The 2021 Atlantic Hurricane season started yesterday – more than a week after the formation of the first storm. This is the seventh year in a row that a storm was named before the season officially began. The World Meteorological Organization discussed moving up the beginning of the hurricane season but decided not to change the date at this time. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts there will be 13-20 named storms, including 6-10 hurricanes with 3-5 of those being major hurricanes.
California lawmakers are pushing a 10-bill package to fight wildfire risks. The package, in part, seeks to increase the number of firefighters long-term and boost standards for new housing developments. It would also require cities and counties to create fire safety standards before they permit housing development in very high fire risk areas. Developers would have to build in the least-risky areas of the project and prepare evacuation plans, and the state fire marshal would have to develop additional mandatory standards that local governments would have to meet before allowing new housing in the most vulnerable areas.
President Joe Biden released his $6 trillion fiscal 2022 budget on Friday that includes proposing an unprecedented program that would provide $358 million next year to help low-income people buy flood insurance and fortify their properties against flood damage. The budget also endorses the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) plan to restructure its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) so that insurance premiums better reflect each property’s risk of being flooded. In an alternative proposal, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer reintroduced the Taxpayer Exposure Mitigation Act, which would require that the NFIP be backed by reinsurance or capital market alternatives.
Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) started the rulemaking process to protect workers whose jobs keep them outside of climate-controlled settings during conditions of excessive heat or wildfire smoke. This stems from an executive order that directs Oregon OSHA and the Oregon Health Authority to jointly develop standards to protect workers from these types of exposures. Protected workers would include delivery drivers, warehouse employees, public transit drivers, and farmworkers. The agencies received an extension to develop these standards by Sept. 30, 2021.
THE CONSTITUTION STATE
The Connecticut Senate passed a bill that would extend the same workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress injuries that police and firefighters have to ambulance workers, 911 dispatchers, corrections workers, and health care workers who are afflicted by COVID-related trauma on the job. The bill defines what kind of COVID-related trauma is eligible and focuses on the individual witnessing the death or injury, or caring for a person due to COVID-19. The bill moves to the House for consideration.
THE EMPIRE STATE
New York firefighters joined environmental advocates and Sen. Todd Kaminsky to push for the passage of a bill that would ban carcinogenic flame retardant chemicals in household items. The bill would prohibit toxic flame retardants in electronics, furniture, and mattresses. The United Fire Officers Association’s President Jake LeMonda stated that cancer is a hidden killer and the bill would go a long way in preventing members from inhaling the cancer-causing toxins. Industry and business groups have pushed back on the bill, arguing that it could increase fire deaths, injury, and property damage.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The Government Accountability Office plans to review and issue a report outlining whether the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIP) is applicable to acts of cyberterrorism. The report will assess the amount of insurance coverage available for cyberterrorism incidents and other cyberthreats, as well as look at the impact of cyberattacks on U.S. critical infrastructure. The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, enacted after entities had trouble finding coverage for acts of terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, requires insurers to carry policies that cover acts of terrorism. The law committed the government to help the private sector cover up to $100 billion in losses for qualifying events. The report is due later in 2021.\
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidance last week stating that employers are allowed to require the COVID-19 vaccine, and can also legally provide incentives, including cash, to workers who receive the vaccine. However, companies must still provide reasonable accommodation for employees who are exempt from mandatory immunization under the American with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Reasonable accommodations include asking the workers to wear a face mask, work at a social distance from others, work modified shifts, periodic tests for COVID-19, be given the opportunity to telework, or accept a reassignment.
Memorial Day kicks off the unofficial start of summer and people took to the skies and hit the road. More than 37 million Americans were estimated to have traveled 50 miles or more this weekend, a 60% increase from last year when travel was halted during the pandemic. Air travel surged nearly 500% during the Memorial Day weekend. As we get together with folks again, let’s remember all the men and women who have died while on duty with the U.S. military. We thank you for your sacrifice. Please stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.