COVID-19 / Coronavirus Update

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OSHA Issues Memorandum to Further Address COVID-19 Crisis

May 26, 2020

On May 19th, 2020, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published both the Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of COVID-19 as well as the Updated Interim Enforcement Plan. These memoranda demonstrate that OSHA is applying its enforcement efforts to assure employers and workers during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases provides interim guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for the recording of occupational illnesses, specifically cases of COVID-19. Because of the challenge with determining work-relatedness, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion to assess employers’ efforts in making work-related determinations.

The Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan stipulates guidance and instructions to Area Offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. These updates are to take effect on May 26th, rescinding previous memorandums and are intended to be time-limited to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the updated plan, “where community spread of COVID-19 has significantly decreased,” OSHA will prioritize inspections per its pre-COVID-19 policy, returning to the status quo. In geographic regions where community spread has elevated or resurged, OSHA will “continue prioritizing COVID-19 fatalities and imminent danger exposures for inspection.” Other than the “geographic area” framework, the enforcement plan outlined in the April 10th guidance largely remains intact.

For more details visit  https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-05-19/revised-enforcement-guidance-recording-cases-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19  and  https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-05-19/updated-interim-enforcement-response-plan-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

WHD Southeast Region To Offer FFCRA Webinars This Week

May 18, 2020

The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will be offering webinars during the week of May 18th for businesses and state and local governments in the WHD’s Southeast Region aimed at helping to educate them on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

These webinars will cover the FFCRA requirements, including information on eligibility, qualifying reasons, coverage, duration of leave, and calculation of pay. The webinars offered are:

•    Wednesday, May 20th, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EDT.  FFCRA for Employers Registration

•    Friday, May 22, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EDT.  FFCRA for State and Local Governments Registration

Though the webinars are free, space is limited and requires pre-registration. Those interested in the webinars are asked to pre-register online before the events. Once registered, attendees will receive a confirmation email with additional login information.

For information about the webinars: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20200515

March 2020 Construction Spending Increases

May 05, 2020

The U.S. Census Bureau announced construction spending for March 2020 was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,360 billion, 0.9% above the revised estimate of $1,348 billion in February. Compared to 2019, March 2020 total spending is up 4.7%. Also, during the first three months of 2020, construction spending amounted to $297 billion, 6.7% above the $278 billion for the same period in 2019.

While private construction spending in March was $1,012 billion, 0.7% above the revised February estimate of $1,006 billion, public construction spending was $348 billion, 1.6% above last month’s revised estimates of $343 billion.

Compared to March 2019, private construction spending was up 3.7%, and public construction spending was up 7.9%. One of the main contributors to the public construction spending growth in March is highway construction, which was $108 billion, 4.6% above the revised February estimate of $103 billion.

With the announcement of construction spending for March 2020, the Bureau noted that due to the events surrounding COVID-19, responses and data quality were monitored, and it was determined they met publication standards.

More information may be found at:

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

Federal COVID-19 Response Bill “3.5”; Additional Funding To Key Areas

April 29, 2020

On April 24, 2020, President Trump signed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus “Phase 3.5” relief bill that designates additional funds to the small business rescue program known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The relief bill does not add new programs, nor does it impose any new obligations on employers; instead, it solely provides additional funding for the federal COVID-19 response to support small businesses, hospitals and to help enhance COVID-19 testing.

The relief bill includes:

  • $320 billion in additional funds for the PPP, a loan program designed to help small businesses with the economic fallout from COVID-19. Initially, lawmakers had allocated $349 billion to the PPP as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but the program was exhausted three weeks later. Of the new funding, $60 billion would be set aside for smaller lending institutions with the intent of reaching underbanked businesses.
  • $10 billion for Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) grants, plus $50 billion more for loans.
  • $50 billion for SBA’s Disaster Loans Program Account
  • $75 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to support health care providers and local hospitals by providing reimbursements for COVID-19 related expenses, public health services, and lost revenue for uninsured Americans infected by COVID-19.
  • $25 billion for COVID-19 testing, including $1 billion for testing costs for individuals without health insurance, $1 billion for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and $11 billion for states and municipalities.

DOL Releases Three New Directives; Providing OFCCP Staff & Federal Contractors Guidance

April 24, 2020

On April 17th, the U.S. Department of Labor issued three Directives from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP); the Efficiency in Compliance Evaluations, Pre-Referral Mediation Program, and Ombuds Service Supplement and Protocol. The Directives seek to promote efficiency and to provide guidance to OFCCP staff and federal contractors on enforcement and compliance procedures.

The Directives maximize the effectiveness of compliance assistance resources to support contractors in meeting their responsibilities.

