The CARES Act Steering Committee has approved the request for $20 million to establish a COVID-19 Emergency Leave Fund for school employees. This fund provides two weeks of paid leave for public school teachers and staff (“employees”) if they are unable to work remotely, required to isolate or quarantine, and meet one of the following conditions:
- Tests positive for COVID-19;
- Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- Is a probable close contact or close contact.
Whether an employee meets one of these conditions must be determined by the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), a medical professional, or school district administration, and supported by documentation. Employees who are unable to work because of a lack of childcare, are at “high-risk” for possible exposure to COVID-19 because of a medical condition, refuse to return to work onsite as required by the school district, or are unwilling to work remotely if offered by the school district, are not eligible for this specific leave program unless they meet the requirements and conditions stated above.
This Emergency Leave is available for “first use”, meaning school employees may access this leave before using any personal or other types of leave allowed by district policy or federal law. Employees cannot be required to use this Emergency Leave before other types of leave, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
School district boards must adopt a policy governing eligibility and administration of COVID-19 Emergency Leave. The Arkansas School Boards Association has developed a model policy for COVID-19 Emergency Leave that may be adopted.
Qualifying for Funding
Eligibility is based upon a directive from ADH, a medical professional, or district administration, requiring a district employee to be absent from work to quarantine or isolate, and the employee being unable to perform their job duties remotely. Each instance of eligibility is limited to a maximum of 10 days paid leave per employee (9 days for districts/employees who are on a four-day school week) but do not have to be used consecutively. These 10 days of paid leave are in addition to the paid leave days provided by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion (EFMLE) provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The district must maintain documentation that the leave is required by ADH (all conditions), a medical professional (positive or experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis), or the district (probable close contact), based on current CDC guidelines. This documentation must be obtained before the district seeks reimbursement and kept on file by the district for monitoring and audit purposes.
Eligible instances must occur between August 1, 2020, and December 30, 2020.
Applying for Funding
A district may submit claims for reimbursement of salary and fringe for eligible instances of employee absences that occur through December 30, 2020. To file a claim, a district must submit a completed claim form (attached) and a signed statement of assurance (attached) to the Arkansas Department of Education, Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Forms should be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for claim submission is January 8, 2021. All requests for reimbursement are contingent upon available funding and will be reimbursed in the order they are received.
A district may submit claims as often as necessary during the claiming period. However, it should ensure that no duplicate items are submitted on multiple claims. Leave for multiple employees may be included on a single claim form.
Claims will be reviewed for eligibility at least bi-monthly in the order they are received. Approved claims will result in a reimbursement payment to the district.
Districts should work with their APSCN field rep when entering or changing data in eFinance related to any COVID leave time. APSCN personnel will assist with district-specific coding to correct leave banks, pay rates, etc., regarding all categories of COVID-related leave time.
Receiving Funds for Approved Claims
Districts will be notified via email when claims are approved or denied. Once approved, districts will receipt the resulting revenue from DESE to SOF 6776 with Revenue Code 45976. Then, the district has several options for using the funds:
- Redistribute the salary/fringe costs for the actual claim from the pay period involved in the actual claim submission.
- Distribute salary/fringe costs from a current pay period to SOF 6776 for the employee involved in the actual claim submission.
- Use funds in SOF 6776 to cover costs for employing substitute workers during the employee absence.
For all options, funds must be depleted by January 31, 2021. No fund transfers are allowed into or out of SOF 6776.
SOF 6776 is not eligible for any indirect cost charges/transfers to general operating.
Attached is an eFinance Plus 5.2 Procedural Outline that will assist schools when accounting for employee leave time related to COVID-19. School districts are encouraged to work directly with their APSCN field rep to ensure accurate entries in eFinance, both for employee pay and leave bank data.
For questions regarding eligibility, please contact Courtney Salas-Ford.
For questions regarding reimbursement claims, please contact Amy Thomas.
For questions regarding eFinance coding, please contact Kathleen Crain.