and Haaland’s offices also said that they’re waiting for guidance from the Department of Labor to confirm these benefits will cover alternate week hybrid learning. News 13 is still waiting to hear back from the Department of Labor with a definitive answer to that. The department did release more information on who is eligible for benefits through the FFCRA based on the closure of summer camps and other summer programs.

Under the act, employers cover the up-front cost of the paid leave and are reimbursed by the federal government. This law expires at the end of the year.

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