OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19; Applies Only to Healthcare
Last Thursday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19 which applies only to healthcare settings. For all other industries, OSHA issued updated guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The updated guidance for non-healthcare employers includes both recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory OSHA safety and health standards. To delineate between recommendations and mandatory standards, OSHA distinguishes the mandatory standards in bold print throughout the guidance.
According to OSHA’s guidance, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure in any workplace, or well-defined portions of a workplace, where all employees are fully vaccinated unless otherwise required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations. The guidance states that employers should still take steps to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces, or well-defined portions of workplaces.
OSHA recommends the following actions to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers from exposure to COVID-19:
- Grant paid time off for employees to get vaccinated.
- Instruct any workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work.
- Implement physical distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in all communal work areas.
- Provide unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers with face coverings or surgical masks, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE.
- Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in language they understand.
- Suggest that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings.
- Maintain ventilation systems.
- Perform routine cleaning and disinfection.
- Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths.
- Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
- Follow other applicable mandatory OSHA standards.
OSHA’s full detailed guidance for non-healthcare employers can be found here.
For any further questions, please contact Director of Government Affairs Kevin McKenney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IRS Issues Additional Guidance on COVID-19 Paid Leave Tax Credits
The Internal Revenue Service recently issued a new set of Frequently Asked Questions to assist small businesses in claiming tax credits for paid sick and family leave under the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The paid sick and family leave credits reimburse eligible employers for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave to their employees for reasons related to COVID-19, including leave to receive and recover from a vaccination. Self-employed individuals are eligible for similar tax credits.
The FAQs include information on how eligible employers may claim the paid sick and family leave credits, including how to file for and compute the applicable credit amounts, and how to receive advance payments for and refunds of the credits. Under the ARP, eligible employers, including businesses and tax-exempt organizations with fewer than 500 employees, may claim tax credits for qualified leave wages and certain other wage-related expenses (such as health plan expenses and certain collectively bargained benefits) paid with respect to leave taken by employees beginning on April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021.
The paid sick and family leave tax credits under the ARP are similar to those put in place by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, under which employers could receive tax credits for providing paid leave to employees that met the requirements of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.
The ARP amends and extends these credits, and allows for leave wages to be paid to an employee who is seeking or awaiting the results of a test for, or diagnosis of, COVID-19, or is obtaining immunizations related to COVID-19 or recovering from immunization. Additionally, under the ARP, eligible employers may now claim the credit for paid family leave wages for all the same reasons that they can claim the credit for paid sick leave wages.
The paid leave credits under the ARP are tax credits against the employer's share of Medicare tax. The tax credits are refundable, which means that the employer is entitled to payment of the full amount of the credits to the extent it exceeds the employer's share of Medicare tax.
For any questions, please contact Legislative and Regulatory Coordinator Alex McIntyre at email@example.com.
President Biden Releases FY 2022 Budget Request
Earlier this month, the White House released details of President Biden’s proposed budget request to Congress for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The budget calls for $6 trillion in federal spending for FY 2022 along with new taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. The president’s request is mainly comprised of his previously released infrastructure proposals which include the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.
It should be noted that the president’s annual budget request is seen as an aspirational document which lays out the Administration’s legislative agenda and is not required to be passed by Congress. These proposals are simply recommendations for Congress to consider as they put together appropriations bills for the next fiscal year.
BSCAI is continuing to analyze the president’s budget request and will continue to lobby the Administration and Congress on the industry’s legislative priorities. Below you will find a brief outline of the president’s FY 2022 budget request. The full budget request can be found here and the explanation of the budget here.
President Biden’s FY 2022 Budget Request:
- American Jobs Plan: $2.3 trillion for infrastructure investments including roads, bridges, water systems, housing, rail and broadband.
- American Families Plan: $1.8 trillion for investments in childcare, education, paid leave and other social programs.
- Discretionary Spending: $1.5 trillion for discretionary spending which includes annual funding for defense and other federal agencies.
- No change to the 20% pass-through deduction for small businesses.
- Increase the corporate tax rate to 28%.
- Increase the top marginal individual income tax rate to 39.6%.
- Tax capital gains at ordinary income rates for households making over $1 million. Currently, this would mean a tax on capital gains at 37% for high-earners. Under Biden’s plan, the top capital gains tax rate would be 39.6% (43.4% when including net investment income tax).
- Ends practice of “stepping-up” the basis for capital gains in excess of $1 million unless the property is donated to charity. Includes exemption for family-owned businesses and farms that are given to heirs who will continue to run the business.
Bipartisan Group of Senators Reach Agreement on Infrastructure Proposal
A bipartisan group of 10 senators, 5 from each party, announced last Thursday that they reached an agreement on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal. While many of the details still need to be worked out, the agreement would include $579 billion in new spending that would be focused on core infrastructure projects and would not include any tax increases.
It remains unclear whether House and Senate leadership or the White House supports the new agreement. BSCAI is tracking the negotiations closely and will keep members updated as new developments emerge.
Summary of Bipartisan Proposal:
- $1.2 trillion of spending over eight years on core infrastructure projects;
- $974 billion spent over the first five years;
- $579 billion dollars of new spending; and
- No tax increases.
Senate Republicans Introduce New Infrastructure Proposal
Republicans in the Senate recently introduced a new infrastructure proposal as part of their ongoing negotiations with President Biden and congressional Democrats on infrastructure legislation. The Republicans proposal calls for a $928 billion investment in roads, bridges, transit systems, rail and other infrastructure projects. Importantly, the proposal does not include any new tax increases on individuals or businesses. To help pay for the plan, lead Republican negotiator Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) has suggested repurposing funds from the COVID-19 supplemental unemployment insurance program.
President Biden and congressional Republicans continue to negotiate a comprehensive infrastructure package, with both sides adjusting their original offers in recent weeks. To help close the gap with Republican proposals, President Biden lowered his original ask of $2.3 trillion for infrastructure spending in the American Jobs Plan to $1.7 trillion. In response, Senate Republicans recently bumped up their original offer to $928 billion.
If no bipartisan deal can be reached, Democrats in Congress are expected to use the budget reconciliation process to pass a bill with only Democratic votes. Given the timing of the budget process, any budget reconciliation bill would most likely not receive a vote in Congress until the new fiscal year in October.
Summary of Senate GOP Proposal:
- $506 billion for roads, bridges and major infrastructure projects;
- $98 billion for public transit;
- $72 billion for water systems;
- $65 billion for broadband;
- $56 billion for airports;
- $46 billion for passenger and freight rail systems;
- $22 billion for ports and waterways;
- $22 billion for water storage;
- $21 billion for safety efforts; and
- $20 billion for infrastructure financing.