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home : columns : dear harriette August 13, 2020

6/4/2020 8:08:00 AM
Undeclared workers cannot file for unemployment

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a wonderful nanny who has been taking care of my daughter for three years. When the quarantine began, we told her not to come to work because that was the rule. We continued to pay her. Since that time, I have lost my job. No one knows when these restrictions will end, and my husband and I don't think we can continue to pay her salary. We love her and know she counts on this money, but we are quickly depleting our savings. We didn't declare her salary on our taxes, so I don't think she is eligible for unemployment insurance. How should we handle this? -- Losing the Nanny

DEAR LOSING THE NANNY: Sadly, there are thousands of families in your position. Paying workers under the table, so to speak, has always been dangerous -- and illegal -- even though it is a common practice. The reality is that if you did not declare your nanny as an employee and pay the proper payroll taxes for her, she cannot receive unemployment insurance now. If you can no longer afford to pay your nanny, talk to her and explain your circumstances. Let her know that because of your life changes, you cannot continue to pay her.

For those who did declare their nannies, housekeepers or other workers, there are provisions in the Emergency Paid Leave Act of 2020 that require employers to pay any workers diagnosed with COVID-19 with two weeks' pay if they are quarantined by doctor's orders, with the promise of being reimbursed by the government. To learn more, go to

DEAR HARRIETTE: The city put up scaffolding in front of my building several months ago. No work is going on now, but what has happened is that homeless people are gathering under there. I've seen drug deals go down and bags snatched. I don't live in a so-called bad neighborhood. It's a combination of the scaffolding, which is offering cover, and the rising unemployment rates -- or at least that's what I think. Whatever the reasons, I'm nervous about leaving my building. What can I do to protect myself? -- Unsafe

DEAR UNSAFE: Speak to your building management about ramping up security around your building. Call a meeting of your tenants association to gather forces to complain formally to the building and to create a plan of action. Sign a petition with a list of grievances and present them to the landlord.

Document everything you see and share images and stories with building management and with the local police. Build a relationship with your local police precinct so that they become more aware of what's happening in your building and neighborhood -- and so that they care. Send photos of illicit activity to 311.

Consider instituting neighborhood watch tactics with the other residents. If you need more eyes to ensure that tenants are safe, do it for yourselves until you can get the building to do it for you. Arrange shifts when people stand guard, preferably in pairs, to help ensure safe passage as residents go in and out. Be vigilant.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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