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Government Affairs

NAW Government Relations Updates

NBMDA is pleased to present its members with timely and relevant updates from the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) Government Relations team featuring important government decisions, guidance and resources for business executives. Topics covered in the following briefs include updates on federal relief bills, federal loans, tax changes, unemployment benefits, workplace reopening issues and challenges, and more.

This page will be regularly updated. We encourage members to bookmark this page in your website browser to easily access new updates as soon as they become available.

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Click on Date To View Full Update

March 26, 2021

1. Latest on the COVID-19 Relief Legislation

On Saturday, NAW is actively involved in the vaccine distribution issue, working with member companies in a joint effort to get the government to involve the entire wholesale distribution industry.

NAW Initiatives on Vaccine Distribution

Yesterday, NAW and wholesaler-distributors across the country announced a partnership supporting mass vaccination sites at multiple NFL stadiums with donations of needed personal protective equipment and other items, including gloves, sanitizer, pumps, masks, shields, and wipes. The first mass vaccination sites to receive donations were the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Heinz Field. NAW is currently sourcing items for additional teams including the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks.

To read NAW's press release, click HERE.

State and Local Vaccine Distribution Tracker by Littler Law Firm

As with nearly everything about this pandemic, guidance and action plans varies by state and local jurisdictions and are constantly evolving. To that end, Littler Law Firm provides links to state agency websites, vaccine allocation plans, and other guidance related to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as basic vaccination plan phases. To see the latest updates, click HERE.

2. Latest on the Other Issues Impacting NAW Members

Payment Protection Program (PPP)

The Paycheck Protection program, enacted a year ago, has been extended several times, and was set to expire on March 31. Last week the House of Representatives passed yet another extension of the program.

Yesterday in the Senate an amendment to the legislation was offered by Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) to bar loans for anyone “convicted of a felony in relation to a riot or civil disorder during the two-year period preceding the date of the application.” And Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) offered an amendment to limit the SBA’s ability to prioritize any particular category of borrower over another. Both amendments failed on almost-party-line votes.

Following defeat of the amendments, the Senate passed the House bill, extending the program until May 31, with the SBA having until June 30 to process loans. The President is expected to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

American Recovery Plan (ARP - the Biden COVID Response Legislation) and State Taxes:

As you know, the ARP enacted into law this month included $350 billion in aid to the states and localities. The provision was very controversial, in large measure because at least 31 states reported no revenue shortfall and therefore had no need for federal aid. According to early data analysis by the Tax Foundation, “states closed out calendar year 2020 with only $1.7 billion less revenue than they generated in 2019 (a decline of less than 0.2 percent), not counting federal assistance, while municipal governments actually experienced substantial revenue growth due to rising property values.”

In response to the controversy over the state aid, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) offered an amendment that would prohibit any state receiving federal aid from cutting state taxes – directly or indirectly. The amendment was offered at the last minute, with no notice, after a marathon 24-hour Senate session. Senators becoming aware of the amendment after the bill was passed reacted angrily to its inclusion. And the reaction from the states, especially those in which state legislatures were already considering tax legislation, was even stronger. Questions immediately arose as to the constitutionality of the federal government mandating what legislation a state legislature may enact.

As of this writing, at least one state attorney general has filed a lawsuit challenging the Schumer language, and 21 additional attorneys general have notified Treasury that they will consider a legal challenge if Treasury does not narrow the broad scope of the language. How this issue will impact your state taxes remains to be seen.

Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act:

Earlier this year the House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which is the most pro-labor piece of legislation in decades. This radical legislation would impose policies that were rejected by the judicial system, opposed on a bipartisan basis in Congress, and/or abandoned by the agencies asked to enforce them. Unions continue to push this legislation to unfairly tip the playing field in their favor at the expense of the fundamental rights of workers to choose for themselves whether to accept or reject union representation.

Currently, 45 Senators have co-sponsored the Senate companion legislation, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has publicly stated will be brought to the floor of the Senate once it has 50 co-sponsors.

This could well be the issue on which Democrats act on their threat to abolish the legislative filibuster, which would allow them to pass the entire Biden agenda, including trillions of dollars of tax increases, with no involvement of the GOP minority and no Republican votes. NAW will continue to update you about this legislation as warranted.

