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Do you qualify for coronavirus paid sick leave?

US News & World Report -  Money logo US News & World Report - Money 4 days ago Geoff Williams
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Here are answers to your coronavirus-related paid sick and family leave questions.

With the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, spreading throughout the country, plenty of people who are ill or worried about the possibility of catching the virus are wondering how to get paid sick and family leave, and whether they qualify for it.

Here are answers to those questions and other coronavirus-related paid sick and family leave questions.

Who Qualifies for Coronavirus Paid Sick and Family Leave?

The bill known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act gives employees who come down with the coronavirus two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at 100% of an individual's salary, up to $511 per day.

It also offers up to 10 additional weeks of paid family and medical leave at 67% of the employee's normal pay, up to $200 a day. In this situation, you wouldn't be sick with the coronavirus but a family member would be. If you're losing work time taking care of them, you'll receive almost two-thirds of your pay.

Mark McKee, CEO and president of payroll service OnPay, says, "Generally, employees are eligible if they've been exposed to the virus, if they're caring for a sick family member or if school or day care closures require them to stay home to care for a child under 18."

Who Qualifies for the Paid Sick Leave Under the New Law?

If you work for a company with more than 500 people – which amounts to 48% of employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – you are not eligible for the paid sick and family leave in this bill. Of course, many large companies do offer paid sick and family leave, and so you may be covered. Then again, you may not be.

If you work for a company with fewer than 50 employees – 27% of employees, according to the BLS – you are included. An exception, however: If a business owner fears that offering paid sick or family leave to its employees would put it out of business, the owner may be able to get an exemption from the Labor Department.

Related video: Trump signs bill to guarantee sick leave for workers (provided by Fox News)

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I'm Self-Employed. Do I Qualify?

Self-employed individuals qualify, although unfortunately, they won't feel any positive financial effects until tax season in 2021. What you'll get is far better than nothing, but you would be struggling this year if you were to get sick with the coronavirus.

If you get sick with coronavirus and can't work, you'll receive a tax credit equal to your pay (up to $511 per day for up to 10 days).

Like your counterparts who are employed with a company, you also may be eligible for a coronavirus emergency family leave tax credit for up to 50 days. So if you lose a lot of work time because your child is out of school because it closed and you're home-schooling, or if you're taking care of a family member with the coronavirus, you may be able to get as much as a $10,000 tax credit (that would be $200 a day for 50 days).

If that ends up being your situation, you'll want to stay in touch with your tax preparer, if you have one, and keep your medical records or documentation pertaining to a child's school closing in case the IRS would like to see them.

If I'm Eligible for Paid Leave, How Do I Get It?

Talk to your employer or the human resources staff, and they'll walk you through any steps you need to take.

McKee says that you'll be paid directly by your employer – not the federal government.

"Families First Act requires employers to cover the cost of their employees' paid leave, but the federal government will completely reimburse them via refundable tax credits within three months," McKee says.

He also suggests that you should see if you are entitled to receive paid sick and family leave from your state.

"In addition to the proposed federal law, a number of states have been enacting paid leave policies over the past few years. California, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington state have their own requirements," McKee says.

In other words, you may be able to get coronavirus compensation from your state – after you've exhausted the coronavirus paid leave that the federal government is offering.

And if your company does offer paid sick and family leave, you could receive financial assistance from the federal government, state government and your company. You might also manage to receive paid sick leave from the city you live in. For instance, New York City offers paid sick leave.

If I Have Other Paid Sick Leave Options, Can I Use Them Instead?

You can. Would that be advantageous?

The law isn't very clear as to whether it's advantageous, and it may depend on your state and the employer's policies, according to Steven Ludwig, a partner in Fox Rothschild's Labor & Employment practice group, with locations throughout the country. Ludwig is based in Philadelphia.

But if you talk with your HR department and decide that you do want to use your employer's paid leave first, it is allowed.

"An employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave or medical or sick leave as well as sick or family leave mandated by state and local governments," Ludwig says.

Could There Be More Changes Coming for Those Who Don’t Qualify?

It's possible, according to Ludwig. "Even though the law was enacted on March 18, Congress already is considering changes," he says, so stay tuned.

Copyright 2020 U.S. News & World Report

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