PREPARE NOW FOR THE PRESIDENT’S COVID-19 PLAN
PREPARE NOW FOR THE PRESIDENT’S COVID-19 PLAN
Small Businesses Get Access to New Low-Cost Loans
On September 9, 2021, President Biden unveiled a six-pronged, comprehensive national strategy to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and reopen and support businesses, while working to protect Americans.
The plan squarely addresses the nearly eighty million unvaccinated Americans and represents a sweeping overhaul of current COVID-19 measures. What does this mean to employers? While employers await the much-anticipated regulations, every employer should know about the President’s path out of the pandemic.
President’s plan will help more than 150,000 small businesses by strengthening the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides long-term, low-cost loans. The loan changes will allow more business to get greater and more flexible support from the $150 billion in loanable funds still available in the program. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will increase the maximum amount of funding a small business can borrow through this program from $500,000 to $2 million, which can be used to hire and retain employees, purchase inventory and equipment, and pay off higher-interest debt. The SBA analysis shows that 80% of the small businesses that qualify for the new low-cost loans have twenty-five employees or less. Small businesses do not have to start repaying these loans until two years after receipt of the funds.
Next, SBA will make it easier for small businesses with multiple locations in hard-hit service sectors like restaurants, hotels, and gyms to access these loans. To ensure that taxpayer dollars are used to support businesses that truly need help, SBA has implemented tightened controls and will collaborate closely with the SBA Inspector General to monitor the program. And lastly, to ensure that Main Street businesses have additional time to access remaining funds, SBA will offer a 30-day exclusive window of access where only small businesses seeking loans of $500,000 or less will receive awards after the new improved loan product launches.
ALL EMPLOYERS WITH 100+ EMPLOYEES: MANDATORY VACCINATON OR WEEKLY TESTING.
Under the first part of the plan, President Biden will direct the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a rule that will require all employers with one hundred or more workers to have those workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement and it will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees. There is still a question on how to count the 100 workers, whether it is within a specific location, region or nationally.
REQUIRING VACCINATIONS FOR ALL FEDERAL WORKERS AND FOR MILLIONS OF CONTRACTORS THAT DO BUSINESS WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
The President’s plan also strengthens safety requirements for unvaccinated federal workers and will require “ALL” federal executive branch workers to be vaccinated. The President then took this order one step further, directing this standard to be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the federal government. Federal contractors and subcontractors will be affected if they have:
- (1) a procurement contract or contract-like instrument for services, construction, or a leasehold interest in real property;
- (2) a contract or contract-like instrument for services covered by the Service Contract Act;
- (3) a contract or contract-like instrument for concessions; or
- (4) a contract or contract-like instrument entered into with the federal government in connection with federal property or lands and related to offering services for federal employees, their dependents, or the general public.
The new rules as announced will apply to prime contractors and subcontractors at any tier of the supply chain. As part of this effort, the various federal agencies, Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service, and the National Institute of Health must issue emergency temporary standards and will complete implementation of their previously announced vaccination requirements that cover 2.5 million people.
The plan intended to protect the Federal workforce requires mask-wearing and specific physical distancing requirements in federal buildings, on federal lands, on military bases, and other overseas locations, consistent with CDC guidance and will remain in place (including courts).
The President’s plan also calls on entertainment venues, like sports arenas, large concert halls, and other venues where large groups of people gather, to require that their attendees be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry.
REQUIRING COVID-19 VACCINATIONS FOR OVER 17 MILLION HEALTH CARE WORKERS AT MEDICARE AND MEDICAID PARTICIPATING HOSPITALS AND OTHER HEALTH CARE SETTINGS.
The President’s plan builds on the vaccination requirements now in place for nursing facilities recently announced by CMS and will apply to nursing home staff; as well as the staff in hospitals and other CMS regulated settings, including clinical staff, individuals providing contracted services, volunteers, and staff who are not involved in direct patient, resident, or client care. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is taking action to require COVID-19 vaccinations for not only most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, but also hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies. The administration is hoping this action will create a consistent standard across the county, while giving patients assurance of the vaccination status of those delivering care. It appears that healthcare workers will not be allowed to produce a negative test result for COVID-19 rather than submit to vaccination; however, healthcare employers will be required to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities and sincerely held religious objections to the vaccine, which may include a testing option.
PAYING FOR VACCINATIONS, TESTING, AND TIME FOR THOSE ACTIVITIES
OSHA is developing a rule that will require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination. This requirement will be implemented through the ETS.
The President’s plan encourages testing in the employee’s own home, at pharmacies, and in the doctor’s office, with strong mask requirements to remain in place. To allow easy access to rapid tests for everyone, big retailers that sell the at-home, rapid test, including Walmart, Amazon, Kroger, and others, will offer these test at-cost for three months and Medicaid must cover at-home tests for free.
President Biden’s plan to continue to combat COVID-19 relies on the power of the federal government working hand-in-hand with states, local communities, the private sector, and all Americans to put this pandemic behind us.
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Information contained in this Memo is intended for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor it is a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney. It is considered advertising under the laws of some states. Epps & Coulson, LLP encourages you to call to discuss these matters as they apply to you or your business.