NAW Applauds Introduction of INFORM Act:

On Tuesday, NAW joined with the Buy Safe America Coalition, a diverse group of retailers, consumer groups, wholesaler-distributors, and manufacturers in publicly declaring support of the introduction of the INFORM Consumers Act, legislation to increase transparency and accountability for online marketplaces amid the rapidly growing problem of illicit goods sold online. This bill would modernize consumer protection laws and require online marketplaces to collect and verify basic business information from sellers, in addition to requiring high-volume sellers to provide contact information to consumers.

To read NAW’s press release and to learn more about the bill, click HERE.

3. Latest on Economic Recovery and Re-Opening the Workplace

As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to impact the United States economy and businesses across the nation, it can be hard to decipher how new regulations and laws may impact your business. To help you manage these issues, NAW is providing information about reports, webinars, and seminars that you may find useful.

From Reed Smith Law Firm:

New York eliminates quarantine for domestic travel effective April 1

New York is doing away with its quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers. By way of background, in June 2020, New York issued a COVID-19 Travel Advisory requiring certain travelers to quarantine upon entry to New York. In November 2020, New York modified its travel advisory to permit out-of-state travelers to test out of its mandatory quarantine... Continue Reading

From McGuireWoods Law Firm

Telehealth: How the Pandemic Is Shaping the Future of Remote Healthcare

March 25, 2001

About 475 million people worldwide have received a COVID-19 vaccine, and a return to normalcy draws closer. What remains unclear, however, is how state and federal governments will regulate and reimburse for telehealth when temporary telehealth policies expire at the end of the public health emergency. Read on for a summary of proposed federal regulatory and legislative trends and state legislation that offer clues into telehealth’s post-pandemic future. To read more, click HERE.

From Nixon Peabody Law Firm:

What Employers Need To Know About the New COBRA Subsidy

For six months beginning April 1, 2021, the federal government will subsidize 100% of the cost of COBRA coverage for individuals who lose their health coverage due to an involuntary termination or reduction of hours. Nixon Peabody explains this new subsidy and what employers need to know to administer it. To read more, click HERE.

From Littler Law Firm:

New York Enacts Paid Vaccine Leave Law

On March 12, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation providing all public and private employees in New York up to four hours of paid leave per vaccine injection to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. To read more, click HERE.

From Reed Smith Law Firm:

California requires new COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave in 2021

On March 19, 2021, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 95 (SB 95), which creates, in part, new Labor Code Section 248.2.[1] As a reminder, Governor Newsom previously signed AB 1867, which added Labor Code sections 248 and 248.1 to provide COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave to food sector workers and employees who worked for employers... Continue Reading

From Reed Smith Law Firm:

New Jersey issues guidance confirming employers can mandate COVID-19 vaccines

New Jersey has confirmed that employers can mandate their employees be vaccinated for COVID-19. This move aligns New Jersey with federal guidance previously issued by the EEOC. Other states, such as California, have also issued similar guidance and the trend is expected to continue. Consistent with federal guidance from the EEOC, the New Jersey guidance... Continue Reading

From Reed Smith Law Firm:

Congress extends payroll tax credits to employers voluntarily providing FFCRA paid leave and expands leave provisions

As of January 2021, providing FFCRA paid leave is optional. Employers choosing to provide FFCRA Paid Leave to their employees on a voluntary basis can now receive a payroll tax credit to cover the wages paid through September 30, 2021 (subject to applicable caps). Last year, in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Congress passed the... Continue Reading

Stateside Associates publishes a daily report about State and Local Government responses to the evolving situation. To read their latest report, click HERE.

We are also providing a link to a spreadsheet that includes state and local COVID-19 response information provided by MultiState Associates. To view their spreadsheet, click HERE.

March 3, 2021

1. Latest on the COVID-19 Relief Legislation

On Saturday, the Senate approved a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package in a remarkable Senate session, and the House passed the Senate version of the bill yesterday. The President signed the bill this afternoon, one day earlier than expected.

A lot has been written about the bill, but much is still to be learned and as details come out, there are some surprises… The Senate process by which the bill was considered was remarkable and record setting… Democrats argue the legislation is exactly what Americans and the economy need… Republicans condemn the bill as an irresponsible spending spree largely unrelated to the pandemic. There’s little argument that the fiscal consequences of this spending will be felt for years to come.

