Buyer Beware – FBI Warns of Fraud Involving Procurement of PPE and Other COVID-19 Supplies

Posted in Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Workplace Safety & OSHA

Many employers are now making plans to have their employees return to the workplace. Based on recent alerts from the FBI, part of preparing to protect workers from COVID-19 at work should include protecting the company from falling prey to fraudsters. To do that, employers should put in place procedures to carefully screen vendors from whom they will purchase COVID-19 supplies needed to comply with CDC and OSHA guidance and protect their employees.

The FBI issued alerts on March 27, 2020, and April 13, 2020, in which it described rapidly emerging fraud schemes related to the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), medical equipment, and other goods and products in short supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the alerts are directed to the medical community since to-date it has been the primary purchaser of COVID-19-related medical equipment and supplies, employers across all industries who are or will be seeking PPE should review the alerts and take appropriate steps to avoid being victimized by fraudsters.

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Handling Foreign National Healthcare Workers in the Pandemic

Posted in Immigration Planning & Compliance

Healthcare workers – critical to the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic – are needed more now than ever, yet the bureaucracy surrounding employment of foreign national healthcare workers creates roadblocks. With the closing of Consulate offices and suspension of Premium Processing, employers must be creative in navigating options for obtaining approval for foreign national healthcare workers and must be mindful of issues that would arise if they furlough such workers.

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DOL Issues Regulations on Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Expanded FMLA Leave

Posted in Labor Relations, Medical & Other Leaves, Wage & Hour

Demonstrating that guidance on the newly mandated Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave is fluid, on April 6, 2020, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) published new regulations as a “temporary rule” expanding on and tinkering with its prior guidance under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The new rule became effective on April 2, 2020. House Democrats have already challenged certain provisions as inconsistent with the FFCRA and asked they be removed. Whether that will happen remains to be seen.

In the meantime, among other things, the new rule provides guidance on the definitions of “quarantine or isolation order,” “health care provider,” “son or daughter,” “child care provider,” and “place of care.” It also lays out documentation and recordkeeping requirements, and clarifies the applicability of the small business exemption from the leave provisions. Each are discussed in more detail below.

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Paycheck Protection Program Open for Business

Posted in Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Wage & Hour

Small businesses can begin applying for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program today, April 3, 2020, but should keep in mind that under new interim guidance, 75% of the forgiven amount over the eight week period following origination of the loan must be used for payroll purposes. Independent contractors and self-employed individuals can apply starting April 10, 2020. The application can be found here. The Paycheck Protection Program is part of the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

The SBA’s interim guidance was issued on April 3, 2020, to address certain gaps in the CARES Act. Most notably, it limits loan forgiveness in a way that was not previously enumerated in the text of the CARES Act. The guidance explains that this limit is necessary to “effectuate the core purpose of the statute and ensure finite program resources are devoted primarily to payroll.” The application for borrowers mirrors this new guidance by requiring all borrowers to certify that they understand that not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs. Businesses should keep this in mind when they apply, as previously, there was no stated limit on how the loan would need to be apportioned between rent, mortgage, utilities, and payroll to qualify for forgiveness.

Businesses may apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. Other regulated lenders will be available to make these loans once they are approved and enrolled in the program. You should consult with your local lender as to whether it is participating. The guidance also makes clear who must sign the application:

  • For a sole proprietorship, the sole proprietor;
  • For a partnership, all general partners, and all limited partners owning 20% or more of the equity of the firm;
  • For a corporation, all owners of 20% or more of the corporation;
  • For limited liability companies, all members owning 20% or more of the company; and
  • Any Trustor (if the Applicant is owned by a trust).

Businesses should begin gathering the documents (and signatures) needed for the application now so that they can apply on April 3, 2020 as it is expected that there will be a high demand for Paycheck Protection Program loans. The guidance makes clear that all loans will be awarded on a first come first served basis.

For lenders seeking to offer loans under the CARES Act, the SBA has posted its lender application here.

If you need assistance with the Paycheck Protection Program or other aspects of the recent legislation surrounding COVID-19, contact your Akerman attorney.

Relief for Employers in the CARES Act

Posted in Employee Benefits, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Medical & Other Leaves, Wage & Hour

The Federal Corona Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), approved Friday in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, provides businesses with a myriad of opportunities for relief, including expansion of unemployment benefits, advance refunding of tax credits for employers that provide expanded FMLA leave and emergency paid sick leave, small business loan programs, debt forgiveness, and more. Summaries of the tax provisions and provisions affecting health and welfare benefit plans are available here and here. Below are some of the key aspects of this new law and how it impacts employees and certain businesses.

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CARES Act Impacts to Employer-Sponsored Health and Welfare Benefit Plans

Posted in Employee Benefits, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention

Health and welfare benefit plans and insurers are affected by various provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed on March 27, 2020. In addition to provisions impacting tax-qualified retirement plans and executive compensation (summarized here), the CARES Act affects coverage of diagnostic testing, preventive services, telehealth services, and drug reimbursement. Here are the highlights:

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Cracking Down on Employers Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors

Posted in Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Wage & Hour

New Jersey has joined California and New York City by adding significant new penalties and requirements on employers doing business in the Garden State, including new penalties for misclassifying workers as independent contractors and new posting requirements effective April 1, 2020. Illinois, New York, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, and Florida considered various forms of legislation on worker misclassification in 2019, and other states may soon join the parade.

Employers in New Jersey now face penalties and other requirements set forth in six new statutes for the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. All but one of the laws already took effect this year. The new one requires employers to post a warning against the misclassification of employees and is effective on April 1, 2020.

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Summary of Key Tax Provisions in Historic Senate CARES Act Legislation

Posted in Employee Benefits, Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention

On March 26, the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act), which advances legislation intended to help Americans and businesses survive a public health and economic crisis due to COVID-19. This article provides a summary of key tax provisions in the CARES Act. The bill now moves to the House, which is expected to be finalized and voted on quickly.

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New Unemployment Obligations for Georgia Employers

Posted in Employment Counseling & Workplace Claims Prevention, Wage & Hour

Employers faced with layoffs and furloughs need to pay close attention to state unemployment laws, which are in flux and in some instances may impose extraordinary burdens on employers. For example, Georgia has extended unemployment benefits and now requires employers to file for benefits on behalf some employees impacted by COVID-19 as a result of certain changes to state unemployment compensation regulations promulgated on March 19 and March 25.

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