By Roberta Rifkin, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs & Strategic Partnerships
On Thursday, September 9, the White House announced the “Path Out of The Pandemic: President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan” that lays out a six-pronged strategy to combat COVID-19, keep schools safe, and protect the economy:
- Vaccinating the unvaccinated
- Furthering protection for the vaccinated
- Keeping schools safely open
- Increasing testing and requiring masking
- Protecting our economic recovery
- Improving care for those with COVID-19
It is important to note that rulemaking and guidance to implement new requirements will be issued in the coming weeks regarding main points from the plan, including:
- Requiring all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly. The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule to implement this requirement and the DOL is expected to address reimbursement for testing. Current federal reimbursement guidance can be found here.
- Requiring employers with 100 or more employees to provide paid time off to get vaccinated and for needed recovery time. 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 and recover post-vaccination if needed. New York has already required up to 4 hours of paid time off for each vaccine dose.
- Requiring vaccinations for all federal workers and contractors that do business with the federal government. President Biden issued two executive orders (linked above) to implement these requirements since he has jurisdiction over federal employees and contractors, and the relevant agencies will issue guidance.
- Requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers at Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals and other health care settings. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported that it will issue rulemaking to implement these requirements in October.
- Calling on all states to adopt vaccine requirements for all school employees. New York has already required that school employees are vaccinated or submit to weekly testing.
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The SBA will increase maximum Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) amounts from $500,000 to $2 million and ensure loans do not have to be repaid for two years, among other actions. The SBA will also make it easier for small businesses to have their PPP loans forgiven.
- Expanding testing capacity, making certain tests more affordable, and expanding free testing. The Biden Administration will leverage the Defense Production Act to supply up to 280 million tests to various settings, work with Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger to sell at-home tests at-cost for the next three months, and expand free testing to up to 10,000 retail pharmacies.
As the pandemic continues, it’s anticipated that some modifications may occur or new guidance released to accommodate this fluid situation.