We have not attempted to prepare a detailed summary of the many-hundred-page-bill, but have assembled some information that might interest you, and which you may not read in conventional news coverage. For example:

  • The bill included three business tax increases that no one knew were there
  • The Senate cast a vote that took almost 12 hours to complete
  • The billions of aid for schools is not tied to schools re-opening
  • Most of the Senate voters were 50-49, not 50-50 ties that would have required Vice President Harris to cast tie-breaking votes during a marathon 24-hour Senate session

You can read our brief report on these and other related items HERE.

2. Update on PPP - State "Decoupling" Issue

The CARES Act provided that forgiven PPP loans would not be taxable, and after an aggressive lobbying effort by NAW and our business allies, Congress passed legislation clarifying that the IRS could not tax PPP loans indirectly by denying the tax deductibility of business expenses paid for with a forgiven PPP loan. However, some states are “decoupling” their state tax law from the CARES Act provisions by treating forgiven PPP loans as taxable income and/or denying deductibility of expenses paid with forgiven PPP loans. The Tax Foundation has prepared an analysis of how each state is handling the issue of PPP taxability, which they are updating frequently. You can access that useful Tax Foundation report HERE.

3. Latest on the Vaccine Distribution

Earlier this week, NAW sent a letter to White House Senior Advisor for COVID Response Andy Slavitt reiterating the role distributors play in the economy and how we can help with vaccine distribution and other COVID relief efforts. We continue to focus on highlighting the role distributors are playing in helping America’s recovery and offering to do more to help move the country forward. To read the letter, click HERE.

NAW and our member companies are partnering with the National Football League to support mass vaccination sites in stadiums across the country. When fully operational, these sites will have the capacity and vaccine supply provided by FEMA to vaccinate thousands of people each day. NAW is actively building a coalition of distributors who are committed to accelerating the administration of the vaccine and can help the NFL secure items needed to operate these mass vaccination sites. Needed items include liquid hand sanitizer (preference for larger volume pump containers), disinfectant wipes, disposable face masks, medical grade gloves (nitrile or vinyl material), and medical waste containers (disposal plastic sharps bins).

If you would like to join us and have the ability to donate or serve as a source for purchase for any of these items, please contact NAW’s Chief Business Development Officer Dan Schuberth ( dschuberth@naw.org, 732-585-3010).
State and Local Vaccine Distribution Tracker by Littler Law Firm:

As with nearly everything about this pandemic, guidance and action plans vary by state and local jurisdictions and are constantly evolving. To that end, Littler Law Firm provides links to state agency websites, vaccine allocation plans, and other guidance related to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as basic vaccination plan phases. To see the latest updates, click HERE.

Additional Vaccine Distribution Resources:

In a previous update, we included additional information and resources on vaccine distribution, which you can access HERE.

Specific Employer Issues:

In a previous update we mentioned that NAW, along with 42 of our downtown allies, sent a letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requesting that they quickly issue guidance clarifying the extent to which employers may offer employees incentives to vaccinate without running afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act and other laws enforced by the EEOC. We are still waiting on a response from the EEOC, and we will update you again as soon as we receive it.

4. Latest on the Other Issues Impacting NAW Members

Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act:

This week, Democrats in the House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a labor boss wish list that was written to increase union membership at any cost.

This radical smorgasbord of pro-union legislation has been a top priority of labor unions for several years and was passed primarily along party lines. Although, the following five Republicans voted for the bill: Jeff Van Drew (NJ); Chris Smith (NJ); Brian Fitzpatrick (PA); John Katko (NY); and Don Young (AK); and one Democrat voted against: Henry Cuellar (TX).

Although many think that the measure is unlikely to win the 60 votes needed for passage in the Senate, that is certainly not a guarantee. Several of the newly elected Democratic members of the Senate have already co-sponsored the Senate companion bill and the executive board of the AFL-CIO has stated that it is exploring its position on eliminating the filibuster to pass the PRO Act.

