COVID-19 Update December 4, 2020

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During our NAPEO federal affairs call this week, we learned that the majority of Congress (both sides) wants to get another stimulus package passed, either with the Omnibus bill to keep the government running or on its own. The proposal that was rejected on December 1st seemed to factor in specific aid for small businesses and the unemployed individuals who are struggling to find work. NAPEO also shared with us a fourth-quarter update that includes some interesting small business statistics and the effect of COVID-19 in a tidy little snapshot that you might appreciate.

Approximately 20 million people overall are in the process of collecting some kind of state or federal unemployment aid. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported this week that the Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims data have been flawed, containing overestimates and underestimates at various times. Much of the inaccurate data stemmed from inconsistent reporting from states, many of which have been overwhelmed by processing backlogs of claims. A high prevalence of unemployment fraud has also skewed claims counts, the federal watchdog said.

As much of the United States is currently experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, it is important to consider the applicability of the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA), along with the related available credits for providing benefits under each of the required Acts.

Employers can expect increased enforcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Biden administration and possibly emergency temporary standards to combat COVID-19. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued an opinion letter addressing how to properly calculate overtime premiums for employees who are paid on a piece-rate basis.

A federal district court in California invalidated two new regulations that raised prevailing wages and eligibility criteria for foreign workers to receive H-1B visas. The rules increased the required wages employers must pay their H-1B workers and would have redefined the degrees, occupations, and employer-employee relationships eligible for the visas on Dec. 7.

Finally, as 2020 draws to a close, now is a good time for employers sponsoring retirement plans to wrap up year-end compliance issues and prepare for the upcoming year. In general, discretionary plan amendments must be adopted by the last day of the plan year in which the optional change is to be effective (with some exceptions). If you have any questions on this, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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