Category: Coronavirus

Post COVID-19 Vaccine Jobsite Safety Guidelines

According to the CDC, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Some individuals may experience side effects, but they are typically short lived. For the most part, the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the short lived side effects. With more Americans receiving the vaccines every day it is important to start planning for the post vaccine era. These guidelines are intended to help you do just that, but it is likely that they will change several times over the coming months, so please continuously watch for updates from MCAA.   

What We Do NOT Know About the Vaccines

There is still much that we do not know about the vaccines, so even fully vaccinated individuals need to follow COVID-19 safety protocol while working just about anywhere. Here is why:

  • We do not know whether the vaccines keep vaccinated individuals from spreading the virus;
  • We do not know how long the vaccine protects vaccinated individuals against the virus; and
  • We do not know how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus.

Fully Vaccinated Individuals

An individual is “fully vaccinated” when he or she has had both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, AND two full weeks have passed since the last injection.

Fully Vaccinated Individuals at Work

Fully vaccinated employees on jobsites, in fabrication shops, in office buildings and in other public areas performing regular duties that do not require specialized or additional personal protective equipment should:

  • Wear a two-ply face covering that completely covers the nose and mouth;
  • Practice proper hand hygiene by frequently washing hands and/or using hand sanitizers; and
  • Maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from all other individuals.

When social distancing requirements must be suspended, such as when two workers are needed for the safe manual handling of materials, the affected workers should continue to wear their face coverings, don face shields, wear work gloves, and limit the amount of time they will be working together closer than 6 feet to less than 15 minutes.

Employers

Affected employers should:

  • Require all employees to comply with the protocol;
  • Enforce employee compliance with the protocol; and
  • Ensure that routine environmental cleaning is performed on affected surfaces at least once daily and more frequently when needed.

More frequent cleaning or disinfection should be performed if/when:

  • There is a high transmission of COVID-19 in or around a workplace;
  • The workplace is in an area where people are not wearing masks;
  • The frequency and/or quality of hand hygiene is inadequate for any reason; and/or
  • Individuals with increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are working in the area.

Fully Vaccinated Individuals Not Working

Once fully vaccinated, individuals outside the workplace can start to do some of the things that have not been acceptable since the pandemic began, such as:

  • Visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with fully vaccinated people of any age;  
  • Visit inside a home or private setting without a mask with one household of unvaccinated people who are not at risk for severe illness;
  • Travel domestically without a pre-or post-travel test;
  • Travel domestically without quarantining after travel;
  • Travel internationally without a pre-travel test depending on the destination; and
  • Travel internationally without quarantining after travel.

GUIDELINES PDF

CDC Alters Guidelines on Facility Cleaning & Disinfection for COVID-19

The CDC has revised its guidelines regarding cleaning and disinfecting surfaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 can land on surfaces, and it’s possible for people to become infected if they touch those surfaces and then touch their nose, mouth, or eyes. However, it has been determined that the risk of infection from touching a surface is low. The CDC now believes that the most reliable way to prevent infection is to regularly wash hands and use hand sanitizers. When there have been no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in a given space, cleaning only once a day is usually enough to sufficiently remove the virus from surfaces in the space.

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Join MCAA and Participate in COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness Week in Construction, April 19-23, 2021

MCAA and much of the construction industry will be participating in COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness Week in Construction during the week of April 19-23, 2021. MCAA encourages you to join us and participate! The purpose of the safety week is to support the CDC’s campaign to raise awareness about the safety, effectiveness, and benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC is providing an Essential Workers COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit to help affected employers educate their workers about COVID-19 vaccines. The toolkit includes:

  • A customizable letter you can send to your employees with information about vaccine awareness educational offerings;
  • Content for company newsletters and social media sources;
  • A PowerPoint presentation on COVID-19 vaccines; and
  • Key messages for all affected workers.

