Commercial enterprises doing business in Louisiana are beginning their recovery in the wake of Hurricane Laura. Many face catastrophic property losses, often accompanied by business income losses due to a complete cessation of business activities. Fortunately, many business owners have had the foresight to contract for business interruption insurance (also called “business income” insurance or time-element coverage). While having coverage offers some relief to affected businesses, the complexity of a business interruption claim coupled with a pressing need for operating capital creates a difficult scenario for business owners. Jones Walker is ready to assist clients in navigating this process, and we offer the following “golden rules” to provide some guidance in the preparation of business interruption insurance claims.

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With kids going back to school, new questions regarding eligibility for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) are cropping up. Thankfully, the Department of Labor (DOL) recently supplemented its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to answer some of the questions that have arisen thus far.

Continue Reading Return to School Raises FFCRA Leave Questions

As Tropical Storm Marco heads toward the coast of Louisiana, reports indicate Tropical Storm Laura is expected to strengthen to a hurricane before it makes landfall on the Gulf Coast late Wednesday or early Thursday.

The very rare event of back-to-back storms is forcing evacuations, and may cause widespread damage, business interruption, and travel stoppage for a large part of the gulf coast region for days and weeks to come.

Continue Reading Jones Walker Disaster Prep & Recovery Team Readies for Gulf Coast Storms

Over the weekend, President Trump signed an executive order purporting to defer the payment of the employee’s share of the Social Security portion of FICA (payroll) tax from September 1, 2020, until December 31, 2020. The order is limited to only the employee’s share of the Social Security portion of the payroll tax, which is currently set at 6.2%. The order does not affect the Medicare portion of the payroll tax (1.45%), nor does the order affect the employer portion of the payroll tax, so these will still have to be withheld (where applicable) and deposited on a timely basis. The order also limits deferrals to employees with biweekly, pretax income of less than $4,000, or a similar amount where a different pay period applies. This roughly equates to an annual salary of $104,000. Importantly, the order is not a suspension of the payroll tax (a “payroll tax holiday”), but merely a deferral. The president directed the Treasury to seek ways to implement a full suspension at a later date, including by legislative action.

Continue Reading Trump Signs Payroll Tax Deferral Executive Order

Shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, many states, counties, and cities issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place (collectively, SIP) orders to combat the spread of the virus. Please click here to review the early impacts of these sweeping orders.

In recent weeks, many authorities have issued executive orders to address rising COVID-19 cases as state and local businesses begin to reopen. This update focuses on these most recent orders and any impacts the orders could have on new and ongoing construction projects in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

As with all the effects of COVID-19, the issuance, interpretation, and enforcement of these orders are fast-breaking and in constant flux.

Continue Reading Executive Orders to Address Rising COVID-19 Cases in the Construction Industry

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey entered an amended order to her original Safer at Home order on July 15, 2020. It generally requires masks or face coverings to be worn when people are within six feet of someone from a different household in the following situations: (1) indoor spaces that are open to the public; (2) in vehicles operated by transportation services; and (3) in outdoor public spaces where 10 or more people are gathered. There are a number of exceptions to the requirement, however, and generally businesses are not legally obligated to exclude customers or employees who refuse to wear a mask when required.

This order specifically impacts the workplace. It goes into effect on Thursday, July 16, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. and runs through Friday, July 31, 2020. The following items relate particularly to employers and their employees:

Continue Reading Governor Ivey Imposes Statewide Mask Requirement for Alabama

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued COVID-19 guidance for workers and employers in the oil and gas industry. While this guidance is specifically geared to the oil and gas industry, the guidance is not unlike other best practices OSHA has recommended for other workers in general industry.

Continue Reading OSHA Issues COVID Related Guidance for the Oil & Gas Industry

As part of an ongoing effort by the IRS to provide employers and employees with flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS recently issued notices 2020-29 and 2020-33, providing relief with respect to “cafeteria plans,” health flexible spending accounts (Health FSAs), dependent care assistance programs (DCAPs), and high deductible health plans (HDHPs). The relief applies to all employees who are eligible to participate in such plans, regardless of whether they are actually affected by COVID-19. Below is a summary of key aspects of the guidance and practical issues to consider.

Continue Reading IRS Temporarily Relaxes Cafeteria Plan Midyear Election Change and FSA Rules and Provides Other Employee Benefit Relief

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the worldwide economy, reports out of the United Kingdom highlight a significant increase in cybersecurity attacks on maritime industry stakeholders since February 2020. According to The Maritime Executive article “Report: Maritime Cyberattacks Have Quadrupled Since February,” The British Ports Association and a UK-based risk management firm issued a new study addressing the recent uptick in cyber-security attacks and noted that this rise in attacks could be attributable to “new remote-work alternatives” that are being implemented in response to “Stay Home” orders. The article and whitepaper emphasize the importance of maintaining good “cyber hygiene” and recognizing that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for cyber-criminals to exploit vulnerabilities in industry stakeholders’ processes and systems.

In April, President Donald Trump imposed a 60-day ban on permanent resident cards issued abroad. The ban was supposed to expire on June 22. On that day, he signed an executive order that (1) extended this ban through the end of 2020 and (2) now restricts foreign nationals from outside the United States from using certain temporary employment-based visas through the end of the year. This order took effect June 24 and could have a significant impact on your business operations.

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