COVID bill pays federal employees to stay home with kids

Federal workers with children enrolled in a school that has not resumed full-time, in-classroom instruction are eligible for enhanced paid time off under the U.S. House version of a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package being pushed through congress.

The perk, buried on page 305 of the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021,” sets aside $570 million for an “Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund” exclusively for federal employees.

Said employees are eligible to receive the money if they are carrying for school-aged children who are not physically in school full-time because of the pandemic.

Federal employees will qualify if their children’s school “or place of care…has been closed,” if the school offers virtual instruction (or some type of hybrid), or if the childcare provider is unavailable because of “Covid-19 precautions.”

Full-time federal employees can take up to $35 an hour and $1,400 a week, through Sept. 30. That amounts to 15 weeks and 600 hours in paid leave.

The bill does not specify a cutoff age for children who are learning from home, or whether federal employees with young college-age students would qualify. Federal employees with children enrolled in private schools do not qualify.

Democratic lawmakers were poised to push the sweeping package through the House on Friday. They were hoping the Senate, where changes seem likely, would follow quickly enough to have legislation on President Joe Biden’s desk by mid-March.

Republicans in either chamber, meanwhile, have rallied against the relief package. GOP leaders on Wednesday were honing attacks on the package as a job killer that does too little to reopen schools or businesses shuttered for the pandemic and that was not only wasteful but also even unscrupulous.

“I haven’t seen a Republican yet that’s found something in there that they agree with,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. “I think all Republicans believe in three simple things: They want a bill that puts us back to work, back to school, and back to health. This bill is too costly, too corrupt, and too liberal.”