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You may be eligible for new federal leave benefits

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -- If you're still working at an essential business, there are new federal leave laws in place that may provide some help.

"To say things are changing daily may be an understatment because sometimes it's hourly," says labor and employment attorney Adam Bartrom.

Bartrom says his phone's been ringing off the hook with questions from clients.

According to new federal leave laws that went into effect Wednesday, you may be eligible for federal paid leave if you meet some conditions.

"If they get a COVID diagnosis, if they're treating somebody with a COVID diagnosis, or if they've got a new need for childcare because their school or their child's daycare has recently closed due to these COVID closures," he says.

If you decide not to go to work, you will be considered an employee who voluntarily quit, meaning you'll be out of luck to get any benefits like unemployment or health coverage.

Businesses initially will bear the brunt of the cost, but will get a break later.

"The good news for them is they do get a dollar for dollar tax credit for any dollar paid to an employee, up to a cap, for this paid leave," Bartrom says.

Business owners can also apply for a low-interest loan through the Small Business Administration that would provide money to cover employees' paychecks for a time.

Bartrom says if requirements are met, that loan can be almost completely forgiven.

However, if you work for an essential business, you're an essential employee, and that means you have to go to work even if you don't want to.

"One issue that keeps coming up is the general fear of coming to work for fear of getting the virus, which is completely understandable and reasonable. But it's important for employees to know that doesn't qualify them for paid leave. A generalized concern about getting the virus does not qualify them for the paid leave," he says.

That means if you decide not to go to work, you will be considered an employee who voluntarily quit, meaning you'll be out of luck to get any benefits like unemployment or health coverage.

If you feel that your workplace is not practicing the proper social distancing outlined by the Centers for Disease Control, a state website says you should contact your county's health department.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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