No, COVID-19 relief law doesn’t give federal workers a $21,000 bonus

In The News, Covid19No, COVID-19 relief law doesn’t give federal workers a $21,000 bonus

Budget & Tax,  | Analysis
Mar 22, 2021  | 4 min read | Print Article

This article by Samantha Putterman first appeared in Politifact on March 19, 2021

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  • The law allocates money for an expanded paid-leave fund for federal workers dealing with certain COVID-19-related matters. There is no bonus check.
  • It covers leave that would otherwise be unpaid.
The American Rescue Plan, the government’s newly passed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, continues to be a target of misinformation about what exactly is included in the law.

A recent Facebook post claims it includes a hefty bonus check for all federal employees.

“Pelosi’s $1.9 trillion bailout gives EVERY federal employee a $21,000 bonus check… they never lost their job!” the post reads.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

There is no bonus check. This appears to be a distortion of a limited-term provision in the package that provides additional paid family leave to some federal employees, covering leave that would otherwise be unpaid.

The $21,000 figure represents the maximum amount an eligible worker could receive in lieu of their pay if they took an emergency leave under certain circumstances.

The extra money and who can get it

The bill established a $570 million pool called the Emergency Federal Employee Leave Fund to provide federal employees with up to 15 weeks of additional paid leave for COVID-19-related situations through Sept. 30. The Office of Personnel Management will oversee the program.

The provision grants up to 600 hours in paid leave, capped at $1,400 per week (or a proportional amount for part-timers), for federal employees who cannot work because of the following reasons:

  • If they have to quarantine because of COVID-19;
  • If they have symptoms of the virus and are seeking a diagnosis;
  • If they are caring for a family member with COVID-19;
  • If they are caring for a family member with a disability who can’t access other care because of COVID-19;
  • If they are getting vaccinated or experiencing symptoms related to the shot; or
  • If they are caring for a child enrolled in a school that isn’t fully open.

If an employee took all 15 weeks at the maximum $1,400 allotment, it would come out to the $21,000 that the Facebook post references.

“In most cases it wouldn’t make sense to do this unless you’ve exhausted your other options, including telecommuting, which many federal employees can do,” Steve Ellis, president of the nonpartisan budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, told PolitiFact.

Federal workers can currently take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and a 2019 law allows most federal employees (about 2.1 million) to get 12 weeks of paid parental leave following the birth, adoption or fostering of a child.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims that the new COVID-19 relief package provides every federal employee with a $21,000 bonus check.

There is no bonus check.

The law provides money to cover paid leave for federal workers who say they can’t work due to certain COVID-19-related situations. The most an employee could claim under the provision is $21,000.

We rate this False.

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