The Team over at GB The Way have compiled a series of federal updates this week. Here is a look at some of the key headlines regarding COVID-19 coming out of D.C.
The White House and the coronavirus task force issued new, stricter nationwide guidelines and called on all Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. The guidelines say, in part, that states with evidence of community transmission should close bars, restaurants, and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate, and encourages schooling from home across the country. The new guidelines apply for 15 days in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus; however, President Trump said this might last until summertime.
STIMULUS & TAXES
During Tuesday’s White House briefing on the coronavirus, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the administration is looking into sending checks directly to American households that are hurting – possibly within the next two weeks. The White House is eyeing an $850 billion stimulus package, which contains a $500 payroll tax cut provision. Mnuchin also announced that individuals and businesses will have an extra 90 days to pay the IRS if they owe additional income tax for 2019. Individual and small business filers will be able to defer payments of up to $1 million and corporations can defer up to $10 million – without incurring interest or penalties. However, taxpayers should still file their federal returns by April 15.
The Supreme Court postponed arguments scheduled for March and early April because of health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic. Various federal and state courts have been closing courtrooms and halting jury duty to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Courts in New York, Washington state, Texas, Connecticut, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Ohio, and Virginia are among the states that have suspended jury trials. Some jurisdictions are conducting more hearings over video links.
RELIEF FOR BUSINESS
The White House and members of Congress are asking for $50 billion in loans from the Small Business Administration. Currently, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans offer up to $2 million in assistance for small businesses. There are 30 million small businesses in the U.S. according to the SBA. Companies of all sizes, from local businesses to blue-chip giants, have taken a hit from the coronavirus. On Sunday, the Federal Reserve took the drastic step of slashing interest rates to nearly zero to keep credit pumping through the economy. We will keep watching how the coronavirus pandemic will impact the risk and insurance industry.
OSHA GUIDANCE ON COVID-19
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” and launched a COVID-19 webpage that provides information specifically for workers and employers. OSHA reminds employers that COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties.
RECORDING RULES FOR COVID-19 UNDER OSHA
According to the OSHA guidance, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all the following are met: 1) the case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (see CDC information on persons under investigation and presumptive positive and laboratory-confirmed); 2) the case is work-related (as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5); and the case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first-aid, days away from work.
Please stay tuned to the Network for further updates and developments on these stories as further events unfold. If you would like to receive The Way, Gallagher Bassett’s weekly briefing covering the intersection of governmental affairs and the risk and insurance industry, via email, please click here to sign to sign up.