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The Contractors Plan

Administration Proposes Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Budget

February 14, 2020 Written by: Brittney Greer

Earlier this week, the Fiscal Year 2021 proposed budget submitted to Congress by the White House requests $1 trillion over 10-years in Direct Federal Investments to support the rebuilding and modernizing of the nation’s infrastructure. The proposal includes two major components that combined would focus on roads, bridges, improvements to existing rail and bus systems, and providing high-speed internet to rural areas.

The principal component is a request for $810 billion to support a 10-year reauthorization of surface transportation programs. Within this amount is $602 billion for highway infrastructure, $155 billion for transit infrastructure, $20 billion for traffic and motor carrier safety, $17 billion for rail infrastructure, $16 billion for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans and Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, and about $1 billion for pipeline and hazardous materials safety.

The second component requests $190 billion for a wide range of infrastructure sectors that include broadband and water. More specifically it proposes $60 Billion for a new Building Infrastructure Great grants program, $50 billion for a new Moving America’s Freight Safely and Efficiently program, $35 billion for a Bridge Rebuilding program,  $25 billion for a new Revitalizing Rural America program, and $20 billion for a Transit State of Good Repair Sprint program.

The budget request also includes $6.5 billion for a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund to address the deferred maintenance backlog in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands, along with the Bureau of Indian Education schools.

Similar to the recently proposed House Democratic infrastructure plan, the Administration’s request would also require approval by the House, Senate, and White House. However, it serves as another indicator of the importance of addressing infrastructure.

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December 2019 and Full-Year Construction Spending

February 05, 2020 Written by: Brittney Greer

The U.S. Census Bureau announced construction spending for December 2019 was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,328 billion, 0.2 percent below the estimate of $1,330 billion in November. Compared to the same period last year, construction spending in December was up 5.0 percent. The overall value of construction in 2019 was $1,303 billion, not seasonally adjusted which is 0.3 percent below the $1,307 billion in 2018.

While private construction spending in December was $ 991 billion, 0.1 percent below the revised November estimate of $ 992 billion; public construction spending was $ 336 billion, 0.4 percent below last month’s estimate of $ 338 billion. One of the main contributors to public spending was Highway construction which was $99 billion, up 3.1 percent from November’s $97 billion. Also, Highway construction in December 2019 was up 14.1 percent from the same period in 2018.

Compared to the previous year, the value of public construction in 2019 was $329 billion, up 7.1 percent from $307 billion in 2018. Educational construction in 2019 was $79 billion, up 3.4 percent from $76 billion and highway construction was $99 billion, up 8.8 percent from $91 billion in 2018.

More information may be found at:

https://www.census.gov/construction/c30/pdf/release.pdf

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House Democratic Infrastructure Proposal

February 03, 2020 Written by: Brittney Greer

Late January, House Democrats released their proposal for a $760 billion five-year infrastructure plan to rebuild roads, bridges, transit systems, railways, airports, ports, inland waterways, wastewater and drinking water systems, brownfields, and broadband. The Democratic proposal addresses the nation’s aging infrastructure and commits to long-term sustainable funding, improving the economy, enhancing public safety, and addressing environmental concerns.

Some key features include:

  • Transit and Highway spending of $434 billion
  • Rail transportation spending of $55 billion
  • Airport spending of $30 billion
  • Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund spending of $19.7 billion
  • Water Resource spending of $10 billion
  • Clean Water spending of $50.5 billion
  • Brownfield Restoration and Reinvestment spending of $2.7 billion
  • Clean Drinking Water and Clean Energy spending of $59.7 billion
  • Broadband and Communication spending of $98 billion

The proposal also applies the Davis-Bacon Act and other worker protections. The House Democratic infrastructure proposal would require approval by both the House and Senate and the President’s signature. However, it does serve as a starting point for negotiations which could lead to something eventually getting adopted. This is a link to the proposal; https://transportation.house.gov/imo/media/doc/Moving%20Forward%20Framework.pdf

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New York State Budget – Infrastructure Spending

January 29, 2020 Written by: Brittney Greer

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo presented the State’s proposed budget for 2021. The budget includes spending increases to combat climate change, improve education, and fight homelessness. The most significant proposal for the construction industry is the additional funding for infrastructure.

Governor Cuomo started with a $100 billion investment in infrastructure before 2020, then added another $175 billion in the 2021 budget to bring the total to $275 billion. The additional funds support transportation and mass transit systems, affordable housing, education, and the environment. Specific infrastructure plans include:

  • $87 billion for mass transit, railroads, highways, bridges, and tunnels
  • $35 billion to improve environmental facilities and parks
  • $11 billion for economic development
  • $19 billion for schools
  • $14 billion to develop and maintain SUNY and CUNY buildings

While many infrastructure initiatives are already underway, the 2021 budget needs to be approved before the additional $175 billion can be utilized. The next step in the New York budget process is for the New York Legislature to review, change, and enact into law.

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WHD To Host 2020 Prevailing Wage Seminars

January 22, 2020 Written by: Brittney Greer

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) released the dates of their upcoming prevailing wage seminars for 2020. These three-day compliance training workshops are designed for regional stakeholders such as private contractors, unions, state agencies, federal agencies, and workers.

WHD 2020 seminars will be held in the following locations:

  • Guam, March, 2020
  • Hawaii, March, 2020
  • Salt Lake City, UT, May, 2020
  • Detroit, MI, June, 2020
  • Charleston, SC, July, 2020
  • Philadelphia, PA, August, 2020

During the seminars conference participants, will cover the following topics: The Davis-Bacon Act and McNamara O’Hara Service Contract Act; Executive Order 13658 “Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors”; the process of obtaining wage determinations and adding classifications; the process for appealing wage rates, coverage, and compliance determinations; and compliance assistance and enforcement processes.

