COVID-19 Workplace: $900 Billion Economic Relief Package - $69 Billion for Vaccines


Economic Relief Package Approved by Congress | After months of ongoing negotiations, Congressional leaders came to an agreement and passed a second $900 billion COVID-19 economic relief package. The President signed the bill on Sunday, December 27, 2020

President Donald Trump has signed a bill to fund the government and provide economic relief in response to the pandemic, including an expansion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The package also extends the refundable employer payroll tax credit for paid sick and family leave through March 2021, although the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) paid sick and family leave obligations, which are due to expire at the end of this year, were not extended.


Key components of the package include:

$286 Billion for Workers and Families

  • $120 billion for Unemployment Insurance, including $300 per week for workers on unemployment benefits.

  • Extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program by 11 weeks, bringing the duration of PUA benefits from 39 weeks under the CARES Act to a total of up to 50 weeks. The bill also expands coverage to gig and other non-traditional workers.

  • Extends the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program by 11 weeks, on top of the 13-week extension under the CARES Act, to individuals who exhaust regular state benefits.

  • $166 billion in direct Economic Impact Payments

  • $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year

  • $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000 per year

  • $600 for each child dependent


$325 Billion for Small Businesses:

  • $284 billion for a second round of Payment Protection Program (PPP) small business loans

  • Expands PPP eligibility for 501(c)(6) nonprofits, including destination marketing organizations, local newspapers, and TV and radio broadcasters

  • $20 billion for businesses in low-income communities

  • $15 billion for live venues, movie theaters, and museums

  • $3.5 billion for continued Small Business Administration (SBA) debt relief payments

  • $2 billion for enhancements to SBA lending


$69 Billion for Vaccine Procurement and Distribution

  • More than $22 billion provided directly to the states for testing, tracing, and COVID mitigation programs

  • $20 billion to Biomedical Advanced Research and Development (BARDA) for vaccine procurement and therapeutics

  • $9 billion to the CDC and States for distribution

  • $3 billion for the strategic nation stockpile

  • $4.5 billion in mental health funding

  • $9 billion in support for health care providers

  • $1 billion in direct funds to the Indian Health Service


Vaccine Safety and Distribution

The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Safety is a top priority while federal partners work to make this and other COVID-19 vaccines available.The CDC has expanded safety surveillance through new systems and additional information sources, as well as by scaling up existing safety monitoring systems. Because the supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is expected to be limited at first, CDC is providing recommendations to federal, state, and local governments about who should be vaccinated first. CDC’s recommendations are based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), an independent panel of medical and public health experts. Now that these COVID-19 vaccines are available and becoming more available, it is extremely urgent to adopt Good2BeBack and start documenting who has been vaccinated, when, if they have had both shots within the maximum time allowed (with automated reminders), and also allow for the documentation of other vaccines such as influenza, to begin mitigating infectious diseases in the workplace, schools, and public venues. When regulatory agencies come knocking, you will have all of the COVID-19 and other infectious disease data available to them with just a few clicks, with Good2BeBack.


CDC Recommended Vaccine Priority Groups


Phase 1a (24 million people):

  • Health care personnel

  • Long-term care facility residents

Phase 1b (49 million people):

  • Frontline essential workers

  • People 75 and older

Phase 1c (129 million people):

  • People ages 65-74

  • People ages 16-64 with high-risk conditions

  • Other essential workers

Phase 2

  • People 16 and older not in Phase 1


States Will Have Final Say

Even with the CDC recommended vaccine priority groups, it will be up to individual states to decide who gets the vaccine next. However, all states have released updated prioritization criteria for Phase 1, primarily in response to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) deliberations and guidance. Most states have already begun COVID-19 vaccine distribution based on their own prioritization and allocation guidelines through executive orders. For example, here are guidelines for California, Florida and New York with state links:


California

The state expects to have enough supplies to vaccinate most Californians in all 58 counties by summer 2021. According to Governor Newsom, here is the current vaccine distribution:


Phase 1A:

  • Healthcare workers

  • Workers and residents at skilled nursing facilities

  • Workers and residents at other congregate living facilities

Phase 1B Tier 1:

  • People 75 and older

  • Workers in education, such as teachers and childcare

  • Emergency service workers

  • Food and agriculture workers, such as farm and grocery workers

Phase 1B Tier 2:

  • Anyone 65 or older with an underlying health condition or disability

  • Workers in transportation and logistics

  • Industrial, residential, and commercial sectors

  • Critical manufacturing workers

  • Incarcerated individuals

  • Homeless individuals

Phase 1C will likely, include:

  • Anyone 16 to 64 with an underlying health condition or disability

  • Workers in water and waste management

  • Workers in defense, energy and chemical sectors

  • Communications and IT workers

  • Financial services and government operations workers

  • Community service groups

Florida

Vaccine Distribution | Executive Order 20-315 | Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20- 315 regarding COVID-19 vaccine administration.The EO states that during this first phase of vaccine administration, all providers administering any COVID-19 vaccine shall only vaccinate the following populations:

  • Long-term care facility residents and staff;

  • Persons 65 years of age and older; and

  • Health care personnel with direct patient contact.

Hospital providers, however, may also vaccinate persons who they deem to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.


New York

As outlined in New York's vaccination program, high-risk healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff are prioritized first to receive the vaccine, followed by other long-term and congregate care staff and residents and EMS and other health care workers. Essential workers and the general population, starting with those who are at highest risk, will be vaccinated after these initial priority groups.


Takeaway

A big trend for 2021 is likely to be how a Biden Presidency will change the HR landscape—possible undoing of Trump administration rules and regulations, going back to Obama-era policies; changing guidance and possibly new regulations related to COVID.


Approximately 21 million U.S. health care personnel work in settings such as hospitals, LTCFs, outpatient clinics, home health care, public health clinical services, emergency medical services, and pharmacies. If the vaccine supply remains constrained, access to the vaccine for nonessential workers under the age of 65 with no serious health conditions will be a very long wait. That is why it is critical to maintain social distancing protocols, wash your hands frequently, and wear a mask!


After all, we are all in this together, and how we handle challenges is how we show our character!


Carol Flynn is president of HR Solutions Inc and is a subject matter expert in sexual harassment, organizational development and workplace integration. She has over 25 years in human resource management and is a professor and educator with a Master of Arts in Industrial/Organizational Psychology; life-time certified senior professional in human resources (SPHR); certified EEOC trainer; and past investigative member of the Florida Bar Grievance Committee (FBGC). For further information, see www.hrsolutionsfl.com.

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