MCAA encourages you take advantage of these materials. Setting aside a few minutes during the safety week to bring your workers up to speed on the vaccines could be very beneficial to your company. A few options to consider for delivering the information to your workers include:

  • A COVID-19 vaccine awareness safety meeting;
  • A short duration vaccine awareness safety talk each day throughout the week;
  • A COVID-19 vaccine awareness safety Lunch & Learn; and/or
  • Worker access to the Wednesday, April 21, 2021 vaccine awareness webinar, which will be presented by the CDC and NIOSH from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET by way of NIOSH Zoom. REGISTER

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Alston & Bird Offers April 13 Webinar on the New and Improved Employee Retention Tax Credit and Expanded FFCRA Leave Opportunities

Tuesday, April 13, 2021 | 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET 

Originally enacted in March 2020 as part of the CARES Act, the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) was modified and extended through 2021. Join experts from Alston & Bird On Tuesday, April 13, 2021, from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET as they explore the new opportunities for employers to claim ERTCs in 2021 and some of the challenges employers may face in determining eligibility for the credits. They will also discuss recent changes to the paid employee leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that provide additional opportunities for employer tax credits associated with FFCRA leave. Register now!
 

Alston & Bird experts will:

  • Provide an overview of the employee retention tax credit as originally enacted in the CARES Act
  • Discuss taxpayer-friendly changes to the ERTC provisions for 2020 and 2021
  • Explore some of the challenges employers are facing when determining eligibility for ERTCs
  • Discuss recent changes to FFCRA employee leave provisions and the additional tax credit opportunities they create

Meet the Panelists

Scott Harty | Partner | Alston & Bird
Companies rely on Scott to guide them through the tax implications of domestic and cross-border commercial transactions. An experienced negotiator and technician, Scott provides clients the counsel they need to navigate complex transactions.

Seth Buchwald | Associate | Alston & Bird
Drawing from his experience as a certified public accountant, Seth guides his clients through complex business transactions and controversy matters. Since enactment of the CARES Act, Seth has worked extensively with the ERTC provisions.

Brett Coburn | Partner | Alston & Bird
Brett regularly counsels employers of all sizes on compliance with federal and state employment laws. During the pandemic, he has worked extensively with employers regarding their compliance with the paid leave provisions of the FFCRA.

Join MCAA and Participate in COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness Week in Construction, April 19-23, 2021

MCAA and much of the construction industry will be participating in COVID-19 Vaccine Awareness Week in Construction during the week of April 19-23, 2021. MCAA encourages you to join us and participate! The purpose of the safety week is to support the CDC’s campaign to raise awareness about the safety, effectiveness, and benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC is providing an Essential Workers COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit to help affected employers educate their workers about COVID-19 vaccines. The toolkit includes:

  • A customizable letter you can send to your employees with information about vaccine awareness educational offerings;
  • Content for company newsletters and social media sources;
  • A PowerPoint presentation on COVID-19 vaccines; and
  • Key messages for all affected workers.

MCAA encourages you take advantage of these materials. Setting aside a few minutes during the safety week to bring your workers up to speed on the vaccines could be very beneficial to your company. A few options to consider for delivering the information to your workers include:

  • A COVID-19 vaccine awareness safety meeting;
  • A short duration vaccine awareness safety talk each day throughout the week;
  • A COVID-19 vaccine awareness safety Lunch & Learn; and/or
  • Worker access to the Wednesday, April 21, 2021 vaccine awareness webinar, which will be presented by the CDC and NIOSH from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET by way of NIOSH Zoom.

MCAA will provide you with the webinar registration information as soon as it becomes available.

Be Prepared for OSHA’s COVID-19 Special Emphasis Program (SEP) Enforcement!

The new administration is putting a lot of pressure on OSHA to perform COVID-19 related inspections and enforce the agency’s guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. OSHA’s new Special Emphasis Program (SEP) on COVID-19 gives the agency the impetus it needs to do just that. Employers should prepare for the possibility of unprogrammed and programmed COVID-19 inspections.

