Senate Republicans Formally Introduce Next Round of COVID-19 Relief Legislation

September 09, 2020

A month after drafting began, yesterday, Senate Republicans leadership released S. 178, their legislative proposal for the next round of COVID-19 relief discussions. The bill does not include many of the Democratic House leadership's key priorities, (additional funding for state and local governments and targeted stimulus payments among them). However, the scaled down relief package is largely viewed as an opportunity to break long-stalled negotiations with House leadership. 

 

Congress has roughly the month of September to agree on a broad-based package before adjourning prior to the November elections (the House is scheduled to adjourn on Friday, October 2nd). With a tentative agreement now in place to fund the federal government and agencies beyond October 1st, (via a "continuing resolution"), any avenue to tie a COVID-19 relief package to funding government operations has been essentially closed off. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has stated that the Senate may vote on the legislation as early as this week.

 

Elements of interest to IAM membership in the Senate proposal include:

 

Paycheck Protection Program Renewal and Expansion - Companies with 300 or fewer employees, and able to demonstrate at least a 35% reduction in gross revenue in comparison to the same quarter for 2019, would be eligible for a "second draw" PPP loan. Companies that have not yet received a PPP loan would also be eligible to apply, should the same outlined business requirements for the first round be met.

 

Company Liability Protection - The legislation includes limited company liability protection, (including hospitals, non-profits and a broad range of industries), where the company has followed either local, state or federal guidelines to protect its workers, and not acted in a negligent or reckless manner regarding safety protocols.

 

501(c)(6) PPP Eligibility - Not-for-profit and similar organizations would for the first time become eligible PPP loan recipients. These organizations are limited to 150 or fewer employees, must not spend more than 10 percent of their annual budget on lobbying, and meet a handful of other guidelines. 

 

Enhanced Unemployment Benefits

The bill also includes enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 per week, running through the end of the year. This is a cut from the $600 per week initially included in the CARES Act.

 

The chance of passage at this moment remains slim. IAM will continue to keep members apprised of the negotiations, discussions, along with any changes to the legislation, as they occur.

 

U.S. Dept. of Labor (DoL) Issues Employer Guidance for Telework (Remote) Employees

 

On August 24th, the DoL issued guidance regarding an employer's obligation with respect to tracking teleworking (remote) employees’ work hours. The guidance reminds employers of the existing requirement to pay employees for all hours worked, including those hours at home or outside of the office.

 

The guidance also places responsibility on the employer for all workloads being undertaken by a teleworking employee. Essentially, the DoL is encouraging all employers to lay out clear and specific ground rules for remote employees. This includes any additional work that a remote employee may be undertaking. Unless the additional work (or request) has been explicitly prohibited by the employer, the employee would likely receive compensation under the guidance, even if the work wasn’t specifically approved.

 

The guidance also highlights a remote employee’s responsibility to record hours and work performed, and to catalogue this information in a manner that has been provided by the employer.

 

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Issues Mask Recommendations

On August 27th the CDC issued additional guidance on mask wearing. IAM members should be aware of the guidance, as it is intended for all audiences. 

 

Key recommendations include:

- Wearing masks with two or more layers

- Wearing the mask over your nose and mouth, and to secure it under your chin

- To not wear masks intended for healthcare workers, for example, N95 respirators

- Avoid wearing masks with vents, which may allow coronavirus particles to escape

 

The full list of recommendations, and accompanying graphics, may be viewed by clicking here. As always, CDC continually updates all business guidance chronologically. Those documents may be viewed by clicking here.