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Some employers still offering paid leave during the pandemic

A federal leave program that ended in 2020 is still available if employers voluntarily extend it.

SEATTLE — It doesn't take a research study to know that millions of Americans are burned out from the coronavirus pandemic. Whether it’s from remote learning, social distancing, taking care of someone, working from home, or dealing with childcare issues, some people need a break without the risk of losing their job.

KING 5 viewer Kayla emailed to ask, "Do you know if the Washington 14-day leave that was announced back in March has been extended?"

Unfortunately for Kayla, that program expired at the end of 2020.

Last year, many employers were required to offer a parachute to workers when they needed to jump out of the workforce for a bit. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) gave workers 14 days off if they had to quarantine, or up to 12 weeks of leave if they needed to take care of themselves or their families -- and that included childcare.

However, some businesses are extending FFCRA leave on their own and claiming a payroll tax credit. This option is available through March. This means that while some businesses might struggle to operate without the manpower, they will not lose out financially.

“There's still an incentive for employers to provide that [FFCRA leave]," said Karin Jones, labor and employment partner at Stoel Rives in Seattle. "Hopefully employers are communicating that to employees if they're still providing it, but if there's any doubt, go talk to human resources."

Jones said rumblings lead many people to believe this leave will be available in 2021 once Congress tackles the next stimulus package.

Before the inauguration, President Joe Biden announced he was going to urge Congress to extend the leave through September with more generous criteria, including giving employees up to 14 weeks of leave for childcare and health care workers. He also once said he would like the paid leave required by more employers. 

"It's a little hard to predict which way it will go," said Jones. 

In the meantime, if an employee needs to take leave now, they should exhaust all options including double-checking to see if they qualify for Washington state's paid family and medical leave program.

Coronavirus: Your Money, Your Future

Do you have a question or concern about money during the coronavirus pandemic? Email us at money@king5.com.