Unprogrammed Inspections:

To start, make sure you know your rights as an employer, so that you will not unnecessarily provide OSHA with information that could result in a citation. Unprogrammed inspections typically result from the mandatory reporting of a fatality, an employee complaint, or a referral from another government agency. When an inspection is unprogrammed you can limit the scope of the compliance officer’s inspection to the reason for the unprogrammed inspection. For example, if an employee complains to OSHA that the portable toilets are not being regularly sanitized, and that complaint results in an unprogrammed inspection, you can limit OSHA to inspecting only those toilets and prevent the compliance officer from seeing other areas of the jobsite. However, compliance officers can issue citations for safety violations they identify while on the way to inspect the subjects of unprogrammed inspection, so choose the path and mode of transportation to that subject area wisely.  

  • Compliance officers are required to hold pre-inspection conferences. Make sure the conference occurs. There have been cases where compliance officers have omitted this required step in the process;
  • Make sure your company is represented at the conference by someone who knows what to ask and understands how to respond;   
  • The instant the conference begins your company representative should ask the compliance officer for the reason for the inspection;
  • If it is an unprogrammed inspection, limit the compliance officer to the area of the jobsite where the incident that resulted in the inspection occurred, i.e., where the fatality occurred, the specific area of the employee complaint, or the specific area stated in the referral; and  
  • Never leave a compliance officer alone to wander the jobsite. Even though it is an unprogrammed inspection, if a compliance officer sees a violation, he or she can still issue a citation that is unrelated to the reason for the unprogrammed inspection.

Programmed Inspections:

Programmed inspections are randomly selected by OSHA from Dodge Reports. Get  prepared ahead of time in case your company is working on a project that comes up for a programmed COVID-19 inspection. To get prepared, consider what the compliance officers are most likely to look for during the inspection process, and what standards that they are most likely to cite.

Based on OSHA’s most recent COVID-19 compliance directive its compliance officers will be looking specifically for the following items during COVID-19 inspections:

  • Evidence of retaliation against workers for actions related to the virus;
  • Use of face coverings or masks throughout the workplace;
  • Active encouragement of workers to stay home if they are sick;
  • Proper social distancing and accommodating workers with telework where possible;
  • Emphasis on proper respiratory etiquette;
  • Emphasis on proper hand hygiene;
  • Routine environmental cleaning; and
  • Planning for possible infectious disease outbreaks in the workplace.

Since OSHA does not currently have a COVID-19 standard, the agency uses existing standards to enforce worker COVID-19 protection. When performing COVID-19 inspections the agency is most likely to issues citations from provisions in the following standards and its general duty clause.

Mechanical Service and Fabrication Shops:

  • 29 CFR 1904 – Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses;
  • 29 CFR 1910.132 – General Requirements – Personal Protective Equipment;
  • 29 CFR 1910.134 – Respiratory Protection;
  • 29 CFR 1910.141 – Sanitation;
  • 29 CFR 1910.145 – Specification for Accident Prevention Signs and Tags;
  • 29 CFR 1910.1020 – Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records;
  • 29 CFR 1910.1030 – Bloodborne Pathogens; and
  • Section 5(a)(1) – General Duty Clause – From the OSH Act of 1970.

Mechanical Construction:

  • 29 CFR 1904 – Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illnesses;
  • 29 CFR 1926.28 – General Requirements – Personal Protective Equipment;
  • 29 CFR 1926.33 – Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records;
  • 29 CFR 1926.51 – Sanitation;
  • 29 CFR 1926.103 – Respiratory Protection;
  • 29 CFR 1926.200 – Accident Prevention Signs and Tags; and
  • Section 5(a)(1) – General Duty Clause from the OSH Act of 1970.

If you have any questions or need any assistance protecting your workers from COVID-19 orpreparing your company for possible OSHA COVID-19 related enforcement, please contact Pete Chaney at pchaney@mcaa.org or 301-990-2214.

What to Look for in OSHA’s COVID-19 NEP

There may be some good news regarding OSHA’s new National Emphasis Program (NEP) on enforcing worker protections against COVID-19. Despite the Office of the Inspector General’s February 2021 recommendation that OSHA promulgate an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID-19, it appears that the agency will postpone development of an ETS in favor of the NEP. Here’s what you should know about the NEP to protect your company from OSHA citations.

NEP INSPECTION TYPES

Unprogrammed Inspections

  • OSHA’s primary emphasis will be on unprogrammed inspections triggered by

1st Fatalities;

2nd Complaints; and/or

3rd Referrals.

