- On April 29, 2020
By: Paula E. Pitrak
Congress and the Small Business Administration
On April 24, 2020, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, phase four of the Congressional response to COVID-19, was signed into law to enhance funding for small business loans, health-care providers, and COVID-19 testing. Specifically, the Act’s Division A provides additional lending authority for certain Small Business Administration (SBA) programs, and its Division B provides supplemental appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the SBA that is designated as emergency spending—exempt from discretionary spending limits.
In its continued efforts, the SBA has released a fourth Interim Final Rule, and on April 26, 2020, in consultation with the Department of Treasury, it issued additional implementation guidance, Paycheck Protection Program Loans: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that should be consulted by borrowers or lenders of the PPP.
Congress has begun alluding to phase 5 legislation, but no draft bill has been introduced in the House or Senate—stay tuned!
Federal Railroad Administration
On April 21, 2020, the FRA issued its Response to Comments in FRA-2020-0002 from Labor Organizations. In responding to a letter from twelve unions and their comments on waiver petitions submitted to the emergency relief docket (ERD), the FRA concluded that no change to the regulatory relief granted in response to the waiver petitions is yet required.
Specifically, the FRA denied the Labor Organizations’ requests that “FRA make clear that a railroad cannot conclude that it has a workforce shortage and utilize the waiver relief unless it has offered furloughed employees the opportunity to fill any shortfalls and that it consider this requirement to be an amendment to all waivers granted contingent on workforce shortages.” While recognizing the Labor Organizations’ concerns, the FRA asserted that it “has no legal authority to require railroads to recall personnel from furlough to fill workforce shortages caused by COVID-19.”
Reference the FRA’s webpage, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information from the FRA, for summaries of railroad use of emergency relief FRA granted March 25 and March 30, 2020 and other FRA COVID-19 information.
Railroad Retirement Board
On April 24, 2020, the RRB updated its Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Flexibilities Under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act (RUIA) during the COVID-19 Virus Outbreak—providing answers to two additional questions regarding the CARES Act’s temporary federal program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which is administered by individual states, not the RRB, and employee eligibility for PUA in the event of denial of or ineligibility for RUIA unemployment benefits.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
On April 23, 2020, the EEOC updated its technical assistance questions and answers: What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws, to provide additional guidance on disability-related inquiries and medical exams. Specifically, at A.6, the EEOC makes clear an employer’s ability to administer COVID-19 testing to employees before they enter the workplace to determine if they have the virus. Employer-administered COVID-19 testing is subject to ADA standards that any mandatory medical test of employee be job-related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC reminded employers of ensuring accurate and reliable tests and urged the continuance of employee observation of infection control practices, such as social distancing, regular handwashing, and other measures.
For more information regarding your company’s compliance with the FFCRA, the CARES Act, and other applicable federal, state, and local employment laws regarding COVID-19, contact Fletcher & Sippel’s Labor & Employment Group.