By Phil Shiver
A paid leave perk buried deep in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package offers to pay federal government employees to stay home if at least one of their children is in attendance at a school that has not returned to full-time in-person operation.
The provision, exclusive to federal workers, is sure to draw ire from conservatives as the albatross 591-page document known as the "American Rescue Plan Act of 2021" advances through Congress. The bill has been roundly criticized by Republicans as wasteful and filled with "bailouts, pork, and unrelated policy changes" since its introduction in the House last Friday.
The measure is supported by the "Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund," which is outlined on page 305 of the House version of the bill. Under the new legislation, $570 million set to be deposited into the fund is designed to assist federal workers caring for themselves or others "unable to work" due of the pandemic.
Among those eligible for the enhanced paid leave are those federal workers who are "caring for a son or daughter" out of school due to COVID-19 precautions.
What's more is that the school doesn't need to be completely closed to in-person instruction in order for the worker to receive the paid leave benefit. Rather, the school merely needs to "make optional" any type of instruction other than full-time, in person instruction. Here's what the bill's text says, specifically:
Amounts in the Fund shall be available for payment to an agency for the use of paid leave by any employee of the agency who is unable to work because the employee ... is caring for a son or daughter of such employee if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, if the school of such son or daughter requires or makes optional a virtual learning instruction model or requires or makes optional a hybrid of in-person and virtual learning instruction models, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID–19 precautions.
Forbes senior contributor Adam Andrzejewski noted that critics are calling the measure "a personal bailout for bureaucrats."
He added that "under the bill as currently drafted, full-time federal employees can take up to 600 hours in paid leave until September 30, up to $35 an hour and $1,400 a week. That's 15 weeks for a 40-hour employee. Part-time and 'seasonal' employees are eligible, too, with equivalent hours established by their agency."
A quick calculation shows that federal employees can collect up to $21,000 in paid leave under the proposed measure. Not bad for sitting at home in your pajamas.