Programmed Inspections

  • OSHA’s secondary emphasis will be on programmed inspections.
  • There are two tiers of “high risk” employers being targeted by OSHA, Primary Target Industries and Secondary Target Industries.
  • The agency’s emphasis concerning programmed inspections first will be on Primary Target Industries, such as dental care, hospitals, health care, nursing homes, ambulance services, etc.
  • Construction falls into the Secondary Target Industries category along with agriculture, manufacturing, and certain types of transportation.

Programmed Inspections in Construction

Programmed inspection locations will be selected randomly from a list of construction worksites (F.W. Dodge Reports). The emphasis will be on larger projects that are 30% to 60% complete.

What Compliance Officers Will be Looking to Find

OSHA compliance officers will be looking for obvious signs of non-compliance with the agency’s February 2021 COVID-19 Guidance to Prevent the Spread in the Workplace (MCAA Summary). MCAA urges you to pay close attention to your:

  • Prevention Programs;
  • Return to Work Criteria;
  • Social Distancing Measures;
  • Engineering Controls;
  • Face Coverings and PPE; and
  • Sanitization, Cleaning, and Disinfecting Practices.

Probable Citations

  • General Duty Clause
  • Respiratory Protection Standard
  • Personal Protective Equipment Standards

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OSHA Launches National Emphasis Program to Protect High Risk Workers from COVID-19

The new administration’s January 21, 2021 Executive Order, Protecting Worker Safety and Health, requires OSHA to evaluate it’s COVID-19 enforcement actions and make improvements where necessary. In response, OSHA has launched a national emphasis program focusing enforcement efforts on companies that put the largest number of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. The program also prioritizes employers that retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions, or for exercising other rights protected by federal law.

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Want to Know What to Expect from OSHA in the New Administration? Don’t Miss Our April 7 Webinar with Adele Abrams!

Wednesday, April 7, 2021 | 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. EDT

Prepare for OSHA’s coming regulatory and enforcement agendas by participating in this 60-minute webinar for mechanical construction and service companies. Our presenter is nationally recognized safety and health expert and attorney Adele Abrams. She is a frequent presenter for MCAA with expertise in legal, occupational safety/health issues, employment law, and mine safety. Adele is also co-author of several books related to occupational safety and health, construction, employment law, and mining. Join us Wednesday, April 7, 2021 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT. Register now!

Withum COVID-19 Bill Update – 3/9/21

National accounting firm Withum shares some recent developments from the IRS with respect to the ERC and one PPP development.

IRS Issues Notice 2021-20:

On the evening of March 1, the IRS released 102 pages worth of guidance surrounding the 2020 ERC program. While much of the notice was regurgitating the FAQs already on its website, they did provide some notable clarifications:

  • Self-employed individuals are not entitled to ERC with respect to their own wages, but can claim the credit for their employees’ wages.
  • Entities subject to aggregation are treated as one employer to determine the following: (i) full or partial shutdown rule, (ii) gross receipts test, (iii) 2019 FTE calculation, and (iv) determining maximum credit per employee.
  • Rules surrounding full or partial suspension of activities were greatly expanded, installing a definition of ‘nominal’ for businesses who have part of their business shut down while others are able to continue to operate. These rules are fairly facts and circumstances based, so we recommend you reach out to your advisor to discuss on a more detailed level. 
  • Interplay of PPP is discussed with 7 examples provided – in general, the notice reaffirms the flexibility of wages to be allocated in advantageous manner between programs. It further clarifies that borrowers who have already submitted their loan forgiveness application can re-allocate wages to the ERC, provided those wages were not needed to obtain forgiveness within the context of the PPP forgiveness application was filed – any excess wages can be re-allocated as necessary.
  • IRS confirmed that when claiming the 2020 credit, separate 941-Xs should be filed for each quarter. 