From Reed Smith Law Firm:
Labor law under the Biden administration: A preview of the PRO Act
At a union event on Labor Day in 2020, President Biden vowed to be “the strongest labor president you have ever had.” Although he has only been in office a short time, his administration is already taking steps to honor that pledge. Specifically, on February 4, 2021, House and Senate Democrats introduced the Protecting the… Continue Reading

Infrastructure and Reconciliation:

COVID legislation and infrastructure were the top items on President Biden's list of issues that should be taken up on a bipartisan basis. Unfortunately, as you know, Congress chose to move a completely partisan COVID bill without Republican input or votes. While the President continues to talk about a bipartisan infrastructure approach, and has met with Republicans on it, there are troubling signs in recent days.

The original price tag on an infrastructure bill was about $2 trillion, which was already enough to worry both Republicans and Democrats who have expressed concern about the extraordinary federal spending legislation enacted in the last year. Nevertheless, in the last few days House Democrats have begun talking about an infrastructure bill of closer to $4 trillion. And Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), Chair of the Senate Committee responsible for most of the infrastructure issue, said that he could support a $4 trillion bill if it was paid for with tax increases.

While Senator Manchin continues to say he will not support a partisan approach to infrastructure and will not consider using reconciliation to pass a bill, Republicans and some Democrats are certain to oppose a big tax increase bill, and House Democrats are suggesting that reconciliation is the path they will pursue.

There is broad and deep support throughout the business community for a long-overdue infrastructure bill, but there is also broad and deep opposition to raising taxes on businesses, especially as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic. Combining a highway bill with trillions of dollars in new business taxes would make it very difficult for much of the business community to get behind the much-needed legislation.

Business Insider published an interesting story on Senator Manchin and infrastructure, with the blaring headline: Senator Joe Manchin says Biden's infrastructure bill can be as large as $4 trillion as long as it's paid for with tax increases. You can read that story HERE.

5. Latest on the Economic Recovery and Re-Opening the Workplace

As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to impact the United States economy and businesses across the nation, it can be hard to decipher how new regulations and laws may impact your business. To help you manage these issues, NAW is providing information about reports, webinars, and seminars that you may find useful:

Webinar from Littler Law Firm:

Navigating Difficult FMLA and ADA Issues in the Middle of a Pandemic

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 l 10-11am PDT

The COVID-19 pandemic has left an indelible impact on the workplace, causing employers to deal with a wave of medical leaves and a shift to virtual workplace. And now, with the roll-out of the vaccines, there are added wrinkles of whether to mandate them and possibly accommodate employees who challenge use of the vaccines. As a result, employers face a host of compliance issues in navigating vaccine, leave and accommodation issues. To register, click HERE.

From Reed Smith Law Firm:

COVID-19 in New York one year later: An overview of employer obligations still in-effect
As we approach the one-year anniversary of COVID-19’s upheaval of “business as usual,” we continue to field inquiries from Empire State employers regarding their pandemic-related workplace obligations. Given that many of the pandemic-related regulations remain fully in effect, we have summarized in this blog post the primary employer obligations that remain in-effect in New York… Continue Reading

From Bloomberg:

Employer COVID-19 Vaccine Incentives – A Difficult Dilemma: Legal Insight

Some employers are offering incentives to employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, like bonuses, days off, or gifts. R. Anthony Prather, partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP, warns that may work, but could lead to legal problems. Employers face a difficult choice: They can offer de minimus incentives that don’t really incent or offer larger incentives and open the company up to allegations of coercion or discrimination. To read the full article, click HERE.

From Reed Smith Law Firm:

Employers face challenges as states lift COVID-19 safety measures

The recent decline in COVID-19 infections has led numerous states to begin contemplating a roll‑back of mask mandates and related COVID-19 restrictions. Most recently, on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, Governor Greg Abbott and Governor Tate Reeves announced the imminent elimination of mask mandates in Texas and Mississippi, respectively. Both Governors also removed all capacity limits… Continue Reading

Stateside Associates publishes a daily report about State and Local Government responses to the evolving situation. To read their latest report, click HERE.

We are also providing a link to a spreadsheet that includes state and local COVID-19 response information provided by MultiState Associates. To view their spreadsheet, click HERE.

February 25, 2021

1. Latest on the Vaccine Eligibility and Essential Services

As you all know all too well, the federal government deferred much of the decision-making on administration and eligibility of the COVID vaccine to the states and localities, making it very difficult for companies deemed essential last year to ensure that their employees are eligible to get the vaccine. While we have not found a way to streamline the process, we hope these resources will help you navigate the maze.

