Government Assistance While on FMLA [How to Get Paid]

How do you get paid while on FMLA when the Family Medical Leave Act does not require employers to continue your regular compensation? Twelve weeks is a long time to go without an income – especially when you have extra doctor bills.

A minority of employees can get paid during FMLA – if they work in a state with mandated benefits for temporary disability or caretaker insurance. Unfortunately, collecting unemployment only works after you are ready to return to the workforce.

The limited income support options mean that the majority might benefit from government assistance that reduces expenses during FMLA – because far more people qualify for these programs.

Getting Paid On FMLA

You can get paid while on FMLA leave if you work in a few states with a required program: short-term disability or paid family leave. However, most people must fend for themselves and find other ways to make ends meet during their unpaid time off.


An FMLA loan is the primary alternative for many workers who do not qualify to get paid during their family medical leave. Borrowed funding can quickly give you the extra cash to stay current on your regular bills during a temporary work absence.

Verify that you are eligible for the twelve weeks of job and health insurance protections under FMLA before taking out a loan. You could worsen a harmful situation if you could not repay the lender on time and according to terms because you lost your job.

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Government Assistance

Government assistance is the second option for the numerous employees ineligible to get paid during their FMLA leave. Public agencies move slowly, but you do not have to return the money or benefits.

Personal Use

Free grant money for bills and personal use encompasses a broad set of government assistance you might get during FMLA.

Many government assistance programs base eligibility on your projected annual income when you file your taxes next April, not what you earned in the past. Therefore, a twelve-week gap without pay helps your qualifications.

Family Leave

Applying for paid family leave is another way to get income benefits during FMLA leave when the need to care for a family member prevents you from fulfilling your job duties – if you work in a state with a mandatory program.

Apply for state-mandatory paid family leave if you work in one of the few regions with this coverage: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington.

The women who get paid during maternity leave often tap into this program when bonding with their newborn babies. At the same time, short-term disability extends their pay before birth and when recovering from labor and delivery. 

Apply for Disability

Applying for disability benefits is the best way to get paid while on FMLA leave when you take time off because your serious medical condition prevents you from performing the duties of your full-time occupation – if you have the coverage.

State Temporary

Apply for state-mandatory temporary disability benefits to get paid on FMLA when an off-the-job accident or illness prevents you from working. However, you must work in a state with a required program to be eligible.

Unfortunately, only eight states have a mandatory program: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington. You are out of luck if you work in one of forty-two others unless you bought a policy from a private insurance company.

Social Security

Applying for Social Security Disability will not help you get paid during FMLA. Still, you might want to file a claim immediately if your medical condition will last twelve months or longer.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) has a five-month waiting period before benefits begin, whereas FMLA runs out after only twelve weeks (2.8 months). Therefore, the two never overlap or run concurrently.

However, SSDI decisions average three to five months, so submit your claims paperwork right away if you think you might qualify.

Worker’s Compensation

Apply for Worker’s Compensation disability benefits to get paid while on FMLA if an occupational accident or illness prevents you from working. While a less common reason, at least most people have the coverage.

Most states require employers to purchase Worker’s Compensation insurance to protect employees from on-the-job injuries and illnesses. Therefore, contact your Human Resources department for information on where to file your claim.

Food Stamps

People can sometimes get Food Stamps during FMLA. This form of government-sponsored financial assistance helps reduce what you spend on groceries – a big part of any budget.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offers nutrition support to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families. Since the FMLA is unpaid, it becomes easier to meet the earnings standards.

Apply for food stamps (SNAP) at your local state office, remembering to use your projected annual income, which now includes a twelve-week gap.

Unemployment While on FMLA

Trying to collect unemployment while on FMLA is unlikely to help you get paid during your time off because you still have a job. Even if you don’t qualify for the legal protections or get fired after they expire, you still have to be able and available for work.

Don’t Qualify

Even if you don’t qualify for FMLA legal job protections, you probably cannot collect unemployment benefits. The reasons why you must take an unpaid leave of absence make you ineligible.

Collecting unemployment for medical leave does not work because people who do not qualify for FMLA still fail other criteria.

  1. Physically able to work: falls short with an employee’s disability
  2. Available for employment: falls for family caretakers and military leave

The Family Medical Leave Act provides legal job protections for eligible employees working for covered employers taking time off for a qualifying reason.

Fired After

You could be eligible to collect unemployment if you are fired after FMLA expires. Once you are physically able and available for work, this rule holds if your state supports a lenient good cause reason for the extended absence.

Many employers terminate employees after the twelve weeks of FMLA job protections run out – so they can fill your position. Some states allow you to get unemployment benefits if your extended absence was for a good cause reason.

  • Employee’s disabling medical condition: roughly eight states
  • Care of a severely sick family member: about sixteen states

Unpaid FMLA

You cannot collect unemployment while on unpaid FMLA because you still have a job. These benefits support people laid off from work due to weak economic conditions.

The Family Medical Leave Act requires the employer to return the employee to the same job or one that is nearly identical (equivalent).

  • Same shift or general work schedule
  • Substantially similar duties, responsibilities, and status
  • An equivalent level of skill, effort, accountability, and authority
  • Identical pay, overtime and bonus opportunities, and profit-sharing
  • Equal benefits: insurance (life, health, disability), vacations, sick leave