Taxation of the ERC:

We have received many questions around this, so we thought it appropriate to include a point of emphasis. Unfortunately, the ERC carries with it a disallowance of otherwise deductible costs in the amount of the credit. Because the amount of the credit will reduce otherwise deductible expenses, this means that taxable income for recipients will increase. Generally, this taxable income increase would occur in the year to which the credit relates. This is an important note, as companies applying now for the 2020 credit will have to adjust their 2020 taxable income and 2020 tax returns. This treatment seems particularly inequitable, especially because the actual credit amount for borrowers not receiving the amounts is not likely to be received until well after the tax deadline. We are working on a more detailed discussion of this issue, which will be posted in our resource center in short order. 

Federal Reserve Board Extends PPP Facility to June 30, 2021:

We also have one piece of news regarding the PPP to share. The Federal Reserve Board announced yesterday that it will extend the expiration date of the PPP servicing from March 31, 2021 to June 30, 2021. It is unclear whether this will also be followed by Congress and/or the SBA. The deadline of March 31, 2021 was set by the CAA, which would need to be updated in order to allow applications to be approved after March 31, 2021. If extended to June 30, 2021, this would provide businesses, including those with more than 20 employees who have not been able to apply for the PPP over the last two weeks, some comfort that they will not be up against a March 31 deadline to be approved. In theory, an extension also would provide the ability of a borrower who received PPP1 funding during 2021 to use the funds within the rules of the program and then apply for PPP2 funding prior to the cutoff date of June 30, 2021.  

These last two weeks have been busy from the IRS and SBA – with Congress in the final phases of stimulus package negotiations, we are sure to have further updates for you in the coming week. As always, we welcome you to follow along our Stimulus Package Headquarters resource center, where we will continue to publish information as notable guidance becomes available. If you have questions on the above information, please reach out to your Withum advisor.

Withum COVID-19 Bill Update – 02/24/2021

National accounting firm Withum shares some thoughts on recent developments related to the PPP, PPP2, Loan Forgiveness, and Employee Retention Tax Credits.

White House Announces Changes to PPP:

Yesterday afternoon, President Biden announced changes to the PPP geared toward making the program easier to access for smaller businesses. Last night, the SBA released further guidance solidifying these changes: 

  • Starting February 24, 2021 at 9am, the SBA will establish a 14-day exclusive loan application period for businesses/not for profits with fewer than 20 employees. 
  • SBA will also enact the following changes to promote equitable access to SBA relief:
    • Allow sole proprietors, independent contractors and self-employed to receive more financial support by revising the PPP’s funding formulas for these categories
    • Eliminate restrictions for small business owners with non-fraud felony convictions and restrictions for student loan debt delinquency
    • Ensure access for non-citizen small business owners who are lawful US citizens (ITINs will be used for PPP)
  • The adjustments to the funding formula for these groups are not available at this time, neither is any information on whether these borrowers who have previously received PPP2 funding can apply for more with their lender
  • It is not clear if/how this will affect applications that are currently in processing with lenders or the SBA or whether funding will be delayed in these instances

PPP2 Update:

After re-opening for business in mid-January with new appropriations of $284 billion, the PPP has had it’s fair share of bumps along the way. Here are some updates:

  • Through February 21, the program has had 1.9 million loans approved for approximately $140 billion in loan dollars during 2021. Average loan size of approximately $73k is considerably less than the first round, as expected due to the employee count and maximum loan amount standards imposed
  • The SBA installed more than 50 validation checks to prevent fraud and misuse of program funds. An unintentional effect of this was that many otherwise eligible borrowers were being held from receiving funds due to “hold codes” not applicable to their situation. The SBA has indicated that they are working to correct this, and on February 10, 2020, issued guidance to lenders on how to bypass to allow borrowers to receive their funding. 
  • The SBA has installed a loan cap of $35,000 per employee for funding within either a PPP1 or PPP2 loan. This cap is not specified anywhere in the legislation or subsequent guidance, however they have been limiting certain loan amounts of borrowers for this through the SBA E-Tran system. We believe this would be calculated at $20,833 in wages and $14,117 of employer sponsored health insurance, retirement contribution and state and local taxes.  We are not sure how they are determining the $14,117 amount as that information is not supplied on an employee basis.
  • In last night’s release, the SBA announced they are working with their partners to improve the “digital front door” – presumably aimed at correcting some of the hold code issues previously identified. 

