BSCAI Sends Letter to President Biden
BSCAI recently sent a letter to President Joe Biden as a formal introduction to the association and the critical role cleaning contractors play to the workforce and the economy as the U.S. continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the letter, BSCAI outlined several key policy recommendations that the Government Affairs and Advocacy Committee has been monitoring that will support and strengthen our industry, along with public health and the broader U.S. economy. These issues cover everything from unemployment benefits to immigration reform, and BSCAI offered to support and assist President Biden with their implementation and development.
The full list of policies includes:
- Continue to Designate the Cleaning Industry as Essential
- Protect Employers from Unwarranted Lawsuits
- Continue to Make the Paycheck Protection Program Workable for Cleaners
- Strike an Appropriate Balance for Supplemental Unemployment Benefits
- Implement Comprehensive Immigration Reforms
- Ensure America’s Tax Provisions are Workable for All
- Maintain Existing OSHA Enforcement Efforts on COVID-19
BSCAI plans to stay in contact with President Biden’s administration on these and other priorities as needed in an ongoing effort to strengthen the building service contracting industry.
OSHA Issues Revised Employer Guidance on COVID-19 Workplace Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced revised guidance for employers pertaining to workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance is a result of an executive order signed by President Biden last week which directed OSHA to issue stronger guidance on COVID-19 workplace safety.
It is important to note that this revised guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
The revised guidance builds on OSHA’s original guidance outlining key measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene and routine cleaning.
The guidance recommends that employers implement a COVID-19 prevention program and include the following essential elements:
- Conduct a hazard assessment.
- Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
- Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
- Ensure that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers.
- Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.
SBA Issues New PPP Guidance and Loan Applications
The Small Business Administration (SBA) recently issued new guidance on Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and updated application forms for PPP loan forgiveness following the passage of the new COVID-19 relief law. The new guidance provides instructions on how to calculate a borrower’s maximum loan amount for “First Draw” PPP loans as well as information on the loan forgiveness process. The updated application forms for loan forgiveness includes a simplified form for loans of $150,000 or less. Members will find guidance documents and application forms below.
PPP Loan Forgiveness Applications
- For borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less.
- A simplified form for borrowers who meet certain criteria specified on the form.
Congressional Democrats Introduce PRO Act
Democrats in the House and Senate recently introduced the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. The legislation would make several major changes to federal labor laws and is seen as one of the top priorities for congressional Democrats in 2021. The PRO Act contains over 30 different proposals which would do the following:
- Expand collective bargaining rights;
- Implement procedures to make it easier for workers to unionize;
- Change the classification of independent contractors;
- Institute “card check” for union certification;
- Roll back state “right-to-work” laws;
- Expand “joint employer” status;
- And other provisions.
Congressional Democrats released bill text here, a short summary here, and a section-by-section summary here.
The PRO Act passed the House last year but failed to receive a vote in the Senate. BSCAI is currently reviewing the new legislation and will provide members with more information as it becomes available.
Congress Starts Budget Reconciliation Process for COVID-19 Relief Bill
Democrats in the House and Senate took the first step in addressing COVID relief by passing non-binding budget resolutions at the end of January. These resolutions activate the budget reconciliation process which will allow Democrats to avoid the Senate filibuster and pass a COVID relief bill with a simple majority in each chamber. House and Senate legislative committees will now get to work on writing the bill for consideration in the coming weeks. Due to arcane rules and restrictions in the budget reconciliation process, it is unclear which provisions would be allowed in a potential COVID-19 relief bill should Democrats continue to pursue this route.
BSCAI sent a letter to President Biden last month outlining some of the key priorities that BSCAI would like to see in the next COVID relief bill. BSCAI will be sure to keep members updated on latest developments in Congress as they become available.
Biden Administration Issues Freeze on All Pending Regulations
The Biden administration issued a memorandum to federal agencies directing them to freeze all pending regulations before the Office of Management and Budget and those ready for publication in the Federal Register. All of these regulations will need to be reviewed and approved by a Biden administration official before they can move forward.
In addition, the memo asks agencies to consider postponing for 60 days the effective dates of regulations that have already been published in the Federal Register but have not yet taken effect. This action will most likely delay the March 8 implementation date of the Department of Labor’s final independent contractor rule as well as the promulgation of several other outstanding rules.
IRS Issues Updated FAQs for COVID-19 Paid Leave Tax Credits
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding emergency paid sick and family leave tax credits for employers. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed last spring reimburses private employers that have fewer than 500 employees with tax credits for the cost of providing employees with paid leave taken for specified reasons related to COVID-19.
The new COVID-19 relief law signed by President Trump in December extends the tax credits available to eligible employers for paid sick and family leave through March 31, 2021.
DOL Ends Payroll Audit Independent Determination Program
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced that it is ending its Payroll Audit Independent Determination program launched by the department’s Wage and Hour Division in 2018. The program allowed employers to self-report federal minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act to avoid litigation, penalties or damages, and prohibited affected workers from taking any private action on the identified violations.