COVID-19 childcare center exposures, closures continue to hurt working parents

Working parents have had a hard time during the COVID-19 pandemic as school closures and quarantines due to virus exposures have been constant.

Every time that happens, it puts stress on families.

Gina Amaroso's oldest had her school closed in September because of staffing issues. It hasn't gotten better, and it seems nearly every working parent has gotten this call in the pandemic.

"I got a call around 11 stating that I had to come pick up Vida because there was an exposure," Amaroso said. Just one day after her 6-year-old's exposure period came to an end, it began again with her 2-year-old.

This isn't the first time it's happened in her home, either., She’s had a rougher stretch than most as a single mom trying to get her job done and keep her kids safe.

Between the two classrooms, her kids are in, there have been constant cases of exposure to COVID-19 this year.

"Since January 3, I have been out every single week," Amaroso said. She works at Valleywise Health and says her employer has been completely understanding, but she’s worried about how long this will last.

"If this continues like this, and I’m not able to fill my role as peer support and do my daily things I’m supposed to be doing at work, that’s going to be a problem," Amaroso said.

 Joshua Black is an employment attorney and explains, "We’re hearing about a lot of parents in that situation, especially with classroom closures where you may have more than one child."

In 2020, he says there were a lot of programs in place to help parents in this situation, but not as much now, which is why he says it’s up to employers to be understanding to keep good workers.

"How you handle pandemic-related situations are going to be a big part of the community. Employees will look at whether they want to stay or get another job," Black said.

Amaroso is grateful that her bosses have allowed her to find her footing during this time, but there are options to help parents that face long stretches without childcare.

"It was just impossible when you have kids climbing on you and screaming at each other. You can’t do it, there’s only so much candy and things and tablets that you can hand out – that’s not good," Amaroso said.

She doesn’t know when the exposures will end, saying, "There’s no solution and this isn’t going to stop, and I fear losing my job," she admitted.

It’s a fear many have in 2022, Black said.

He says the best option for single parents who need to stay home is to use the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

"It’s not paid time, but it’s at least job-protected. So in that type of scenario, it doesn’t solve the issue of, 'Hey, I’m not getting paid. But it does solve the issue of my job is going to be there for me in 2 weeks 3 weeks when my kid goes back to school," Black explained.

He says most importantly, employers should consider the job market and the risk of losing good employees.

"A lot of employers are hiring, looking for competitive employees. It’s something that employers should really consider when they’re weighing their leave policies and absences. It’s not the same as it was in 2019," he said.

Black said that FMLA leave can be taken in weekly chunks, too. Again, you won't be paid but it’s job protection.

Some companies have policies in which you do get paid during your leave, but it depends on the company.

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