HERE TO HELP
As we all are navigating the COVID-19 virus distributors have a considerable challenge in managing the business impacts resulting from the global health crisis. We’ve compiled many resources with up-to-date coverage on regulatory updates, market insights, employer resources, member insights, and other information that you can utilize to help support your organization through this unprecedented situation.
Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans
The Small Business Administration is offering loans to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through local lenders and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) at on the SBA website.
OSHA Encourages All Businesses to Ensure HVAC Systems are Functioning Properly
11/9/20 By Alex Ayers
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a one-page guidance document encouraging business owners to ensure their HVAC systems are functioning properly. The document outlines 10 tips for business owners to help reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Anatomy of a Healthy School
11/4/20 By AHRI
While hand-washing with warm water and plenty of soap, along with surface-sanitizing and avoidance of close person-to-person contact are still the main methods to stay healthy, there are several other steps that building engineers can take to significantly minimize the risk of transmission.
SBA Releases Updated PPP FAQ and Forgiveness FAQ
8/13/20 By Alex Ayers
The Small Business Administration released updated FAQs relating to the Paycheck Protection Program and an FAQ specific to loan forgiveness. These documents serve as additional guidance for business owners participating in the program.
What LinkedIn Members are Saying About Returning to the Office
8/12/20 By Syretta Williams
Perhaps it is time to take a step back and assess the situation reflecting on what your organization is doing as the seasons change and your employees are on the cusp of dealing with new stressors and unknowns amidst the pandemic.
Tips for Remote Hiring
6/23/2020 By Pam Krivda & Syretta Williams
Remote interviewing and selection can present challenges but is likely the safest way to manage the process right now. The good news is that, with so much unemployment, this is a great time to be recruiting.
What constitutes an “essential vs. non-essential” business?
We know from already released guidance from various shelter-in-place orders that governments are supporting HVACR as essential. The HVACR industry cosigned this letter calling for technicians and engineers (and by association wholesalers that supply them) to be essential. See our blog post for further details from Director of Government Affairs, Alex Ayers. We will continue to update the blog post as we get more information.
You may also provide a ‘Critical Industry Employee Authorization to Travel’ letter (template) to your employees.
Keep track of state-by-state policies with this policy tracker.
What is the employer's obligation to provide hazard pay?
There is no obligation unless mandated by a collective bargaining agreement (i.e. Unions). Congress could make a change later to this obligation, in which case this response would be updated. If employees are asking and employers want to give hazard pay they can, however, it’s an organization’s decision and there is no reimbursement recourse for the organizations to seek.
What can be done to protect my Counter Specialist Employees from exposure yet still allow me to run my business?
What do I do if one of my branch employees tests positive?
- Please work with your state and local governments as their may be closure mandates and other guidelines your company must follow in the event of a positive case of COVID-19.
- CDC has released guidelines on how to clean a facility that has had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in it and recommends all employees that came in contact with the infected employee to self-quarantine for 14 days. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/organizations/cleaning-disinfection.html
- Remember employers need to follow confidentiality laws relating to health issues, so if someone does become sick it cannot be announced who it is without getting the employees permission.
What are best practices of other distributors? What are other distributors doing?
Our Account Manager for Wholesalers, Sarah Jilbert, has put together the best practices she has heard from members. Find it here. She has also created a video resource recapping what she has heard from members as they re-open branches.
How long should employees remain home/quarantined if they are showing one or more symptoms of COVID-19?
If the employee is NOT tested to determine contagion, s/he can leave quarantine after these 3 things have happened: (1) Employee has had no fever for at least 72 hours (3 full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers) AND (2) other symptoms have improved (e.g., cough or shortness of breath has improved; AND (3) at least 7 days have passed since their symptoms first appeared.
If the employee is tested to determine contagion, s/he can leave home after these 3 things have happened: (1) S/he no longer has a fever 3 full days of no fever without the use of medicine that reduces fevers); AND (2) other symptoms have improved; AND (3) employee received two negative tests in a row, 24-hours apart.
For more information, refer to the CDC guidelines here.
Our Account Manager for Wholesalers, Sarah Jilbert, has also put together the best practices she has heard from members. Find it here.
See how you compare to your peers in our Weekly Pulse Survey. See week 1 results here.
What if I have Critical Employees that Need Authorization to Travel Under a Stay-at-Home Order?
My employee is sick but not currently diagnosed with COVID-19. Do they qualify for E-FMLA or E-PSL based on a “substantially similar condition”?