  • Efficiency in Compliance Evaluations outlines the steps OFCCP will take to expeditiously resolve compliance evaluations and quickly remedy violations, ensuring the collection of the relevant evidence promptly.
  • Pre-Referral Mediation Program is designed to settle matters before spending significant time and resources in the enforcement process. The program offers federal contractors and subcontractors the chance to resolve findings of discrimination after a Show Cause Notice is issued but before referrals to the Office of the Solicitor for enforcement.
  • Ombuds Service Supplement and Protocol adds to Directive 2018-19 by describing the intent of the Ombuds Service as a mechanism to allow stakeholders to share their concerns with OFCCP or provide general feedback and recommendations to improve agency administration.

These Directives, which take effect immediately, do not change any of these laws or regulations but rather seek to provide clarity to existing requirements. The OFCCP anticipates these Directives will lead to the timely completion of compliance evaluations and quick remediation of violations that benefit employees, applicants, and contractors.

DOD Issues Class Deviation to Alleviate Impact of COVID-19 on Contractors

April 14, 2020

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced that the Defense Pricing and Contracting (DPC) office issued a class deviation to allow payments to contractors who cannot work due to COVID-19. The class deviation guidance seeks to provide relief to the contracting community who may be affected by COVID -19.

The DPC office issued the class deviation to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS) entitled, “CARES Act Section 3610 Implementation.” The deviation addresses section 3610 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, allowing agencies to reimburse contractors for payment to employees who otherwise are prohibited from working due to facility closures or other restrictions caused by COVID-19.

Also, to recognize the importance of supporting affected contractors, the deviation guidance offers a framework for contracting officers to assess any claimed allowable costs associated with the declared public health emergency.

More information is available at https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/pacc/cc/COVID-19.html

Update: WHD Provides Additional Guidance On Expanded Coronavirus Paid Family Leave

April 06, 2020

Last Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued additional guidance to employers and workers about relief and protections offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which took effect on April 1, 2020. This new guidance provides detailed information on common issues that employers and workers face when responding to COVID-19 and its impact on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The WHD has included a comprehensive webinar explaining which employers are covered by the new law, which workers are eligible, and what protections and benefits the law provides. They have also added to the Questions and Answers section of their website, which addresses the frequently asked questions received to date. To view the webinar and other guidance materials, visit www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.

Additionally, a growing list of compliance assistance materials has been updated and published on the WHD website, including a Fact Sheet for Employees and a Fact Sheet for Employers, available in both English and Spanish, Questions and Answers about posting requirements, and a Field Assistance Bulletin describing WHD’s 30-day non-enforcement policy. For Fact Sheets, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employee-paid-leave and https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-employer-paid-leave

Coronavirus Relief Bill Passes

March 30, 2020

Congress passed, and President Trump signed a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. The relief package builds on initial emergency response funding and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides paid family leave benefits, free coronavirus testing, enhanced Unemployment Insurance, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states.

The most recently adopted $2 trillion package touches the most impacted parts of the economy by providing targeted assistance to the most affected workers, industries, and communities.

The package includes:

  • One-time direct payments to households of up to $1,200
  • A four-month unemployment extension for laid-off workers, which will also include the self-employed
  • $150 billion for the health care system
  • $350 billion loan program for small businesses

Members of Congress are already discussing the need for a fourth relief bill to help rebuild. These discussions may address infrastructure spending.

USDOL Provides Guidance On Expanded Coronavirus Paid Family Leave

March 25, 2020

The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division published guidance to provide information on the family leave benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The family leave benefits take effect April 1, 2020, and goes through December 31, 2020.

FFCRA was passed by Congress to assist the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. In addition to paid family leave benefits, the law also provides free coronavirus testing, enhances Unemployment Insurance, strengthens food security, and increases federal Medicaid funding to states.

FFCRA will provide employers with 500 employees or less with funding to allow for paid employee leave, either to care for the employee’s own health needs or to care for a family member. The purpose is to ensure employees do not have to choose between working when they are sick, which further spreads the coronavirus and lost wages.

The new law generally provides 80 hours of family and medical leave either at 1) at the employee’s regular rate of pay, because the employee is quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking medical care or 2) at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay, because the employee is subject to government or health care provider quarantine, or to care for a child because of school or child care provider closure. Employers are entitled to dollar-for-dollar reimbursement through a tax credit for all qualifying wages paid as a result of FFCRA.

The information provided by the U.S. Department of Labor is provided in fact sheets for employees and employers, and FAQs. Links to the family leave information can be found at https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20200324

Memorandum Addressing COVID-19 And Federal Contractors

March 23, 2020

Federal contractors play a vital role in helping agencies meet the needs of our citizens, including the critical response efforts to COVID-19. The Office of Management and Budget recently put out an Executive Memorandum regarding federal contractors and COVID-19 that we wanted to make sure you reviewed.

You can read the entire memorandum by clicking here.