Congressional MEMO: Federal Employee / Government Contractors Issues (COVID-19)

Congressional MEMO: Federal Employee / Government Contractors Issues (COVID-19)

TO: All House and Senate Members
FROM: James Hart, President Metal Trades Department
SUBJECT: Legislative Memo Federal Employee / Government Contractors Issues (COVID-19)

Dear Member of Congress:

As Congress considers additional measures to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, the Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO, urges all members of Congress to conduct collective and individual oversight of current enacted “Cares Act” legislative packages that both Houses of Congress overwhelmingly passed to help American workers. This is necessary as many enacted solutions relating to issues affecting workplace safety and employment conditions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are not being properly administered or carried out. Congress needs to do even more through legislation to help American workers during this pandemic crisis. However, it behooves the legislative branch to ensure that the new fixes currently enacted and in place are being correctly administered and benefitting the intended targets. I respectfully present the following issues for your information, attention and much needed remedy:
Hazard Pay

Many federal workers and government contractor employees are putting themselves at increased risk of COVID-19 to work on the frontlines of the public health response and continue essential public-facing services. We urge you to insist that the existing statute which provides for hazardous pay differentials for duties involving unusual hazards that are not typical for the job, and certainly describe the current situation for many workers be enforced and paid by all affected government agencies. We urge that you further legislate hazard pay authority to provide a 25% increase in basic pay for employees in frontline or public facingpositions.

Pay continuity for contractor employees

Section 3610 of the CARES Act authorizes federal agencies to use their funds to modify contracts in order to reimburse costs incurred by a contractor to provide paid leave to employees who cannot work due to facility closures or other restrictions. This provision enables agencies to keep their contractor workforce in a ready state to return to the job when that becomes possible.
Building upon OMB guidance for how agencies should determine whether and how to utilize this provision, we urge you to encourage the United States Air Force to maximize their use of this important new law.

1000 wage grade and salaried workers are laid off at Arnold Air Force Base in Tullahoma, Tennessee due to base closure. Adherence to this important provision of the law will provide pay continuity which will help mitigate the economic fallout from COVID-19 for contractor employees, their families, and surrounding communities. Personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies The failure of planning and preparation to ensure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) remains a significant concern for frontline workers across the country who cannot get the PPE they need to do their job safely. We have heard widespread alarm from federal and government contract employees who do not have the PPE they need, as well as concern about insufficient cleaning and disinfecting supplies for their workplaces. Congress has provided significant resources to address these needs for workers across the country, as well as appropriations for several agencies to procure the safety equipment and supplies needed for their workforces. All federal employees and contractors, like workers across the country, should have everything they need to stay safe on the job. We urge you to conduct oversight over federal agencies to ensure that all workers are properly protected from the silent killer which is this pandemic. On behalf of the Metal Trades Department, and its 17 International Union affiliates who represent 5 million members, I thank you for your time and consideration of these important matters. All federal workers and employees of government contractors deserve our full support now more than ever!
Download the full letter:

Urgent Action Needed to Protect Workers from COVID-19 Exposures and Infections

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote to Labor Secretary Scalia today, urging him to take immediate action to protect the safety and health of workers from exposure to COVID-19 on the job. The letter, written in memory of the our union brothers and sisters who have died from the disease, also highlights workers who have passed away from other work-related injuries and illnesses.
Download the full letter below.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

► PAID LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS
Generally, employers covered under the Act must provide employees: Up to two weeks (80 hours, or a part-time employee’s two-week equivalent) of paid sick leave based on the higher of their regular rate of pay, or the applicable state or Federal minimum wage, paid at:

  • 100% for qualifying reasons #1-3 below, up to $511 daily and $5,110 total;
  • 2/3 for qualifying reasons #4 and 6 below, up to $200 daily and $2,000 total; and
  • Up to 10 weeks more of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave paid at 2/3 for qualifying reason #5 below for up to $200 daily and $12,000 total.

A part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.

► ELIGIBLE EMPLOYEES
In general, employees of private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees, and certain public sector employers, are eligible for up to two weeks of fully or partially paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons (see below). Employees who have been employed for at least 30 days prior to their leave request may be eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of partially paid expanded family and medical leave for reason #5 below.

