Biden Announces New COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates for Large Employers, Federal WorkersSeptember 10, 2021
All organizations with 100 or more employees would have to require that their workers be vaccinated or undergo at least weekly COVID-19 testing under a new plan announced by U.S. President Joe Biden to curb the spread of the pandemic.
In the coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to issue an emergency temporary standard implementing the new requirement, which will cover 80 million private-sector workers. Businesses that don’t comply may face fines of up to US$14,000 per violation. Employers also will have to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or to recover from any side effects of getting vaccinated.
The administration also plans to require vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement. The mandate applies to about 50,000 health providers. Additionally, the Biden administration will require federal employees in the executive branch and government contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The new mandates will cover about 100 million workers or two-thirds of all workers in the U.S.
The new requirements, announced by President Biden on September 9, are part of an administration initiative to boost vaccinations, improve access to testing, and make COVID-19 treatments more widely available. Aspects of the plan that are particularly relevant for the cleaning industry include:
- Federal OSHA will issue an emergency regulation to compel large employers (those with 100 or more employees) to require vaccination. This also will require large employers to provide paid time off to get vaccinated via an emergency regulation.
- President Biden will issue an executive order to require federal workers and contractors to be vaccinated.
- President Biden called on entertainment venues to require proof of vaccination, but the plan identifies no specific requirements related to vaccine verification.
The administration is preparing to provide booster shots as soon as September 20, subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, and to make the boosters widely available, but details are limited. Presumably, the boosters will be available based on when an individual’s second dose was received, meaning that they will be available to older Americans first, but there are no details on that front so far. ISSA has been strongly advocating for prioritized access to COVID-19 vaccines for the cleaning industry.
Keeping Schools Safely Open:
- The plan will require the staff in certain educational settings (Head Start Programs, U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools) to be vaccinated.
- For state-run schools, the plan calls on states to adopt vaccine requirements for teachers.
Increased Testing & Requiring Masking:
- The plan uses the Defense Production Act to accelerate production of testing.
- Retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger will sell tests at cost.
- The plan dedicates funds to purchasing and distributing testing for free.
- The plan also will continue to require masking for interstate travel and will double the fines for travelers who refuse to mask in locations such as airports.
Economic Growth Programs:
- The plan will provide expanded COVID-19 small business loans (Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program) for businesses struggling due to COVID-19.
- The plan also will streamline the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and simplify the process for businesses to have their PPP loans forgiven.
There also are several “unknowns” surrounding the plan, such as:
- It isn’t clear whether the upcoming rule will apply to all employees or only those who work in company offices or facilities.
- OSHA can issue an emergency rule to protect the public health fairly quickly, but currently there is no precise estimate of the timing for the rule. A new rule could come in the next several weeks.
- There will likely be a deadline by which employers must comply. Some private companies gave their employees 90 days to be vaccinated. President Biden’s executive order on federal workers gives them 75 days to get vaccinated unless they meet limited requirements for religious or medical exemptions.
- A standard would likely pre-empt existing rules by state governments, except in states that have their own OSHA-approved workplace agencies. States with their own programs will likely have 30 days to adopt a standard that is at least as protective as the federal ruleand that standard will likely be required to cover state and local government employees.
ISSA will continue to closely monitor this issue and apprise our members of relevant information as it becomes available. For questions regarding the Biden administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the most recent employer mandates, and the impact on the cleaning industry, please contact ISSA Director of Government Affairs John Nothdurft.