E-FMLA does not apply to an employee’s own condition – only to the need to take leave because an employee’s child’s school/day care is closed (or care provider unavailable) due to COVID-191. E-FMLA does not apply to an employee’s own condition – only to the need to take leave because an employee’s child’s school/day care is closed (or care provider unavailable) due to COVID-192.
“Condition Substantially Similar”: Thus far, the Department of Labor has not identified any “condition(s) substantially similar”. In DOL’s Guidance of 4/4/20, it indicated that no such conditions have yet been identified by U.S. Department HHS that would allow an employee to take the 80 hours’ E-Paid Sick Leave. DOL said that if HHS does identify any such condition, DOL will issue guidance. As of April 28, 2020, no such guidance has been issued.
So, it appears as it the employee cannot avail themself of either the E-FMLA leave or the E-PSL leave. The employer can pay them for time off for pneumonia if they want, but the payments won’t be eligible for tax credits.
Does the EFMLA cover absences in connection with hybrid schooling? What if the school changes to 100% e-learning during the school year?
Context: Our employee has a child attending a local elementary school. Because of the nature of her job, the employee is unable to work remotely. She used 6 weeks of EFMLA in the spring when the school closed its building and required remote learning only. Now the school district is considering reopening this fall but requiring a hybrid model of schooling. This means that the child would be in class 2 days per week and home for remote learning 3 days per week.
Yes, the employee would be entitled to leave under the Expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA) for those days when the employee’s child is not allowed to be physically at the school building. Under the EFMLA, employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed. Moving to online instruction is considered “closed” for the purposes of EFMLA. This applies regardless of whether the closure is just a few days per week (hybrid model) or whether the school imposes a 100% e-learning model for some or part of the school year.
Any other FMLA leave taken during the leave year (as calculated by the employer) would count against the employee’s available leave. Accordingly, your employee would have 6 weeks of paid EFMLA leave remaining to cover her absence. The paid leave is set for 2/3 of the employee’s regular rate, capped at $200 per day.
Employers may request updated documentation of the new or renewed need for leave. In addition to providing the dates for which leave is requested and the reason for leave, your employee must communicate the name of the child being cared for, the name of the school or child care provider that has closed or become unavailable, and a statement that no other suitable person is available to care for the child.
The next question is whether the EFMLA requires the employee to take continuous leave (6 weeks all at once) or whether the employee may take it intermittently. Intermittently means that the employee would be at work on the days when her child is at school. The employee would then use EFMLA leave for the days when her child is remote learning from home. The EFMLA allows intermittent use of EFMLA with employer permission. While employers have the discretion to reject this arrangement (thus forcing the continuous leave of absence), the Department of Labor encourages employers to be flexible in scheduling with the employees.
This Q&A was provided by the Employers Resource Association.
How do I complete I-9s for new hires during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency instituted a temporary, virtual I-9 completion procedure in place of the in-person verification of employment eligibility. The provision applies only to employers and workplaces that are operating 100% remotely.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on August 18, 2020, that they are granting another 30-day extension for the completion of I-9 forms, making the new deadline September 19, 2020. The original guidance for the completion of I-9 forms allowed employers that were 100% remote to defer the physical presence requirements. If an employer is not 100% remote in its work, then there is no exception for the in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation review in the I-9 form.
Guidance allows companies to review “Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax or email, etc.) and obtain, inspect, and retain copies of the documents, within three business days for purposes of completing Section 2.”
Employers must ensure document copies of the “virtually” reviewed List A or B documents are maintained. Additionally, employers “must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy for each employee.”
Under this temporary policy, if a List B document is expired on or after March 1, 2020 and extended by the issuing authority, then it is acceptable and should be recorded (without the need to reverify later).
When your employee provides an acceptable expired List B document that has not been extended by the issuing authority you should:
- Record the document information in Section 2 under List B, as applicable; and,
- Enter the word “COVID-19” in the Additional Information Field.
This flexibility was meant to be a temporary reprieve “after normal operations resume” – as stated in the March 20 announcement.
It is important to know that within 90 days after DHS’s termination of the temporary policy, the employee will be required to present a valid, unexpired document to replace the expired document presented when they were initially hired.
When the employee later presents an unexpired document, you should document in the Section 2 Additional Information field the following information:
- Record the number and other required document information from the actual document presented;
- Initial and date the change.
Also, a new version of the I-9 employment eligibility verification form was issued and became mandatory as of May 1, 2020. The new form has minor changes, but employers must use this new form when completing all I-9 documents. You can find the new form here.
How can an employer determine if FFCRA is available for their employees with children returning to school?
In an effort to try to simplify the possible situations that you may be trying to answer, ERA has created a decision tree to walk through whether or not FFCRA benefits are available under a particular situation.