COVID-19 continues t0 impact employers and with President Biden’s Path out of Pandemic plan, there are new guidelines businesses must follow. We highlight what those are and what they mean to employers.

Earlier in September 2021, President Joe Biden released his Path Out of the Pandemic plan.

This new plan addresses some 80 million Americans who are eligible to be vaccinated for COVID-19 but have yet to receive their first shot. To date, over 175 million Americans are fully vaccinated.

President Biden’s plan cover six major components that employers need to know, we get into what those are below.

What Is Included In The Path Out Of The Pandemic?

Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccinations

The first part of the Path out of the Pandemic plan is focused solely on COVID vaccinations.

Since July 2021, President Biden has required all federal government employees to be vaccinated. He also encouraged the private sector to follow suit. Almost all of the 50 states have called for new requirements in schools, hospitals, food and beverage companies, and so on.

The Path out of the Pandemic plan is calling on OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this vaccination requirement.

What are the vaccination requirements?

  • Employers with 100+ employees are required to be fully vaccinated or tested weekly
  • All federal workers must be vaccinated, along with contractors who work with the federal government
  • Vaccinations required for health care workers at Medicare and Medicad participating hospitals and health care settings
  • Entertainment venues where large groups of people gather (like sports arenas, large concert halls, etc.) must require patrons be vaccinated or should show a negative test before entry
  • Employers must provide paid time off to their employees to receive the vaccine (and to recover if experiencing any uncomfortable symptons following the shot)

With all of the above requirements in mind, there are a few factors businesses must consider. For starters, the religious and medical exemptions of some employees should be considered – however, most businesses are waiting for the ETS to set the parameters.

Additionally, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has since updated its technical guidance on COVID-19 in order to clarify that any vaccination with FDA authorization is not a “medical examination” for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

And finally, employers must consider COVID-19 testing costs. For example, will you cover the costs? Or will you put together alternative methods for your employees to cover the costs?

Protecting The Vaccinated

There are booster shots now available, such as Hepatitis B and Tetanus, to offer more protection. And it will be free to receive.

Currently, the administration is waiting for the FDA for authorization.

Open Schools Safely

The Administration has taken significant actions to get kids back in the classroom, including providing $130 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to help schools reopen, accelerate students’ academic growth, address inequities exacerbated by the pandemic, allow local school districts to implement CDC-recommended COVID-19 prevention strategies, and support student and educators’ social, emotional, and mental health needs.

For now, anyone 12 and older are highly encouraged to be vaccinated.

Anyone under 12 should wear a mask as they are too young to be vaccinated. However, the FDA is working on a vaccine for those under 12.

Additionally, President Biden’s plan encourages “teachers and staff at Head Start and Early Head Start programs, teachers and child and youth program personnel at the Department of Defense (DOD), and teachers and staff at Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools get vaccinated.”

Not to mention that President Biden is asking Governors to require vaccinations for teachers and school staff. –

  • Currently, nine states, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have vaccination requirements for K-12 school staff. This includes California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Washington. 

Finally, the HHS has provided $10 billion in funding for COVID-19 screening testing for teachers, staff, and students in K-12 schools as well.

Testing & Mask Requirements

There are a few ways that President Biden is exploring making testing more accessible and affordable. For example:

  • Accelerate the production of at-home testing and make them readily available at various locations
  • Make at-home tests more affordable
  • Will “send 25 million free at-home rapid tests to 1,400 community health centers and hundreds of food banks”
  • Expand free pharmacy testing

And when it comes to masks, the administration will continue to require masks for interstate travel and will impose double fines. Masks are also required on federal property.

Economic Recovery

Various reforms are being issued to ensure economic recovery. For example:

  • Support over 150,000 small businesses by strengthening the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program so that the $150 billion in loanable funds is still available in the program.
  • The Small Business Administration (SBA) is set to increase the maximum amount of funding a small business can borrow through this program from $500,000 to $2 million.
  • The SBA will make it easier for small businesses that have multiple locations in hard-hit sectors like restaurants, hotels, and gyms to be able to access these loans.
  • Also, the SBA is offering a 30-day exclusive window of access where only small businesses that are seeking loans of $500,000 or less will receive awards after the new improved loan product launches.

Additionally, the Paycheck Protection Plan will be strengthened.

And finally, “The ARP invested $100 million to establish a new SBA Community Navigator program, which will deploy trusted community partners in underserved communities to better connect business owners to federal, state, and local resources.”

Better Care For Those With COVID

President Biden is to offer more support for hospitals that are being hit with more and more COVID-infected patients.

The administration is also working to increase the average weekly pace of shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatment to the states by a further 50% in September.

And finally, more in-person training will be deployed where needed.

Moving Forward With The Path Out Of The Pandemic

It’s important for small business owners to continue to monitor how the Path Out of the Pandemic evolves and what assistance may be beneficial to keep their doors open.

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