The emergence of COVID-19 has created difficulties for all working parents. Juggling financial challenges and their legal implications is particularly important regarding childcare and healthcare.
COVID-19 has brought with it financial challenges for families already juggling major issues. From childcare to healthcare, managing the legal aspect of staying above water during the pandemic can be stressful for anyone with a family.
While some legal protections exist in the form of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and other programs like it, these legal protections for your finances may not be as sweeping as you would like or need.
With challenges such as not having a child care provider or losing your health insurance, any parent or guardian needs to understand the legal aspects of finances during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here we take a look at both the challenges of different aspects of family finances as well as assistance that may be available to you during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has seen a broad shift to remote work alongside shutdowns of many child care options for workers. As a result, more parents are working from home and trying to manage their children in the same space. For essential workers, lack of childcare has been a significant challenge to maintaining an income.
Juggling childcare in the pandemic world can have significant impacts on your finances. Legally, challenges abound, but there are assistance programs available for some as well.
A study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that as many as two-thirds of working parents had to change their child care situation because of COVID-19. The challenges caused by small business closures and shutdowns have led to child care deserts, a problem that was already significant among rural communities in the United States.
The same Chamber of Commerce Foundation report showed that as many as 40% of employers are working on new child care accommodations for their employees. However, these accommodations are typically not legally mandated. This has led to legal issues like discrimination by employers for children being too loud during conference calls.
Previously, the only legal measure supporting family childcare in an emergency was the Family Medical Leave Act, which enables eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off, though unpaid. Luckily, in light of the pandemic, a new legal act was implemented.
Many families will find child care assistance in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. This piece of legislation will help you manage for finances to care for your children through:
- Up to two weeks of paid leave (at two-thirds the rate of pay) to care for a child whose care provider has been shut down as a result of COVID-19.
- Up to an additional ten weeks of paid leave (at two-thirds rate of pay) to care for a child whose school or care provider has been shut down as a result of COVID-19.
Outside of this act, employees may be dependent upon employer accommodations not guaranteed by law. However, many employees, recognizing the need, are creating child care and support programs to assist their employees in managing their financial and care obligations at this time.
Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, millions of Americans already struggled with medical debt. Then, the pandemic created mass unemployment, forcing many out of their health insurance policies.
For parents, this creates particular concern, as the fear of medical challenges atop the virus pile over financial burdens. Healthcare costs present legal hurdles, but assistance exists as well.
Not paying medical bills can have legal implications. A healthcare provider can take legal action against you if a medical bill goes without being paid and they decide to sue. If a court rules in favor of the medical provider, this can potentially mean the garnishment of wages and even stimulus packages if the state in which you live does not have supplementary laws to protect against that. This was seen with the recent federal stimulus package, as some vulnerable Americans were having their checks garnished to pay debts.
Without health insurance, costs can become steep with legal threats a viable concern on any family’s radar. Luckily, however, there are some assistance programs available both during the pandemic and more generally.
Even for families who have lost health insurance due to the pandemic, there are options that you can seek out to help you stay healthy and safe during this difficult time. Seeking medical debt forgiveness and relief from those debts can happen in the following ways:
- Negotiate a payment plan with your care provider. Many care facilities are supporting families in need at this difficult time with relief and assistance options. Contact them to negotiate forgiveness or a manageable repayment plan.
- Seek out COVID-19 health insurance grants. Foundations like The Assistance Fund are looking to help those who have lost insurance care for their families for the remainder of 2020 through grants and relief. Explore these options for assistance.
- Apply for Medicaid and other government assistance programs. With the loss of hours and income, your family may qualify for governmental assistance programs like Medicaid that will help you cover the cost of care. Apply to reduce the stress of not having insurance during a public health crisis.
Charities and grants are out there to help families in need. Seek out all your options at both a local and federal level to ensure that your family has the care they need without falling into severe medical debt.
Managing Finances in the New Normal
The emergence of COVID-19 has created difficulties for all working parents. Juggling financial challenges and their legal implications is particularly important regarding childcare and healthcare. By considering these challenges and exploring assistance options available, parents can better manage their finances for success during the pandemic.