Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently updated its COVID-19 response plan. Last year, OSHA focused much of its COVID-19 related attention on healthcare, elderly care, and prisons. This new Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for COVID-19 and National Emphasis Program — Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) guidance shifts its focus to other industries where OSHA feels there could be spread of COVID-19. As part of the guidance, OSHA specifically targeted full-service and limited-service restaurants for inspections.
Several questions have arisen on how to make claims and handle worker compensation claims arising from COVID under the LHWCA , 33 USC 901 et seq. The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued the following guidance to employees and guidance to employers and insurance carriers on how to handle claims under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act due to COVID-19 illnesses. In their guidance, the DOL includes a list of Q & As which includes links to other resources such as forms for reporting an employee who has contracted COVID-19 and guidance on how to handle or prevent the spread of the disease provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a claim is made by an employee under the LHWCA, they must establish that the COVID-19 exposure was at work and that they are disabled from working – which is usually 14 days. An employer is then responsible for any medical expenses and 2/3 of the employee’s wages while disabled from working.
On March 22, 2021, the US Coast Guard released a change notice to its COVID-19 guidance in Marine Safety Information Bulletin Number 02-21. This change includes sea ports (maritime transportation hubs), provides additional information on applicability for mask wear in the marine transportation system, and includes links to Coast Guard and CDC Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages. To read to full bulletin, click here.
As of March 22, 2021, all energy and transportation workers, including river pilots, are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Louisiana. Governor John Bel Edwards expanded vaccine eligibility to all essential workers in Priority Group 1-B, Tier Two, including transportation, construction, manufacturing, and energy workers. An updated list of all eligible individuals and essential workers included in Priority Group 1-B, Tier Two can be found here.
As for neighboring states, transportation and energy workers in Alabama are eligible. All individuals 16 and older are eligible to receive a vaccine in Mississippi. Both Texas and Florida have deemed certain groups of people eligible to receive a vaccine based on age or health condition.
In response to last year’s devastating hurricane season and other natural disasters, the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act, which is a part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (the Act), included various relief provisions (similar to those under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2021 (CARES Act)), designed to assist individuals who suffered an economic loss as a result of these disasters. The Act, signed by former President Trump on December 27, 2020, provides individuals with increased access to their retirement plan accounts as well as plan loan and hardship distribution-related relief as described in more detail below. The relief under the Act generally expires on June 25, 2021.
Maggie Spell, a partner in the Labor & Employment Practice Group, was recently quoted in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report article “Mandate or Not? The Question Vexing Employers Over COVID-19 Vaccine.” Maggie explains that as vaccines become more readily available, employers should consider the possible courses of action for vaccinations in their workplaces. She urges employers to consider certain factors when deciding whether or not to mandate its employees be vaccinated, such as how vaccination issues may play out in the workplace, accommodation issues, and the areas of potential liability that could arise from requiring the vaccine.
Commercial enterprises doing business in Texas and surrounding states are beginning their recovery from recent power outages and associated water damage. Many face significant property losses, often accompanied by business income losses due to a complete cessation of business activities. Many business owners had the foresight to purchase business interruption insurance; however, the complexity of a business interruption claim, coupled with demands on 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.
The COVID-19 relief package enacted on December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, appropriated $15 billion to fund the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program (SVP). The Small Business Administration (SBA) will disburse these funds as grants to qualifying live theatre operators or promoters, theatrical producers, live performing arts organizations, museums, motion picture theatre operators, and talent representatives (Venues). A venue may use the grant proceeds to cover eligible expenses incurred between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. The SBA has not yet begun accepting applications for the SVP, but it has issued several FAQs setting forth more details regarding the program. This memorandum summarizes the SVP’s current guidance, including eligible and ineligible Venues, grant amounts and allowed uses, and application requirements.
On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 13998 to promote COVID-19 safety in domestic and international travel. The EO confirms existing public health measures and implements new measures that will impact marine operators and activities within sea ports for both domestic and international travel.
The CARES Act passed in March 2020 created an “employee retention tax credit,” which entitled eligible employers to a refundable tax credit for wages paid to employees during periods that the employer’s business was subject to a suspension, a shutdown, or a significant decline in revenues. The tax credit was not widely used by employers with fewer than 500 employees, primarily due to the fact that employers with Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans could not take advantage of the credit. On December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (the CAA) was signed into law. The CAA significantly expanded the usability of the employee retention tax credit by allowing employers with PPP loans to take advantage of the credit. Further, the CAA increased the amount of the tax credit available. In tandem, these changes make the credit an attractive opportunity for employers during 2021 as well as easier to obtain for qualifying wages paid during 2020.