Parents who must stay home from work to care for their adult children with disabilities due to coronavirus-related closures may qualify for paid leave, federal official say.

The stimulus bill signed by President Donald Trump in March includes a temporary expansion of paid leave for workers in some circumstances. The provision was intended to address the needs of employees across the country who are unable to come to work or telecommute because they must care for children while schools and other child care providers are closed.

The law was largely mum on the needs of families of adults with disabilities whose typical daytime activities have been canceled. Now, however, the U.S. Department of Labor appears to be including parents of adults with disabilities in the groups that qualify for the expanded leave offering.

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In a rule published Monday in the Federal Register, the Labor Department determined that the definition of “son or daughter” for the new program should be consistent with that of the existing Family and Medical Leave Act, which “expressly includes children 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.”

Under the rule, businesses with 500 or fewer employees can receive tax credits for providing up to 14 weeks of paid leave through a combination of sick leave and family leave to workers who are unable to come to work or work remotely because of the effects of COVID-19. In addition to child care issues, workers could qualify for leave if they have coronavirus, are under quarantine or for a handful of other reasons.

“The bill provides unprecedented paid leave benefits to American workers affected by the virus, while ensuring that businesses are reimbursed dollar-for-dollar,” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.

The Labor Department rule does allow health care providers and first responders to be excluded and gives extra leeway to employers with fewer than 50 employees to deny leave.

Bethany Lilly, director of income policy at The Arc, said her group is pleased to see that some caregivers will qualify for paid leave under the rule, but said more needs to be done.

“I am concerned that the rule is limited to parental caregivers,” said Lilly, who worries that siblings and other relatives may need to provide care to those with developmental disabilities if aging parents get the coronavirus. “We would like to see other family members included.”

In addition, Lilly said the rule overlooks the needs of workers who have disabilities themselves and may need to isolate to protect their health.

The expanded family and medical leave program is in effect from April through December of this year.

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