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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has pushed telehealth and mHealth to center stage as healthcare providers of all sizes look to provide care on virtual platforms. But the emergency – and the legislative and policy measures enacted to deal with it – won’t last forever. Nadia de la Houssaye contributed to a mHeathIntelligence roundup of experts discussing “Post-COVID-19 Telehealth Rules and Policies.” Click here to read more.
Recent congressional action has included significant additional funding for healthcare providers. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act), the massive stimulus legislation passed on March 27, appropriated $100 billion to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (the Relief Fund) to be distributed to hospitals and healthcare providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 response. This was followed on April 24 by an additional $75 billion appropriated for healthcare providers under the Paycheck Protection Program and the Health Care Enhancement Act. In addition, the CARES Act expanded the existing Medicare accelerated and advance payment programs (AAP Programs) to allow qualified hospitals and other providers to obtain, as a lump sum or in periodic payments, up to six months of advance Medicare payments (based on prior-period experience) as a loan to stabilize cash flow.
So, what has actually happened with this new funding in the ensuing weeks? The following sections summarize what we know so far.
On June 15, 2020, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (FRBB) announced that the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP) is now open for lender registration and encouraged eligible lenders to start making MSLP loans “immediately.” The MSLP is not yet fully operational, as the Federal Reserve’s special purpose vehicle (Main Street SPV) is not ready to purchase participations from lenders under the program; however, it is anticipated that the FRBB will open its loan intake portal in the coming days.
Accordingly, eligible lenders that propose to make loans under one or more of the MSLP facilities (the Main Street New Loan Facility (MSNLF), the Main Street Priority Loan Facility (MSPLF), and the Main Street Expanded Loan Facility (MSELF)) should now register for the MSLP in order to avoid delay in their participation in loans to the Main Street SPV once the loan intake portal opens. A link to the FRBB’s lender registration page is here.