On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden announced a “Path Out of the Pandemic,” indicating he will use regulatory powers and other actions to increase the number of vaccinated Americans.
In short, the plan provides the following:
- Employers with at least 100 employees must require their employees to be vaccinated or require unvaccinated employees to produce a negative test at least weekly before coming to work
- Federal workers and federal contractors must be vaccinated
- Booster shots should be available soon at no cost
- Healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals and other healthcare settings must be vaccinated
- Employers with more than 100 employees must provide paid time off to their employees to get vaccinated
- Large entertainment venues are requested to require proof of vaccination or testing for entry
- There are increased school safety measures
- Additional economic recovery is available
While the action plan lays out the administration’s next steps, it also raises several questions that we will continue to keep an eye on as things develop.
Vaccination or Weekly Testing
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any unvaccinated workers to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement.
While penalties for noncompliance are not outlined in the president’s plan, the maximum penalty amount under existing OSHA enforcement protocols is $13,653 per violation.
Vaccinations for all Federal Workers and Federal Contractors
All federal executive branch workers must be vaccinated. The president also signed an executive order requiring employees of contractors that do business with the federal government to be vaccinated.
Paid Time Off
OSHA is developing a rule that will require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are under the weather post-vaccination. This requirement will be implemented through the ETS.
Easy Access to Booster Shots
The administration is preparing for boosters to start as early as the week of September 20, subject to authorization or approval by the FDA and a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Booster shots will be free and widely available across 80,000 locations, from pharmacies to doctors’ offices to health centers. Individuals will be able to find a vaccination site at vaccines.gov, including what vaccines are available at each site and, for many sites, what appointments are open. A toll-free number, 1-800-232-0233, will also be available in over 150 languages. Americans who have already utilized the text code 438829 or WhatsApp to get vaccine information will automatically receive a text with information on boosters, if and when recommended.
Additional IRS Guidance
The IRS issued a reminder that the cost of home testing for COVID-19 is an eligible medical expense that can be paid or reimbursed under health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), or health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). In addition, costs of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes, for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19, are eligible medical expenses that can be paid or reimbursed through these accounts.
Economic Recovery To Include:
- New loan support for small businesses impacted by COVID-19
- A streamlined Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness process
- Launching a Community Navigator Program to connect small businesses to the help they need