For a refresher on the eligibility criteria for receipt of a second draw PPP loan, please visit our article here.

Loan Forgiveness Update: 

The SBA has published the following forgiveness data through February 18, 2021:

Issued:  5.2 million loans$521 billion loan dollars
Forgiven1.7 million loans$152 billion loan dollars
Under review187k loans  $76.9 billion loan dollars 
Not yet received by the SBA3.3 million loans $292 billion loan dollars
Not forgiven:– not provided – $500 million loan dollars

Employee Retention Tax Credits (“ERC”):

Outside the PPP, the revamped ERC program has been the hottest topic of the new year for businesses in need of relief after the downturn has negatively impacted their revenues. The program, which carries a refundable $19,000 credit per employee for businesses who qualify for both 2020 and 2021, should be explored by ALL small businesses who have either had significant reductions in gross receipts or were fully or partially suspended due to government orders during 2020. A brief summary of each program is as follows: 

  • 2020 Opportunity: The CAA removed the requirement that businesses cannot obtain a PPP loan and claim the ERC. This means that any business that previously obtained a PPP loan can now retroactively claim the ERC for 2020 if they qualify. The test for the 2020 ERC is that the business must have suffered either (i) a full or partial suspension of its business operations due to COVID-19, or (ii) it experienced a decline in gross receipts for any quarter in 2020 by more than 50% compared to the same quarter in 2019.
  • 2021 Opportunity:  Under the CAA, businesses can now claim an ERC for the first two quarters of 2021, and the rules are less restrictive than they were in 2020. Two key changes include: (i) the maximum credit per employee is $14,000 in 2021, compared to $5,000 in 2020, and (ii) the decline in gross receipts test has been relaxed to include a decline of 20% instead of 50%. Businesses can also utilize the prior quarter to establish eligibility for the 2021 program.  This means for Q1 2021, the Q4 2020 can be used to determine the 20% decline in revenues. There are other expansions of the ERC that are favorable for businesses with employee counts between 100 and 500.
  • Note that businesses can only claim the ERC for eligible wages that were not used to support PPP loan forgiveness, and this prohibition against double dipping applies in 2020 and in 2021. 

Our team has put together some resources for small businesses to start evaluating whether they might benefit from this program. Please visit our ERC flowcharts here, or our article on the overall program here. We also invite you to view our on-demand webinar from last week here.

Need the Bottom Line on OSHA’s Recent COVID-19 Guidance? MCAA’s Summary Has It

OSHA recently released guidance to help employers protect their workers and prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the workplace. MCAA’s new summary highlights the bottom line items in the areas of COVID-19 Prevention Programs, Return to Work Criteria, Social Distancing Measures, Engineering Controls, Face Coverings and PPE, and Sanitization, Cleaning, and Disinfecting Practices.

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MCAA/NECA/SMACNA Release White Paper on Project-Specific Loss of Productivity Analysis Methodologies

There is no question the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the construction industry as a whole, including the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) trades. The Mechanical Contractors Association of America (MCAA), National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), and Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA) have aligned the MEP trades in a collaborative effort to bring to you and the construction industry this white paper.

VIEW WHITE PAPER

Find the Change Orders publication referenced in this white paper here.

H.R. 133 Offers Relief, Opportunities and Challenges Going into 2021

The $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133) provides badly needed COVID economic relief, construction market stimulus and a forward-looking prospect for market recovery in public sector infrastructure investments as the pandemic recedes. In a memo to the MCAA Government Affairs Committee, Chair Jim Gaffney provided a summary digest of the items most likely to impact MCAA members and the MCAA policy agenda. The President is seeking greater individual stimulus checks, so there may be an amendment or veto, but this summary will stand for most of what will be the final result. Correction: The latest COVID relief measure signed into law Sunday does not extend the requirement that employers offer paid sick and family leave as required under the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act passed last March as erroneously reported in the MCAA summary published in the Weekly Update on December 28, 2020. The latest COVID bill extends only the availability of the refundable tax credit as under the FFCRA until the end of March 2021 for those employers voluntarily providing such paid leave after December 31, 2020. MCAA regrets the error.

