July 24, 2020

The Next COVID-19 Bill

ISEA is hearing details about the next COVID-19 bill. It is likely not to be the last. In this case, Senate Republications are writing the first version, which will be negotiated with Congressional Democrats. Here are a few highlights for ISEA members:

Business Loan Provisions:

  • Streamlined loan forgiveness for small loans under $150k. Intermediate forgiveness process for loans under $1 million.

  • The second round of PPP loans for businesses under 300 workers with significant lost revenue.

  • Working capital loan for businesses under 300 workers; but employers can’t get this loan and a PPP loan.

Tax Deductions for PPE

Tax deductions for employer purchases of PPE and certain other supplies and services. ISEA has asked cloth face masks to be included in bill language to make clear and certain that purchases of these devices are eligible for tax credits.

Liability Reforms

  • Expected provisions would move all suits against employers for COVID exposure to federal courts and can only proceed if the employer is shown to have been grossly negligent in protecting employees and the public or was engaged in willful misconduct. Additionally, a cap on damage awards is also expected.

  • PPE to be added to the PREP Act.

States move forward on COVID protections

Virginia, Oregon, and Washington State are out of the gate first on creating COVID worker protection regulations. Virginia’s emergency temporary standard was published on July 15 and is expected to become effective during the week of July 27 (“This emergency temporary standard shall take immediate effect on July 15, 2020, upon publication in a newspaper of general circulation, published in the City of Richmond, Virginia.”).

The Virginia rule largely sets workplace administrative rules: making certain employees know the results of COVID tests required by or administrated at workplaces; closing off common rooms.

PPE-related provisions include: respirators required while employees occupy a vehicle for work purposes; employers in high-hazard industries must adopt a respiratory protection program; employers with likely and potential (“Medium Risk”) COVID exposures must develop COVID response plans.

“Medium Risk” employers cover a large swath of industry from poultry processing plants to agricultural operations to bars and restaurants.

Oregon and Washington

During the week of July 13, Oregon OSHA conducted stakeholder meetings on the development of its own workplace safety rule to address COVID-19.

Washington State would create a new provision making it easier for the State’s Labor and Industry enforcement staff to cite employers who require employees to perform tasks at odd with state COVID-related safety mandates.

FEMA

Project AirBridge, the FEMA program to fly PPE from foreign-based manufacturers to the US, had ended, after flying 250 missions.  In total, it brought to the US 5.3 million N95 respirators, 937 million gloves, 122 million surgical masks, 63.3 million gowns, 2.6 million face/eye shields.