Working Oahu parents may qualify for aid to accommodate distance learning


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The growing spread of coronavirus on Oahu is prompting education leaders to begin the school year through distance learning for the first four weeks at Oahu schools, but this move comes with disruptions for working families.

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The Hawaii Children’s Action Now Executive Director, Deborah Zysman, said she agrees with the action by Governor David Ige and the Department of Education, but now parents have days to prepare for the shift to learning from home.

Zysman said, “I think families are now really going to be grappling with, ‘what does this mean for them?’ How will they deal with young children at home for the next, really five weeks from now?”

Zysman said within the federal aid packages appropriate to those impacted by COVID-19, there may be some help for parents.

The U.S. Department of Labor released its “Families First Coronavirus Response Act“, the program allows for working parents to take time off from work, even if their employer does not offer paid sick days or paid leave.

“Some people have sick days, some people do not, so this is ten days and that’s on top of any sick days that your employer may already provide,” Zysman said. “Those sick days the employer is paying for right, these 10 sick days is a federal reimbursement program.”

Parents could also chose to take-off an extended period from work and earn two-thirds their pay.

Zysman said the program is for employers with 500 workers or less, and a parent should ask their human resources manager or direct supervisor to learn if the company qualifies for the aid.

Meanwhile, Governor Ige is calling for employers to be flexible with the schedules of working parents, he said he is meeting with companies to reach agreements.

“I’ve ask all employers to be flexible in dealing with their employees, to be supportive with tele-work if that’s an options,” Ige said. “If it is not an option, to be willing to work with parents so that they can accommodate their childcare needs.”

The “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” remains in effect through the end of the year.

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