Parents may be eligible for federal coronavirus funds

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Parents who cannot work because their children are taking classes online may be eligible for federal pandemic assistance, according to new guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The guidance says parents or caregivers may be eligible for PUA payments, or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, if they have to stay home because their children are attending classes virtually or online.

“The fact that many parents may be eligible would be important for hundreds of thousands of parents,” Zach Schiller, research director for the Policy Matters Ohio think tank, said in an email to the Dayton Daily News.

“Parents ought to know that this is out there, and particularly for people who are in the agonizing position of how to take care of their kids who are in an online schools while they are still working,” he said in an interview.

There is an array of confusing programs that have been made available during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal PUC or Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, payments of $600 per week, have ended. What continues, at least through the end of the year, are PUA payments, a benefit available to people who don’t qualify for regular unemployment compensation for various reasons.

To secure PUA benefits, Ohioans need to have lost their job because of the global pandemic, Schiller said. Recipients also need to have been denied regular unemployment before PUA is open to them, he added, noting other requirements as well.

“This is awfully complicated, I realize,” he said.

One section of the recent Department of Labor guidance says, in part: “An individual who ... (is) unable or unavailable to work because a child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary care-giving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work may be eligible for PUA.”

On Thursday, Kim Hall, director of ODJFS, said information about the program has been posted on the department’s web site.

“Essentially, PUA may be available to parents in this situation, if they are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or federal or state extended benefits,” Hall said.

The site emphasizes that PUA payments are meant to be a “last resort.”

The program is not open to those who are receiving paid leave while caring for a child, and it may cover those who meet one or more PUA eligibility requirements, such as being advised by a doctor to self-quarantine due to coronavirus concerns.

People still need to apply through the traditional unemployment system and secure a determination of eligibility before turning to the PUA system, Hall said.

CNBC last month pointed to a survey of parents with children under the age of 15. That survey found that 73% of parents say they plan to make “major changes to their professional lives to accommodate the lack of child care for the upcoming school year, and of those, 15% say they are are considering leaving the workforce altogether.”

Last month, the Kettering board of education opted to start the school year online, but administrators said some will get face-to-face instruction in small groups and there may be “pod” options available for students whose parents must work outside the home.

Where to go

The updated federal guidance can be found

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