COVID-19 Pandemic: Client Resources
Knox Law is committed to serving clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our offices are open by appointment only, subject to the most recent orders. Professionals and staff continue to be available by phone and email to help with your questions and concerns.
We remain focused on client care and responsiveness - please reach out to us as needed:
CDC “Streamlines” COVID-19 Guidance
Primarily, the updated guidance no longer differentiates between those who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated. While the CDC still maintains its position that it is important for individuals to stay up-to-date with their vaccinations, the CDC advises that those exposed to COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, need not quarantine.
Court Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Federal Employees
Posted January 24, 2022
Supreme Court Blocks OSHA Vaccine Mandate; Allows Health Care Vaccine Mandate
On January 13, 2022, the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers. However, the court allowed a mandate requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated. FULL ARTICLE
Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Challenges to Select Biden Vaccination Mandates (Dec. 23, 2021)
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will hear oral arguments on the following two vaccination mandates:
- The OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard requiring private employers with 100 or more employees to institute a mandatory vaccinate or test policy, and
- The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Interim Final Rule requiring vaccines for health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding, such as through Medicare.
Federal Judge Blocks Enforcement of Federal Contractor Vaccine Mandate Nationwide
What is the Status of the OSHA Vaccine Mandate?
The future of the recent OSHA ETS is up in the air for now. This does not mean employers should halt plans for compliance. The Fifth Circuit’s opinion may not be indicative of how another circuit may ultimately rule. Cautious employers may want to move forward with plans for compliance while also closely monitoring the legal advancements. READ MORE
OSHA Issues Long-Awaited Vaccine Mandate
On Thursday, November 4th, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to implement and maintain a policy requiring that its employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.
As the ETS provides a substantial amount of information on the mandatory vaccination policy, here are some of the highlights: FULL ARTICLE
Updated EEOC Guidance Addresses Religious Exemptions from Vaccination Mandates
On October 25, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provided further insight into when companies must exempt workers from COVID-19 vaccine mandates for religious reasons - read full update HERE.
Biden Announces New COVID-19 Action Plan
On Thursday, September 9th, President Biden announced a new Action Plan to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drawing the most attention to his plan is his directive towards the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop a rule requiring employers with at least 100 employees to make sure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated workers to get a negative test at least once a week. Companies that fail to comply could face fines of $14,000 per violation.
This directive only applies to private-sector employers. As such, school districts will not fall under this vaccination requirement as the Plan currently stands.
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021: Notice Required for the End of COBRA Premium Assistance
Governor Wolf Announces No Mask Mandate, Urges Pennsylvanians to Follow Guidance
On Tuesday, July 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revised its mask recommendation and announced that due to the transmissibility of the Delta variant, people in areas with "high" or "substantial" COVID-19 transmission should resume wearing masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. The level of transmission rates for each county may be found here.
However, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf also announced on Tuesday that he is not considering a statewide mask mandate as coronavirus cases surge in Pennsylvania and across the country, nor is his administration requiring masks in schools. FULL UPDATE
CDC Recommends a Return to Mask Wearing In Certain Circumstances
On Tuesday, July 27, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announced that vaccinated individuals should revert to wearing masks indoors in certain circumstances.
This revision in recommendation is “based on the fact that the Delta variant is clearly more transmissible than the prior ones,” a senior administration health official commented. Specifically, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced that the CDC now recommends that people in areas with "high" or "substantial" COVID-19 transmission should resume wearing masks indoors. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. counties have high or substantial transmission of COVID-19, according to CDC data.
Furthermore, the CDC recommended that local jurisdictions encourage universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status. READ MORE
EEOC Updates COVID-19 Workplace Guidance on May 28, 2021
On May 28, 2021 the EEOC updated its Workplace Guidance to clarify COVID-19 vaccination issues in the workplace.
The EEOC first reinforced the notion that an employer may mandate employees receive the vaccine before entering the workplace with some exceptions. Read more here.
PA Statewide Mask Mandate to be Lifted by June 28, 2021
On May 27, 2021, the Acting Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Alison Beam, announced that the Commonwealth’s mask order will be lifted by June 28, 2021.
Mitigation Orders Lifted on Memorial Day; Masking Order Once 70% of PA Adults Fully Vaccinated
On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the Pennsylvania Department of Health announced that the Wolf administration will eliminate all COVID-19 mitigation orders except for masking on Monday, May 31 at 12:01 AM. Therefore, effective Memorial Day, restaurants, stores and other businesses can open at 100% capacity, and all crowd-size limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will be lifted.
“With millions of Pennsylvanians getting vaccinated, it’s time to plan the transition back to normal,” said Senator Art Haywood. “Hospitalizations and deaths are down. This action today is a key step forward.”
Also, the current order requiring Pennsylvanians to wear masks will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated. Face coverings are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home, excluding certain activities and circumstances in accordance with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidance.
Note: These updates will not prevent municipalities and school districts from continuing or implementing stricter mitigation efforts.