For more information go to: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/government-contracts/construction/seminars

Framework

Wage and Hour Division Issue Final Rule for Regular Rate Under FLSA

December 18, 2019 Written by: Brittney Greer

Last week the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced a final rule that helps to clarify the role perks and benefits play when calculating the regular rate of pay, making it easier for employers to compensate employees. The Rule promotes compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and encourages employers to provide additional benefits to employees that reflect today’s workplace.

This Rule is the first significant update to the regulations governing the regular rate requirements under the FLSA in more than 50 years. Until now, employers were often uncertain about the rules and what forms of payment should be included and excluded in the FLSA “time and one-half” calculation when determining overtime rates.

This update focuses on explaining which perks, benefits, and other miscellaneous payments must be included in the regular rate of pay. Also, the Rule offers employers guidance, which encourages employers to provide contemporary benefits to their employees without fear of costly litigation.

The Final Rule will become effective on January 15, 2020.

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Data Privacy And Security Must Be Key Components In Selecting A Business Partner That Will Handle Your Most Sensitive Information.

December 13, 2019 Written by: Brittney Greer

Why You Need A Partner Who Is Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 Certified.

The Digital and Information Age requires your Benefit Administrator have the proper security resources and technologies to protect your data and keep your personal information secure. The Contractors Plan, provided by Fringe Benefit Group, is one of the few Third Party Administrators in our industry who has made the significant investments necessary to earn the esteemed Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 security certification. 

Plain And Simple, SOC 2 Credentials Matter.

The SOC 2 standard is a measure of trust and accountability in a business’s data handling practices. You, no doubt, have seen news articles about businesses who failed to properly manage and protect their customers’ data.  Data privacy and security must be key components in selecting a business partner that will handle your most sensitive information.

These are the four main areas that the SOC 2 certification covers:

  1. Monitoring – A SOC 2-certified business is be able to fully monitor system access and usage, along with associated network matters such as user access privileges and has the best possible systems in place to monitor and guard against unauthorized access. This includes unauthorized access from human hackers or by software attacks.
  2. Alerting – Businesses are constantly under attack from global threats. The SOC 2 requires robust alert systems to notify organizations when possible threats or attacks might be occurring.  Just a few areas that The Contractors Plan monitors 24 x 7 include unauthorized file transfers, account access, or changes to data.
  3. Auditing – To be SOC 2-certified, organizations must have auditing systems capable of producing detailed logs of system access, changes, and alerts. The Contractors Plan maintains audit trails covering modification of system components, data changes, and the source of incoming connections.
  4. Forensics – Quickly responding to threats, identifying their source, and understanding the scope of the attack are all critical in stopping attacks. Having best of class forensics systems in place enables the Contractors Plan to offer assurance that any attacks will be dealt with via best security practices, with an eye towards minimizing any harm done.
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NY City Council Passes Prevailing Wage Bill For Building Service Workers

December 02, 2019 Written by: Brittney Greer

Recently the NY City Council passed a bill to extend the existing building service prevailing wage law to include new affordable housing. The bill requires that future affordable-housing developments and preservation projects with 120 units or more pay building-services workers a living wage. 

Based on the principle that if developers receive financial assistance to build affordable housing units, building service workers should also receive a prevailing wage that includes affordable housing benefits. The law would require future developments that get more than $1 million in aid from the city for construction or preserving rent-stabilized low-income units to pay the prevailing wage to building-service workers.

Building-service workers will now be guaranteed that as the city builds and preserves 300,000 affordable housing units in low-income communities, that the workers in those buildings would be able to afford similar housing. 

Opponents of the bill believe it will add billions to the cost of developing affordable housing, money that the City Council does not include.

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NPRM for Fluctuating Workweek Method of Computing Overtime

November 26, 2019 Written by: Brittney Greer

Recently, U.S. the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), which would allow employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime requirement to offer incentive-based pay and other bonuses to employees whose hours vary from week-to-week. The NPRM seeks to provide clarity to ensure the salary and payments are compatible with the use of the fluctuating workweek method under the FLSA.

The FLSA requires time-and-one-half the regular rate of pay for any hours above 40 that an employee works in a week unless the employee is “exempt.” For some employees, however, there is the alternative “fluctuating workweek method” under the FLSA,  in which employers have another method of calculating overtime when employee work hours fluctuate.

The NPRM lays out the plan to revise the existing regulations implementing the FLSA fluctuating workweek regulation (29 CFR 778.114) to explain the circumstances under which employers may use an alternate method. Changes will include explicitly stating requirements, adding examples, improving readability, and changing the title of the regulation to reflect the purpose of the subsection better.

The public has 30 days to review the NPRM (RIN Number: 1235-AA31) and is encouraged to submit comments on the proposed rule.

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OFCCP To Begin VEVRAA-Focused Reviews

November 18, 2019 Written by: Brittney Greer

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) released its initial scheduling list for reviews focused solely on compliance with the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA). The VEVRAA-focused reviews are meant to ensure that federal contractors and subcontractors comply with their affirmative action and nondiscrimination obligations, assuring equal employment opportunities for veterans.

Under VEVRAA, employers doing business with the federal government are required to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, and promote categories of veterans covered by the law, including disabled veterans and recently separated veterans. Additionally, it is unlawful for federal contractors and subcontractors to discriminate against protected veterans when making employment decisions about hiring or firing, pay, benefits, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, and other employment-related activities.

The OFCCP is expected to conduct 500 reviews that will include a comprehensive review of employment practices and a contractor’s policies as they relate specifically to VEVRAA. Contractors can check-out the Corporate Scheduling Announcement List in the OFCCP’s FOIA Library, https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/foia/foialibrary/index.html, to find out if OFCCP has scheduled them for a VEVRAA-focused review.