Essential Services: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which determined the guidelines for essential services at the beginning of the pandemic, announced in a D ecember 16th memorandum that those essential service designations would apply to vaccine distribution as well. Also, in that memo CISA re-published its comprehensive list of those essential services. You can read their memo and essential services guidelines HERE.

Vaccine Eligibility Determinations: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), following the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), published information on how individuals and groups would be determined to be eligible for the vaccine. Eligibility was broken down into phases, and the first phase into subgroups – 1a, 1b, and 1c.

CDC has published a comprehensive list of the post-1a group eligibility, which you can access HERE. While this list does include essential workers in categories 1b and 1c, it is a much shorter list than CISA’s and it isn’t clear whether the CDC simply lists essential services in much broader categories than CISA, or whether some essential services on the CISA list have been excluded from the ACIP/CDC list.

Federal Government Deferred Decision to States/Localities: Further complicating things, while the federal government retained full control over allocating the vaccine distribution, they deferred to the states not only the physical administration on the vaccine, but the final decisions on what they considered essential services. Specifically, according to the CDC, the critical infrastructure workforce varies by jurisdiction. Each jurisdiction must decide which groups to focus on when vaccine supply is limited by determining key sectors that may be within their populations (e.g., port-related workers in costal jurisdictions).

Last year, NAW sent a letter to governors urging them to follow the federal guidelines; on Tuesday, NAW CEO Eric Hoplin sent a similar letter to all governors urging them to follow the CISA essential services guidelines for vaccine administration. You can read the letter HERE.

Resources for Employers: Unfortunately, employers – even in essential service sectors – now must deal with state and/or local public health agencies to ensure that their employees are eligible for the vaccine.

There are some resources that should help determine your next steps:

  • The CDC has a website that provides links directly to the relevant health agency in each state with information on their vaccine programs. While we have not been able to find a single source for all the local government agencies administering the vaccine, many of the state agencies linked to on this site do provide that information for their state. CLICK HERE
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation has a particularly helpful website that provides detailed information on the degree to which each state is following the ACIP recommendations, and how they differ if they are not doing so. CLICK HERE
  • The Littler Law firm website provides a frequently updated list of Statewide Vaccination Plans. CLICK HERE

Template Letters: If you plan to contact your governor or local health department to request that your employees be deemed essential for vaccine eligibility, you might find this letter template helpful. This template is addressed to a governor but could just as readily be used to communicate with a local health department. Click HERE for the template.

Also, in the early weeks of the pandemic we provided template letters that your warehouse employees and drivers could carry to identify themselves as essential. Similarly, this template for a “carry letter” might be useful to your employees to identify themselves as essential when they become eligible and prepare to get the vaccination. Click HERE for this template.

We will continue to look for information and resources that might be helpful to you as the vaccine distribution and administration continues.

2. Latest on the Economic Recovery and Re-Opening the Workplace

As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to impact the United States economy and businesses across the nation, it can be hard to decipher how new regulations and laws may impact your business. To help you manage these issues NAW is providing information about reports, webinars and seminars that you may find useful:

NAW’s trusted employee benefits partner, Gallagher, compiled a collection of employer resources to assist wholesaler-distributors as they develop employee vaccination plans. Gallagher’s Employer Covid-19 Vaccine Considerations and Checklist document provides an employer vaccination policy framework, consolidates links to relevant health and regulatory agencies to assist with compliance, and shares management strategies as thinking on this issue evolves. You can find that document HERE.

Gallagher has also released a webinar that offers a deeper dive into the Covid-19 Vaccine Considerations and Checklist . Click HERE.

From Reed Smith Law Firm:

Brief refresher for California employers: 2021 updates to local COVID-19 paid sick leave requirements

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), requiring employers with 50-500 employees to provide supplemental paid sick leave and paid family leave to their employees, and California’s statewide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave requirement expired on December 31, 2020. While employers may voluntarily continue to provide FFCRA and receive tax credits through March 31, 2021… Continue Reading

Webinar from Littler Law Firm:

Not All Who Wander Are Lost: Managing Employee Relocation in the Era of Remote Work

March 11, 2021 | 2:00 p.m. ET

As the pandemic reaches the one-year mark, employers who hastily implemented mandatory remote work are faced with the reality that many of their employees have relocated to other jurisdictions – often without approval or any concrete plans to return. Join a multidisciplinary panel of Littler attorneys for a lively discussion of the current challenge of wandering workers, practical insights into the future of managing a remote workforce and embracing flexibility without compromising compliance. To register, click HERE.

