United States: President Biden’s COVID-19 action plan and private employers
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On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden announced a six-prong COVID-19 action plan that includes:
- Vaccinate the unvaccinated;
- Protect the unvaccinated more;
- Keep schools safe and open;
- Increased testing and masking requirement;
- Protect our economic recovery; and
- Improving care for people with COVID-19.
For private employers in particular, the action plan creates new screening and vaccination mandates as well as financial support and incentives to tackle the recent resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Testing and vaccination orders
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is creating a Temporary Emergency Standard (ETS) that will require all employers with more than 100 employees to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 Where can prove, at least once a week, that they have tested negative for COVID-19 before being allowed into the workplace. These employers will also be required to give employees paid time off for the time it takes to get vaccinated or to recuperate if they experience side effects after being vaccinated.
In addition to an executive decree requiring that all Federal employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, “subject to exceptions required by law, President Biden signed an executive order requiring adequate COVID-19 security protocols for federal contractors. Although this is not apparent from the The clear text of either executive order, the White House’s COVID-19 action plan page says the federal employee vaccination requirement extends to all employees of federal contractors.
The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, such as hospitals, dialysis centers, outpatient surgery facilities, health care agencies. home health and nursing homes. The vaccination requirement will apply whether or not workers are involved in the direct care of patients, residents or clients.
Financial support and incentives
Increased assistance to small businesses
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is strengthening its COVID Economic Disaster Lending Initiative (EIDL), which provides long-term, low-cost loans to eligible businesses. Eligible businesses can take advantage of the $ 150 billion in loanable funds still available by borrowing now up to $ 2 million, up from $ 500,000 previously, to hire and retain employees, purchase inventory and equipment, and repay a loan. higher interest rate debt. These loans will also now be more easily obtained by small multi-site businesses in industries particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, such as restaurants, hotels and gyms.
Simplify the loan forgiveness of the Paycheck Protection Program
The SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided loans to eligible businesses to keep employees on their payroll, will streamline its loan cancellation process for businesses with $ 150,000 loans or less. The SBA will provide pre-filled application forms to these borrowers, who can then work with the SBA to complete the forgiveness process.
Conclusion and implications
While COVID-19 action plans are not new, President Biden’s action plan covers uncharted territory and may be subject to legal challenges. Biden’s Plain of Action also raises many questions about screening and vaccination mandates, including:
- Will seasonal, temporary and part-time workers count toward the 100 employee threshold for OSHA’s COVID-19 mandate?
- Does OSHA have the authority to establish vaccination and testing standards in the context of an ETS, especially with regards to salary, hours and paid time off requirements?
- Will the mandates apply to employees who work entirely remotely and can rarely, if ever, enter their employer’s premises?
- How will the mandates impact employers who do not have a physical physical location but send employees into the community to interact with clients, clients and other members of the public?
- Will the terms of reference apply to employees subject to collective agreements and will they be considered as compulsory subjects of negotiation with the unions?
Some of these questions (and many more) may be answered in future regulations, but gaps open to interpretation are likely to remain.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.
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