A Southland state senator Monday announced legislation that would expand paid family leave benefits for all parents caring for children whose schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal government recently enacted an emergency leave program for parents, but it is limited and leave some families without options, according to Sen. Ling Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar. She said SB 943 aims to fill gaps in coverage left by the temporary federal program.

Nearly 99% of California’s 10,000 schools — responsible for the education of 6 million students — have closed due to the coronavirus emergency, Chang said.

“Federal representatives have stepped up and provided much needed emergency leave for parents, but I’m worried some families will be left behind,” she said. “School closures are not the choice of parents and we need to ensure everyone is protected from the economic damage COVID-19 is imposing on us all.”

Paid Family Leave provides benefits to individuals who need to take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member and to parents who need time to bond with a new child. PFL is currently available to those who are in quarantine or who are caring for someone diagnosed with COVID-19.

However, PFL benefits are not available to parents who need to stay home to care for a child whose school has closed due to COVID-19, according to Chang, who said her bill would make those parents eligible.

Chang said families ineligible for the federal government’s emergency leave program include:

— parents who work for an employer with 500-plus employees;

— some parents who work for an employer with fewer than 50 employees;

— any parent with children displaced from school longer than three months; and

— any parent with children displaced from school after December in the event of COVID-19 surges.

Chang said SB 943 currently has a similar sunset date, which could be extended if needed.

SB 943 as currently drafted would provide eligibility to all parents with children displaced by school closures but would be amended to target the gaps in the federal program. Chang said she is also reviewing whether state PFL should be used on top of federal benefits to make families financially whole during the COVID-19 crisis.

The federal COVID-19 program permits two-thirds the regular amount of pay and is limited to $200 a day and a total of $10,000, according to Chang.

“With every school in the state closed, parents are taking a huge hit right now,” she said. “Similar to the forthcoming federal stimulus program, putting extra funds in the hands of families would help keep our economy afloat.”

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