Stateside Associates publishes a daily report about State and Local Government responses to the evolving situation. To read their latest report, click HERE.

We are also providing a link to a spreadsheet that includes state and local COVID-19 response information provided by MultiState Associates. To view their spreadsheet, click HERE.

February 2, 2021

1. Latest on the Next COVID-19 Relief Bill

Despite efforts for a bi-partisan COVID-19 relief bill, it looks as though President Biden and congressional Democrats will move forward with their $1.9 trillion relief bill, potentially without Republican support.

Yesterday, 10 Republican Senators met with President Biden to advocate for a much smaller alternative to his massive relief bill to address the pandemic. Both sides described the meeting as “productive,” however in a statement, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said President Biden had emphasized that Congress had to act urgently and “boldly” and had pointed out many areas of disagreement with the Republicans.

The Republican proposal included $160 billion for vaccine distribution and development, coronavirus testing and the production of personal protective equipment; $20 billion toward helping schools re-open; more relief for small businesses; and additional aid to individuals. The package would also extend enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 a week — currently slated to lapse in March — until June 30th .

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi introduced a fiscal 2021 budget resolution, which is the first step toward producing a reconciliation bill embodying President Biden’s relief plan. The first move for House Democratic leaders will be wrangling the votes for a budget measure this week — a critical step that unlocks the ability to pass bills with a simple majority in the Senate. But it will also require a near-perfect vote-counting operation, as Speaker Pelosi cannot afford more than four Democratic defectors on the floor if all Republicans oppose. Senate Leader Schumer is turning his attention to Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, two moderate Democrats who have not yet said how they will vote on the budget resolution. If either Senators Manchin or Sinema opposes the budget maneuver, it could force the Democratic leadership to ditch the reconciliation process altogether.

Currently, neither President Biden’s plan nor the Republican proposal includes liability protections for businesses. Senate Minority Leader McConnell made it clear in December, just before Congress passed a $900 billion relief plan without liability protection, that any new relief bill this year must include protections for businesses, universities, and health care providers. NAW is currently working with our Liability Coalition to ensure that any relief bill this year includes liability protections.

2. Latest on PPP and Employee Retention Tax Credit

The IRS has issued new guidance for companies which had PPP loans that were NOT forgiven, allowing them to take the ERTC for the 4th quarter.

You can access the IRS guidance HERE and a story on the available credit from Accounting Today HERE.

3. Latest on COVID-19 OSHA Guidance for Employers

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released updated and stronger guidance for employers and employees on identifying coronavirus exposure risks. DOL has stated that the recommendations are “advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace."

You can view the updated OSHA guidance HERE.

However, President Biden’s Executive Order of January 21st also instructed OSHA to determine whether a new, temporary, mandatory COVID-related health standard is necessary, and if so, to implement that standard by March 15th.

4. Latest on Enhanced Employment Benefits

Last week, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) instructing the U.S. Department of Labor to issue new instructions to state unemployment agencies that will allow individuals to claim unemployment benefits even if they quit their jobs because they felt unsafe working during the pandemic. To date, the DOL has not issued new guidance.

According to the White House fact sheet, the executive order states:

… President Biden believes that workers should have the right to safe work environments and that no one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own or their families’ health. … [T]he President is asking the Department of Labor to consider clarifying that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health and if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance.

The relief package passed by lawmakers in December provided $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits that will be available until the end of March. However, President Biden is seeking to extend the termination date from March until at least September as part of his anticipated stimulus bill.


5. Latest on Paid Leave Benefits

Last March, the Families First Act mandated that workers be eligible for up to 2 weeks of fully paid sick leave for those sick, quarantining, or taking preventive measures regarding the coronavirus, and 12 weeks of childcare leave to care for children whose school or day care closed, or family leave to care for a family member suffering from COVID-19. The federal government would provide tax credits to cover the cost to employers. Businesses with more than 500 employees were exempt from the mandate; businesses with less than 50 employees were exempt from the mandate but could receive the tax credits if they chose to offer such leave.