The Department of Health still recommends that Pennsylvanians refer to CDC guidance and recommendations regarding ongoing COVID-19 safety measures and procedures.
The full Press Release may be viewed here.
If you have any questions about the recent announcement, please contact one of our labor & employment attorneys, or call 814-459-2800.
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, COBRA, and Required Notices
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021(ARPA) includes provisions that immediately impact employers subject to COBRA.
For employees or beneficiaries who involuntarily incur a loss of coverage due to termination of employment or reduction of hours from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 ARPA subsidizes the COBRA premium payment through September 30, 2021.
For employees or beneficiaries who involuntarily incurred a loss of coverage between November 1, 2019 and April 1, 2021, and who either did not elect COBRA or allowed it to lapse, ARPA creates a current opportunity to elect (or re-elect) COBRA prospectively.
Attorney Mark Wassell Speaks on COVID Vaccinations in the Workplace for Erie Chamber
Attorney Mark Wassell will speak on Tuesday March 30, 2021 on COVID-19 Vaccinations in the Workplace: Facts, FAQs and a Review of the Law. The Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership is offering this webinar free of charge - more information and registration can be found here.
Governor Wolf Relaxes Some COVID Restrictions, Takes Effect April 4th
On Monday, March 15, 2021, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf relaxed certain COVID restrictions on restaurants, bars, event spaces, and other businesses throughout the Commonwealth.
The announcement was made after Pennsylvania experienced a decrease in COVID case loads, hospitalizations, and percent positive rate coinciding with an increase in vaccinations. In a press release, Governor Wolf stated that the following modifications to the current restrictions will take effect on April 4, 2021: FULL ARTICLE HERE
American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Extended FFCRA Tax Credits
President Biden Signs the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into Law, Extends FFCRA Tax Credits
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“the Act”), a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package intended to provide continued economic relief to individuals, businesses, and state and local governments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of interest for covered employers is the Act’s extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s (FFCRA) tax credit provisions: FULL ARTICLE HERE
Gov. Wolf Relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions on Crowds and Eliminates Travel Quarantine
After almost one year since Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf first enacted mitigation orders aimed at reducing the spread of the Coronavirus, his office has now announced measures to relax COVID-19 safety restrictions.
On Monday, March 1, 2021, Governor Wolf, in congruence with the Acting Secretary of Health, published three major changes to the Commonwealth’s current COVID-19 mitigation efforts: FULL ARTICLE
Mandating COVID-19 Vaccination for Employees
Over the course of the last few weeks, the FDA has granted Emergency Use Authorization for COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccines are expected to be widely available within the next few months.
Employers that are contemplating a vaccine mandate for all employees are strongly encouraged to consult legal counsel before taking action. MORE HERE
PPP Update: Consolidated Appropriations Act - December 2020
As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law on December 27, 2020, Congress specifically overruled the IRS interpretation of deductibility of expenses utilized with Paycheck Protection Program loan proceeds. MORE HERE
FFCRA Expires on December 31, 2020
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expires on December 31, 2020.
The latest stimulus package recently passed by Congress will not change that (Note: As of December 22nd, the President has not signed this legislation). As of January 1, 2021, employers will no longer be required to provide employees with paid leave under the FFCRA, including emergency paid sick leave or expanded FMLA for child-care related purposes. Congress did, however, include some relief for employers who continue providing paid leave consistent with what the FFCRA required at least through the first quarter of 2021. MORE HERE
Force Majeure Contract Tips
Our October 2020 Professional Advisor Symposium Tips webinar included Force Majeure Contract Tips.
PA Department of Health Amended Travel Order
On November 25, 2020, the Pennsylvania Department of Health amended its Order relating to travel. Prior to the amendment, all non-exempted individuals traveling into or returning to the Commonwealth from any location outside of the Commonwealth were required to obtain a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth, or place themselves in quarantine for 14 days after entering the Commonwealth.
With the amendment, the Order now allows non-exempted individuals traveling into or returning to the Commonwealth, who failed to obtain a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth, the ability to end the mandated quarantine early, by obtaining a negative Covid-19 test after entering the Commonwealth and during the 14-day quarantine period.
Additionally, with the amendment, individuals 11 years of age and under are now exempt from the mandates of the Order.
SBA Issues Notice Regarding PPP Loans & Change in Ownership
The Small Business Administration (SBA) issued a notice on Friday October 2, 2020 explaining required procedures when an entity that has received a Paycheck Protection Program loan experiences a change in ownership.
PPP loan borrowers must notify their PPP lenders in writing prior to the closing of any covered change in ownership, which occurs when at least 20% of common stock or other ownership interest in a PPP borrower is sold or transferred, when the borrower sells or transfers at least 50% of its assets, or when the borrower merges with or into another entity.
SBA approval may or may not be required in certain situations as outlined in the Procedural Notice.
