COVID-19 / Coronavirus Update

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OSHA Issues Guidance for Reopening Non-Essential Businesses

June 24, 2020


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued recent guidance to help employers and workers in safely returning to work and reopening businesses regarded by local authorities as “non-essential businesses” during the evolving coronavirus pandemic. Employers are encouraged to use this guidance to develop policies and procedures to ensure their employees’ safety and health.

The guidance supplements previous information released from the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ and the White House and focuses on general principles for updating restrictions initially put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

OSHA points out that while state and local governments lift shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, Non-essential businesses should reopen and continue to follow to public health requirements and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies.

The guidance notes that through each phase of the reopening process, employers should continue to develop policies and procedures for social distancing, basic hygiene, identification and isolation of sick employees, and employee training. Additionally, employers are encouraged to consider ways to use workplace flexibilities, such as remote work and alternative business operations, to provide goods and services to customers.

OSHA recommends that employers continually monitor federal, state, and local government guidelines for updated information about ongoing community transmission and mitigation measures, as well as for emerging guidance on disinfection and other best practices for employee protection.

For guidance, details visit https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4045.pdf

WHD Cancels In-Person Prevailing Wage Seminars in 2020

June 4, 2020


The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced they would not be hosting in-person Prevailing Wage (PW) seminars for the rest of 2020. The cancellation of in-person workshops is due to safety and health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, the WHD plans to offer virtual PW seminars that will provide training and outreach on topics such as the Service Contract Act, the Davis-Bacon Act, Executive Orders 13658 and 13706, wage determinations, and conformances, and compliance assistance and enforcement processes.

Additional updates on virtual seminar dates and registration will be coming soon. For more information and compliance assistance resources on prevailing wages, please visit the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts web page.

OSHA Issues Memorandum to Further Address COVID-19 Crisis

May 26, 2020


On May 19th, 2020, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published both the Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of COVID-19 as well as the Updated Interim Enforcement Plan. These memoranda demonstrate that OSHA is applying its enforcement efforts to assure employers and workers during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

The Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases provides interim guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) for the recording of occupational illnesses, specifically cases of COVID-19. Because of the challenge with determining work-relatedness, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion to assess employers’ efforts in making work-related determinations.

The Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan stipulates guidance and instructions to Area Offices and compliance safety and health officers (CSHOs) for handling COVID-19-related complaints, referrals, and severe illness reports. These updates are to take effect on May 26th, rescinding previous memorandums and are intended to be time-limited to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the updated plan, “where community spread of COVID-19 has significantly decreased,” OSHA will prioritize inspections per its pre-COVID-19 policy, returning to the status quo. In geographic regions where community spread has elevated or resurged, OSHA will “continue prioritizing COVID-19 fatalities and imminent danger exposures for inspection.” Other than the “geographic area” framework, the enforcement plan outlined in the April 10th guidance largely remains intact.

For more details visit  https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-05-19/revised-enforcement-guidance-recording-cases-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19  and  https://www.osha.gov/memos/2020-05-19/updated-interim-enforcement-response-plan-coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19

WHD Southeast Region To Offer FFCRA Webinars This Week

May 18, 2020


The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) will be offering webinars during the week of May 18th for businesses and state and local governments in the WHD’s Southeast Region aimed at helping to educate them on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

These webinars will cover the FFCRA requirements, including information on eligibility, qualifying reasons, coverage, duration of leave, and calculation of pay. The webinars offered are:

•    Wednesday, May 20th, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EDT.  FFCRA for Employers Registration

•    Friday, May 22, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. EDT.  FFCRA for State and Local Governments Registration

Though the webinars are free, space is limited and requires pre-registration. Those interested in the webinars are asked to pre-register online before the events. Once registered, attendees will receive a confirmation email with additional login information.

For information about the webinars: https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20200515

March 2020 Construction Spending Increases

May 5, 2020


The U.S. Census Bureau announced construction spending for March 2020 was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,360 billion, 0.9% above the revised estimate of $1,348 billion in February. Compared to 2019, March 2020 total spending is up 4.7%. Also, during the first three months of 2020, construction spending amounted to $297 billion, 6.7% above the $278 billion for the same period in 2019.

While private construction spending in March was $1,012 billion, 0.7% above the revised February estimate of $1,006 billion, public construction spending was $348 billion, 1.6% above last month’s revised estimates of $343 billion.

Compared to March 2019, private construction spending was up 3.7%, and public construction spending was up 7.9%. One of the main contributors to the public construction spending growth in March is highway construction, which was $108 billion, 4.6% above the revised February estimate of $103 billion.