The COVID-19 relief bill passed in December extended those tax credits through March, without the requirement to provide such leave. President Biden’s relief plan would reinstate the mandate through September. It would also extend coverage by eliminating the exemptions for employers with more than 500 or less than 50 employees. Employers with less than 500 employees would be fully reimbursed for the cost of providing this benefit.

6. Latest on Economic Recovery and Re-Opening the Workplace

As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to impact the United States economy and businesses across the nation, it can be hard to decipher how new regulations and laws may impact your business. To help you manage these issues NAW is providing information about reports, webinars, and seminars that you may find useful:

From theCenters of Disease Control:
COVID-19 vaccines are an important tool to help end this pandemic.

Check out CDC’s new COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers to help build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. Use these resources to educate your employees about COVID-19 vaccines, raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination, and address common questions and concerns. It will take all our tools to protect our essential workers against COVID-19.

Webinar from Littler Law Firm:

COVID-19 in the Workplace: Recent Developments and Compliance Challenges - Session Eleven

Friday, February 5, 2021 | 8:30 am-9:30 am PST

It has become apparent that COVID-19 is going to dominate employment and labor law issues for the foreseeable future. The American workplace has become the first frontier as the pandemic creates new legal issues – seemingly every day.

In response to the many questions that business leaders, human resources professionals, and in-house counsel have about facing these new legal challenges, Littler's Sacramento office created the “First Friday" webinar series. We invite a special guest to do a deep dive into a topic of particular interest and do our very best to leave a full 20 minutes at the end for an “open mic" question and answer session. To register, click HERE.

Webinar from Nixon Peabody Law Firm:

Vaccinating the Nation: What You Need to Know

Wednesday, February 17 | 4:00–5:00pm ET

Widespread vaccination offers a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. However, it also creates some legal questions and challenges, including:

  • Encouraging and/or mandating vaccination for employees
  • Requiring proof of vaccination for admission to premises or venues, or for participating in certain activities
  • The interplay of masks and social distancing requirements with vaccination
  • Managing risks in interactions with guests, visitors, and customers

Every organization and business will need to confront these issues, which are further complicated by a slow and uneven rollout of vaccinations across the country.

Join Nixon Peabody for an informational webinar on February 17, as our cross-office, multi-practice team helps you navigate through the incredible opportunities and complexities as America ramps up its vaccination program. To register, click HERE.

From Reed Smith Law Firm:
New York employers may be “exposed” to COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims

In September 2020, the New York Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) issued guidance related to COVID-19 claims and their compensability under the State’s workers’ compensation laws. This guidance is especially noteworthy because workers’ compensation claims are expected to increase substantially because of COVID-19. Byway of background, New York is one of the few… Continue Reading

From Littler Law Firm:
10 Months After Enacting the COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Law, New York Issues Guidance Impacting a Majority of its Employers

The NY DOL has issued new guidance that seeks to clarify the benefits available to all employees (except those in the healthcare industry) under the NY COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Law. To read more, click HERE.

From Reed Smith Law Firm:
Virginia enacts first in nation permanent COVID-19 workplace safety standard

Virginia is the first state in the nation to enact a permanent workplace safety standard for COVID-19. This permanent COVID-19 standard became effective Wednesday, January 27, 2021 upon publication after review and approval earlier in January by Governor Ralph Northam and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s (DOLI) Safety and Health Codes Board. While … Continue Reading

Stateside Associates publishes a daily report about State and Local Government responses to the evolving situation. To read their latest report, click HERE.

We are also providing a link to a spreadsheet that includes state and local COVID-19 response information provided by MultiState Associates. To view their spreadsheet, click HERE.

7. Latest on the Issues Unrelated to COVID-19

Department of Labor Ends Payroll Self-Reporting Program:

The DOL ended the Wage and Hour Division’s Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program that was launched in 2018. The program was created to allow employers to self-report federal minimum wage and overtime violation.

By self-reporting these violations some employers may have been able to avoid litigation and penalties; affected employees were prevented from initiating private actions against the employers and self-reported violations. Wage and Hour Division officials stated that one reason for the program’s ending was that the “program deprived workers of their rights.” NAW will continue to update you on changes to the Department of Labor’s employment policies.

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