Local teachers unsure about their status if they test positive

FFCRA Act continues to create concerns in Leon and Gadsden County. Photo courtesy hwco.com

In the wake of the pandemic the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provided paid sick leave for employees with COVID-19 related reasons, went into effect on April 1, 2020.

But the FFCRA Act expired on Dec. 31, denying employers with less than 500 employees, including teachers and all public employees, faculty and staff, compensation for paid leave.

Generally, the FFCRA  Act covered only a few instances when employees required paid sick leave.

It covered up to 80 hours — two weeks — of paid sick leave at an individual’s regular rate of pay due to said individual specifically having COVID-19 related concerns.

Also, up to 80 hours, which is two weeks, yet based at two-thirds base pay for individuals who require time to care for an individual subjected to quarantine, or directly affected employees whose children’s daily school, or child care providers have temporarily closed.

Judith Mandela, the Gadsden County teachers’ union president, said she has concerns, along with new systems to help advocate for teachers during such a transition.

“I wish they [FFCRA] would have considered extending the act, due to some districts being friendlier to teacher unions, or to teachers more than others.” Mandela said.

However, Congress, did extend FFCRAs Tax Credit through March 2021, so employees must use their own gained leave days in order to receive compensation.

Congress declined to extend  FFCRA leave — not requiring employees to submit pay under their unused days.

Nims Middle School teacher Andreka Baker expressed apprehension regarding the expired act.

“My first concern about the act expiring is that if a teacher gets sick in the line of duty, and does not have any accrued paid leave, they won’t be getting paid,” Baker said. “My next concern is if a teacher has a sick child at home that has tested positive for the virus and they have to stay home and take care of them, again, they won’t be able to get paid.  Living in our current situation, not many education professionals are able to miss getting paid; therefore, that causes huge concern for teachers putting their lives and the lives of their family members  in jeopardy.”

Mandela shared a similar worry as she, along with the Gadsden County School Board, planned to work along the Leon County Schools to help mend the situation.

“We’ve been supporting, we’ve been sharing information,” Mandela said. “We’ve been sharing information in terms of how their [Leon County and other local unions] doing just to get an idea of how to move forward.”

An English major student attending FAMU, Trinity Durr, who also volunteers within Leon County Schools, said she is preparing to be a public school teacher.

“I truly think it’s unfair, employees, especially teachers deserve better,” Durr said.