With the announcement of construction spending for March 2020, the Bureau noted that due to the events surrounding COVID-19, responses and data quality were monitored, and it was determined they met publication standards.

More information may be found at:

https://www.census.gov/construction/c30/pdf/release.pdf

Federal COVID-19 Response Bill “3.5”; Additional Funding To Key Areas

April 29, 2020


On April 24, 2020, President Trump signed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus “Phase 3.5” relief bill that designates additional funds to the small business rescue program known as the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The relief bill does not add new programs, nor does it impose any new obligations on employers; instead, it solely provides additional funding for the federal COVID-19 response to support small businesses, hospitals and to help enhance COVID-19 testing.

The relief bill includes:

  • $320 billion in additional funds for the PPP, a loan program designed to help small businesses with the economic fallout from COVID-19. Initially, lawmakers had allocated $349 billion to the PPP as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but the program was exhausted three weeks later. Of the new funding, $60 billion would be set aside for smaller lending institutions with the intent of reaching underbanked businesses.
  • $10 billion for Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) grants, plus $50 billion more for loans.
  • $50 billion for SBA’s Disaster Loans Program Account
  • $75 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to support health care providers and local hospitals by providing reimbursements for COVID-19 related expenses, public health services, and lost revenue for uninsured Americans infected by COVID-19.
  • $25 billion for COVID-19 testing, including $1 billion for testing costs for individuals without health insurance, $1 billion for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and $11 billion for states and municipalities.

DOL Releases Three New Directives; Providing OFCCP Staff & Federal Contractors Guidance

April 24, 2020


On April 17th, the U.S. Department of Labor issued three Directives from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP); the Efficiency in Compliance Evaluations, Pre-Referral Mediation Program, and Ombuds Service Supplement and Protocol. The Directives seek to promote efficiency and to provide guidance to OFCCP staff and federal contractors on enforcement and compliance procedures.

The Directives maximize the effectiveness of compliance assistance resources to support contractors in meeting their responsibilities.

  • Efficiency in Compliance Evaluations outlines the steps OFCCP will take to expeditiously resolve compliance evaluations and quickly remedy violations, ensuring the collection of the relevant evidence promptly.
  • Pre-Referral Mediation Program is designed to settle matters before spending significant time and resources in the enforcement process. The program offers federal contractors and subcontractors the chance to resolve findings of discrimination after a Show Cause Notice is issued but before referrals to the Office of the Solicitor for enforcement.
  • Ombuds Service Supplement and Protocol adds to Directive 2018-19 by describing the intent of the Ombuds Service as a mechanism to allow stakeholders to share their concerns with OFCCP or provide general feedback and recommendations to improve agency administration.

These Directives, which take effect immediately, do not change any of these laws or regulations but rather seek to provide clarity to existing requirements. The OFCCP anticipates these Directives will lead to the timely completion of compliance evaluations and quick remediation of violations that benefit employees, applicants, and contractors.

2020 Retirement Regulation Update

March 5, 2020


2019 was a year of major developments in the US retirement industry. The signing of the SECURE Act at the end of December and state sponsored retirement programs such as CalSavers in California enacted significant changes to qualified retirement plans, as well as how individuals can save for retirement. Below, we will focus on the provisions in those pieces of legislation that most affect you as adopters of The Contractors Plan. Please note, we are awaiting additional guidance on some of the provisions before they can be applied.

SECURE Act

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act was signed into law on December 20, 2019 as part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act. Most of the provisions in the act are effective in 2020 and require amendments to your plan. The act is over 300 pages in length, so we’ll try to narrow it down to the areas that we feel are the most important and impactful.