► QUALIFYING REASONS FOR LEAVE RELATED TO COVID-19
An employee is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work, including unable to telework, because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

► ENFORCEMENT
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has the authority to investigate and enforce compliance with the FFCRA. Employers may not discharge, discipline, or oth erwise discriminate against any employee who lawfully takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, files a complaint, or institutes a proceeding under or related to this Act. Employers in violation of the provisions of the FFCRA will be subject to penalties and enforcement by WHD.

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ISSUES TEMPORARY RULES IMPLEMENTING  THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ISSUES TEMPORARY RULES IMPLEMENTING  THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT

On April 1, 2020, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued temporary regulations on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  The 124-page document largely follows the previously published FAQs by the DOL, but it does set forth some additional clarifications on the requirements imposed on employees asking for leave and the documentation that employers need to maintain under the FFCRA.
  • In order to apply for Paid Sick Leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) or Emergency Family and Medical Leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), employees must provide:
  1. Employee’s name;
  2. Date(s) for which leave is requested;
  3. Qualifying reason for the leave; and
  4. Oral or written statement that the employee is unable to work because of the qualified reason for leave.
  • In order to take Paid Sick Leave due to a Federal, State or Local quarantine or isolation order, an employee must additionally provide the employer with the name of the government entity that issued the quarantine or isolation order related to COVID–19.   Where an employee is seeking the leave due to a health care provider’s advice to self-quarantine, an employee must provide the employer with the name of the health care provider who advised the employee to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  • To take Paid Sick Leave in connection with Emergency Family and Medical Leave, an employee must additionally provide:
  1. the name of the son or daughter being cared for;
  2. the name of the school, place of care, or child care provider that has closed or become unavailable; and
  3. a representation that no other suitable person will be caring for the son or daughter during the period for which the employee takes Paid Sick Leave or Expanded Family and Medical Leave.
  • Record Keeping – The DOL also explained that an employer is required to retain all documentation provided for four years, regardless whether leave was granted or denied.  In addition, if an employee provides oral statements to support their time off under the EPSLA and EFMLEA, the employer is required to document and maintain this information its records for four years.

30 Days to Slow the Spread

30 Days to Slow the Spread

Assistance for American Workers and Families

In the weeks immediately after the passage of the CARES Act, Americans will see fast and direct relief in the form of Economic Impact Payments. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Assistance for Small Businesses

The Paycheck Protection Program prioritizes millions of Americans employed by small businesses by authorizing up to $349 billion toward job retention and certain other expenses.

Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses described in the Small Business Act, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards.

  • For a top-line overview of the program CLICK HERE
  • If you’re a lender, more information can be found HERE
  • If you’re a borrower, more information can be found HERE
  • The application for borrowers can be found HERE

Paycheck Protection Program Resources

30 Days to Slow the Spread

On March 16, President Trump announced public health guidelines to slow the spread of Coronavirus in America. He asked every family to unite against this invisible enemy, making changes to our daily routines as part of a national effort to save lives. As he said on Monday, it’s likely that a peak in Coronavirus fatalities will arrive in about two weeks. If we continue to follow public health guidelines vigorously, we could save more than 1 million American lives in the weeks and months ahead. A million American lives are worth fighting for. That’s why this week, President Trump extended his Coronavirus Guidelines for America through the next 30 days. Please click here for more information:

30 Days to Slow the Spread (Español)

How to Help – If you or your organization are interested in helping the effort to combat the spread of COVID-19, FEMA has established a website (www.fema.gov/coronavirus/how-to-help) with more information. Examples for the private sector include:

  • To sell medical supplies or equipment to the federal government, please submit a price quote under the COVID-19 PPE and Medical Supplies Request for Quotation. Full details can be found in the solicitation (Notice ID 70FA2020R00000011).
    • This solicitation requires registration with the System for Award Management (SAM) in order to be considered for award, pursuant to applicable regulations and guidelines. Registration information can be found at www.sam.gov.  Registration must be “ACTIVE” at the time of award.
  • If you have medical supplies or equipment to donate, please provide us details on what you are offering.
  • If you are a private company that wants to produce a product related to the COVID response – email nbeoc@max.gov.
  • If you are a hospital or healthcare provider in need of medical supplies, please contact your state, local, tribal or territory department of public health and/or emergency management agency.
  • If you are interested in doing business with FEMA and supporting the response to COVID- 19 with your company’s non-medical goods and/or services, please submit your inquiry to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Procurement Action Innovative Response Team (PAIR) team at DHSIndustryLiaison@hq.dhs.gov.