Congress Expected to Pass Stimulus Package. Watch Withum’s December 23rd Webinar Covering Package Details On-Demand.

Experts from Withum’s SBA Financial Services and Tax Services teams navigate through the myriad of provisions included in the more than 5,000 page legislative package finalized mid-December. Withum’s team covers in detail the provisions of the legislation which cover the following topics:

  • PPP Loans: Another Round of Funding
  • PPP Loan Forgiveness Process (Round 1 and Round 2)
  • PPP Loan Forgiveness Deductibility

Withum also covers the basics of the following provisions, but expect to have more detailed communications on these as guidance becomes more clear:

  • Unemployment Provisions
  • Stimulus Checks
  • Employer Focused Tax Credits

WATCH ON-DEMAND

CDC Issues New Guidance on Quarantine of Individuals Exposed to Persons with COVID-19

December 4, 2020|by Kathleen M. Connelly

Until now, the CDC recommended a 14-day quarantine for individuals who might have had “close contact” with a person who has or is suspected of having COVID-19.[1]  This quarantine was longer than the 10-day recommendation for those who test positive, as the longer quarantine period is based on estimates of the upper boundaries of the viral incubation period. However, in its new guidance issued December 2, 2020, the CDC acknowledged three adverse consequences of the 14-day quarantine:

  • It can impose personal burdens that may affect physical and mental health as well as economic hardship that may reduce compliance.
  • It may pose additional burdens on public health systems and communities, especially when cases are rising and the need to impose quarantines are rapidly rising.
  • It may dissuade recently diagnosed persons from naming contacts and dissuade contacts from responding to contact tracer outreach if they perceive the duration of the quarantine is too onerous.

New Shorter Quarantine Options. In an effort to reduce these burdens and increase community compliance, the CDC has announced the following shorter quarantine alternatives to the 14-day quarantine.

  1. 10-Day Quarantine Option. Under this option, quarantine can end after day 10 without testing and if no symptoms have been reported during this period.
  2. 7-Day Quarantine Option. If diagnostic testing resources are available, quarantine can end after day 7 if i) the test results are negative and ii) no symptoms are reported during this period.  The testing specimen may be collected and tested within 48 hours of the expiration of the 7-day period (or before the planned end of quarantine in the event of testing delays).

Quarantine may only be discontinued under either option if these additional criteria are met:

  • no clinical evidence of COVID-19 was elicited via daily symptom monitoring during the entirety of the quarantine;
  • daily symptom monitoring continues through day 14; and
  • persons are counseled regarding the need to strictly adhere through day 14 to all recommended non-pharmaceutical mitigation strategies, and advised to immediately contact local health officials or their healthcare provider and self-isolate should symptoms develop.

Of course, individuals can continue to quarantine for the longer 14-day period without testing in accordance with the preexisting recommendations, which maximally reduces the risk of post-quarantine transmission.

Persons Who Must Quarantine Together, Such as Households. The CDC further recommends that when housing is shared (e.g., families, incarcerated persons, students), every effort should be made to physically separate the quarantined individual from others through such measures as having the quarantined individual residing alone in a separate closed room with exclusive use of their own bathroom and implementation of other mitigating strategies.  If any co-housed person is diagnosed with COVID-19, all co-housed persons will require evaluation as contacts.

[1] The CDC defines “close contact” as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

As always Lindabury’s Labor & Employment team is vigilantly monitoring the legislative and regulatory developments in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Stay up to date with the latest information by visiting the Lindabury COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Resource Center. If you have any questions, please contact Lindabury.

CDC Updates COVID-19 Guidelines on When to Quarantine

The CDC recently updated its guidelines on when to quarantine following exposure to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. The new guidelines indicate that people who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past 3 months, should quarantine immediately. It is considered close contact when:

  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more;
  • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them);
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils; and/or
  • The person sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you.

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to 3 months as long as they do not develop symptoms again. People who develop symptoms again within 3 months of their first bout of COVID-19 may need to be tested again if there is no other cause identified for their symptoms.

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