  • Notices have been eliminated for safe harbor nonelective plans. If you are using a nonelective contribution to satisfy the ADP safe harbor, you are no longer required to send safe harbor notices to your employees. However, if you have a safe harbor match provision, annual notices are still required.
  • Mid-Year adoption of safe harbor status. You may now amend your plan to adopt a safe harbor feature using a 3% nonelective contribution anytime up to 30 days before your plan’s year end. Alternatively, if you do not elect to adopt the safe harbor feature for your plan until 30 days before your plan year end, you may still adopt the safe harbor feature with a 4% nonelective contribution.
  • Adopting a qualified plan after the end of the year. You may now adopt a qualified retirement plan up until your corporate tax return is due, including extensions. However, if you want to have a deferral option in your plan, it must be adopted prior to year-end.
  • Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) age. The age which participants are required to take a required minimum distribution from a qualified retirement plan or IRA has been raised from 70 ½ to 72.This will be effective for distributions required after 2019 for those employees turning 70 ½ after 12/31/2019. If their birthday is after 7/1/1949, they are not required take an RMD until 4/1/2022 – April of the year after you turn 72.
  • Small plan tax credit. If you are eligible to set up a SIMPLE plan, generally <100 employees, you could receive a tax credit when establishing a qualified plan such as a Profit Sharing or 401(k) plan. You could receive a credit for the startup and annual fees that total $500 – $5,000 for the first three years of the plan. See your tax accountant to determine if you are eligible for this credit.
  • Withdrawals after a birth or adoption. This optional amendment allows for up to $5,000 to be withdrawn without the standard 10% penalty up to 1 year following a birth or finalized adoption. There is also a provision to repay the distribution, though additional guidance from the IRS is required relative to the details of this repayment option.
  • Form 5500 late filing penalty increase. The penalty for filing a late Form 5500 has been increased from $25/day with a $15,000 maximum to $250/day, with a $150,000 maximum. Note the DOL penalty for a late Form 5500 filing has remained the same at $1,100/day with no maximum penalty. Message? File your Form 5500 on time!
  • In-service distribution age for Money Purchase Pension Plans. If you have a Money Purchase Pension Plan, you have the option to amend your plan to allow for in-service distributions at age 59 ½ instead of age 62.

State Sponsored Mandatory Retirement Plans

Several states have passed legislation which encourages or mandates small businesses to either have an employer sponsored retirement plan or enroll their employees in a state run program. Many of these programs are still being developed. However, the common theme is that an employer can be exempt from the state sponsored programs if they offer a qualified retirement plan. The Contractors Plan meets these criteria.

CalSavers (CA), Illinois Secure Choice (IL), and OregonSaves (OR) have all enacted mandatory employee savings plans that employers must utilize unless they offer a qualified employer sponsored retirement plan.

Programs in Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey are still working on the specifics of their mandates and may be ready later in 2020 or 2021. Massachusetts’ program is for non-profit entities only. Vermont’s Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan will be a MEP (multiple employer plan) and Washington state offers the Retirement Workplace of which participation is voluntary.

If you have questions about whether your state has passed or is thinking of passing similar legislation, please refer to your state’s treasury website.

Administration Proposes Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Budget

February 14, 2020


Earlier this week, the Fiscal Year 2021 proposed budget submitted to Congress by the White House requests $1 trillion over 10-years in Direct Federal Investments to support the rebuilding and modernizing of the nation’s infrastructure. The proposal includes two major components that combined would focus on roads, bridges, improvements to existing rail and bus systems, and providing high-speed internet to rural areas.

The principal component is a request for $810 billion to support a 10-year reauthorization of surface transportation programs. Within this amount is $602 billion for highway infrastructure, $155 billion for transit infrastructure, $20 billion for traffic and motor carrier safety, $17 billion for rail infrastructure, $16 billion for Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans and Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants, and about $1 billion for pipeline and hazardous materials safety.

The second component requests $190 billion for a wide range of infrastructure sectors that include broadband and water. More specifically it proposes $60 Billion for a new Building Infrastructure Great grants program, $50 billion for a new Moving America’s Freight Safely and Efficiently program, $35 billion for a Bridge Rebuilding program,  $25 billion for a new Revitalizing Rural America program, and $20 billion for a Transit State of Good Repair Sprint program.

The budget request also includes $6.5 billion for a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund to address the deferred maintenance backlog in national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands, along with the Bureau of Indian Education schools.

Similar to the recently proposed House Democratic infrastructure plan, the Administration’s request would also require approval by the House, Senate, and White House. However, it serves as another indicator of the importance of addressing infrastructure.

December 2019 and Full-Year Construction Spending

February 5, 2020


The U.S. Census Bureau announced construction spending for December 2019 was at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1,328 billion, 0.2 percent below the estimate of $1,330 billion in November. Compared to the same period last year, construction spending in December was up 5.0 percent. The overall value of construction in 2019 was $1,303 billion, not seasonally adjusted which is 0.3 percent below the $1,307 billion in 2018.

While private construction spending in December was $ 991 billion, 0.1 percent below the revised November estimate of $ 992 billion; public construction spending was $ 336 billion, 0.4 percent below last month’s estimate of $ 338 billion. One of the main contributors to public spending was Highway construction which was $99 billion, up 3.1 percent from November’s $97 billion. Also, Highway construction in December 2019 was up 14.1 percent from the same period in 2018.

Compared to the previous year, the value of public construction in 2019 was $329 billion, up 7.1 percent from $307 billion in 2018. Educational construction in 2019 was $79 billion, up 3.4 percent from $76 billion and highway construction was $99 billion, up 8.8 percent from $91 billion in 2018.

More information may be found at:

https://www.census.gov/construction/c30/pdf/release.pdf