For additional information please visit FEMA’s website: https://www.fema.gov/coronavirus/.

White House COVID-19 Updates

Department of Justice Makes $850 Million Available to Help Public Safety Agencies Address COVID-19 Pandemic (HERE)

  • DOJ today announced that it is making $850 million available to help public safety agencies respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19. The Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program, authorized by the recent stimulus legislation signed by President Trump, will allow eligible state, local, and tribal governments to apply immediately for these critical funds.

IRS: Employee Retention Credit available for many businesses financially impacted by COVID-19 (HERE)

  • The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service today launched the Employee Retention Credit, designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Treasury and IRS Release FAQs to Help Small and Midsize Businesses Navigate Paid Sick and Family Leave Tax Credits (HERE)

  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service are offering small and mid-size employers more information on refundable tax credits that reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing their employees paid sick and family leave wages related to COVID-19.

Department of Labor Announces New Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Implementation (HERE)

  • The U.S. Department of Labor today announced new action regarding how American workers and employers will benefit from the protections and relief offered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) posted a temporary ruleissuing regulations pursuant to this new law, effective today, April 1, 2020.

DOL Releases Round 2 of COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions Covering Issues Related to the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Labor Certification Program (HERE)

  • The Office of Foreign Labor Certification released Round 2 of frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19. The Round 2 FAQs address potential issues regarding the H-2A temporary agricultural labor certification program.

Secretary DeVos Announces New Federal Deadline Flexibility for Career and Technical Education Leaders, Allowing Them to Focus on Serving Students During the COVID-19 Outbreak (HERE)

  • Secretary DeVos announced today new flexibilities for career and technical education leaders who are required to submit their local CTE plan for FY 2020-2023 under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education Act for the 21st Century Act by April 15, 2020.

Coronavirus Public Health Emergency Underscores Need for Department of Education’s Proposed Distance Learning Rules (HERE)

  • Secretary DeVos proposed new rules today that would govern distance learning for higher education students. Although work on the proposed Distance Learning and Innovationregulation started more than a year ago, the COVID-19 National Emergency underscores the need for reform and for all educational institutions to have a robust capacity to teach remotely.

VA New Jersey Health Care System, East Orange Campus, to Assist COVID-19 Response (HERE)

  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs opened 20 beds (15 acute care and 5 intensive care) at its East Orange, NJ Medical Center, April 1, to non-Veteran, critical and non-critical COVID-19 patients to help assist the Northern New Jersey region in its COVID-19 response efforts.

Transcom Looks for Ways to Safely Move COVID-19 Patients (HERE)

  • Last week, U.S. Transportation Command was responsible for moving a patient with COVID-19 from Djibouti, Africa, to Landstuhl, Germany, for medical treatment. Moving a contagious patient isn’t easy, Transcom’s commander said, but efforts are underway to make it safer.

Logisticians Make COVID-19 Fight Possible (HERE)

  • Joint Staff logisticians are working around the clock to help civilian authorities deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

DOD Mounts Multifaceted Response to COVID-19 Pandemic (HERE)

  • The Defense Department is rapidly ramping up its efforts to fight COVID-19 and assist federal, state and local governments in their efforts.

Corps of Engineers Converts NYC’s Javits Center into Hospital (HERE)

  • The New York District of the Army Corps of Engineers has completed its conversion of the 1,800,000-square-foot Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City into an alternate care facility for more than 2,000 non-COVID-19 patients.

For the most up-to-date information, please see the CDC’s website: www.coronavirus.gov.

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