The notice can be found in its entirety here: SBA Procedural Notice 5000-20057
SBA and Treasuring Issue Further Guidance on PPP Loan Forgiveness - 8/4/2020
DOL Issues Additional Guidance for Employers and Workers (July 20, 2020)
On July 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor published additional guidance for workers and employers on how the protections and requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) affect the workplace as workplaces reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance from the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) includes commonly asked questions and answers that address critical issues in all three laws - see more here.
FFCRA Leave for Employees Returning from Travel
Pennsylvania Employees Returning from Travel May Qualify for FFCRA Leave During Quarantine Period - learn more here.
DOL Issues Bulletin on FFCRA Leave for Closure of Summer Camps & Programs
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a Field Assistance Bulletin (FAB No. 2020-4) on June 26, 2020 regarding FFCRA Leave based on the closure of summer camps, enrichment programs and other summer programs. Read more here.
REMINDER: PA Requires COVID-19 Safety Procedures Flyers
Reminder: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is requiring businesses with in-person operations or who are open to the public to post a COVID-19 Safety Procedures for Businesses flyer on their premises. More here.
FAQs on Health Coverage Issues Relating to FFCRA, CARES Act & More
The DOL, HHS and Treasury have compiled FAQs regarding implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and other health coverage issues related to COVID-19. Morehere.
New PPP Loan Forgiveness Applications & Instructions Posted 6/16/2020
U.S. Department of Labor Issues FAQ About Face Coverings, Surgical Masks and Respirators in the Workplace
Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act Signed Into Law
The Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act of 2020 has been signed into law on June 5, 2020.
The PPP Flexibility Act provides PPP loan borrowers with 24 weeks to utilize PPP loan funds, instead of 8 weeks. It also allows borrowers to utilize no more than 40% on non-payroll cost expenses, versus the current 25% threshold.
Also, it provides the borrower the opportunity to negotiate with the PPP lender/bank to extend the term of the loan to a minimum of 5 years, instead of the current 2 year period. Borrowers have until December 31, 2020 to "fix" any reduced number of employees or salary reductions that may impact forgiveness. The previous deadline was June 30, 2020.
Additionally, the payments of the loan are now deferred until the amount of loan forgiveness is determined. Previously it had been for 6 months from receipt of the loan.
Unemployment Compensation & Work Refusal in Pennsylvania
Information on employees refusing to return to work, and recommendation to check unemployment compensation charges very carefully: UC & Work Refusal in Pennsylvania
Opportunity Zones: IRS Extends Deadlines
The IRS has released Notice 2020-39, extending critical Opportunity Zone deadlines.
Now, an investor whose 180 day period to invest in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) expired on or after April 1, 2020, but before December 31, 2020, can make that investment up to December 31, 2020.
This extension allows taxpayers who realized gains at any period from the fourth quarter of 2019 until April 1, 2020 to invest those funds into a QOF before the end of 2020. This extension will give taxpayers the maximum ability to realize significant tax advantages through the investment of capital gains in Opportunity Zones.
Additionally, the Notice provides that the period of April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 is not counted for purpose of the 30 month substantial improvement period. This allows Opportunity Zone projects that were stalled as a result of the mitigation efforts of COVID-19 to be continued as qualified OZ projects.
OSHA Issues Alert on Social Distancing Steps Employers Can Take
"The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an alert listing steps employers can follow to implement social distancing in the workplace and to help protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus."
SBA Issues Interim Final Rule on Loan Forgiveness
The SBA Issued its Interim Final Rule on Loan Forgiveness as well as its Interim Final Rule on SBA Loan Review Procedures and Related Borrower and Lender Responsibilities on May 22, 2020.
Each can be found at the following links:
SBA Posts Borrower's Loan Forgiveness Application
The SBA has posted a Borrower's Loan Forgiveness Application. We will circulate more information upon review; however, you can begin to review it here: SBA Borrower's Loan Forgiveness Application
FEMA Develops Exercise Starter Kit for Returning to Full Operations
New SBA FAQs #46 & #47 – Safe Harbor Guidance: The SBA Gets It (Partially) Right for Once
More information and analysis of SBA's FAQ #46 and #47, issued May 13, 2020 (here).
ALERT: SBA Clarifies Loan Forgiveness When Laid-Off Employee Refuses Re-Hire Offer
ALERT: IRS Notice 2020-32 Issued: EXPENSES PAID WITH LOAN FORGIVENESS FUNDS ARE NOT DEDUCTIBLE
The full IRS notice can be accessed here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-20-32.pdf
OSHA Poster on 10 Steps to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus
CARES Act Details RE: Retirement Plans and IRAs
Section 2202 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), enacted on March 27, 2020, provides for special distribution options and rollover rules for retirement plans and IRAs and expands permissible loans from certain retirement plans.
PA Dept of Health New Public Health Safety Measures for Businesses Permitted to Maintain In-Person Operations
Top 10 PPP Loan Issues Needing More Guidance
For more information, please contact Sarah Holland.