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COVID-19 Update June 8, 2021

Last week, the Biden Administration released their 2022 budget proposal totaling to a whopping 6 trillion dollars (no, that is not a typo!). As an economics enthusiast, I have a hard time spending twice as much as we collect. Who and when will we pay these dollars we are borrowing today, and is there proof that this spending will actually help the economy? I have always believed that the government can’t buy everyone’s way to prosperity.

In connection with release of the Budget, the Secretary of Labor released a statement noting that the Budget includes increased funding for the Employee Benefits Security Administration and other agencies that “perform inspections and conduct investigations to protect the health, safety, rights and financial security of workers in America.”  This suggests that DOL is looking for increased funding to bolster its investigation capacity in the EBSA regional offices.

Key tax proposals in the Budget:

  • Increase the top marginal individual income tax rate to 39.6 percent, which would apply to taxable income over $509,300 for married individuals filing a joint return, $452,700 for unmarried individuals (other than surviving spouses), $481,000 for head of household filers, and $254,650 for married individuals filing a separate return.
  • Tax long-term capital gains and qualified dividends at ordinary income tax rates, but only for taxpayers with incomes exceeding $1 million (indexed after 2022).  This would apply to gains required to be recognized “after the date of announcement.”
  • Treat transfers of appreciated property by gift or on death as realization events, g., eliminate the step-up in basis at death for appreciated assets.
  • Expand the scope of the net investment income tax in connection with certain pass-through business income of high-income taxpayers and make certain changes to the rules for the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA) tax for partnership and LLC income and for nonpassive S corporation owners.
  • Increase the corporate income tax rate from 21% to 28%.
  • Impose a 15% minimum tax on book earnings of large corporations.
  • Make various changes to the taxation of multi-national corporations.
  • Tax carried interests as ordinary income.

The Budget does not include a financial transactions tax proposal.

States Opting Out of Enhanced Federal Unemployment 

The following states will no longer participate in enhanced federal unemployment benefit programs:

  • Alabama: Cease on June 19, 2021.
  • Arizona: Cease on July 10, 2021.
  • Arkansas: Cease June 26, 2021.
  • Georgia: Cease June 26, 2021.
  • Idaho: Cease June 19, 2021.
  • Iowa: Cease June 12, 2021.
  • Mississippi: Cease June 12, 2021.
  • Missouri: Cease June 12, 2021.
  • Montana: Cease June 27, 2021.
  • North Dakota: Cease June 19, 2021.
  • Ohio: Cease June 26, 2021.
  • South Carolina: Cease June 30, 2021.
  • South Dakota: Cease June 26, 2021.
  • Tennessee: Cease July 3, 2021.
  • Utah: Cease June 26, 2021.
  • Wyoming: Cease June 19, 2021.

Remote I-9 Rule Extended

USCIS has announced an extension of the rules related to Form I-9 compliance . Due to the continued precautions related to COVID, DHS will extend this policy until Aug. 31. The current extension includes guidance for employees who are hired on or after June 1 and work exclusively in a remote setting due to Covid-19-related precautions.

Those employees are temporarily exempt from the physical inspection requirements associated with Form I-9 until they undertake nonremote employment on a regular, consistent, or predictable basis, or the extension of the flexibilities related to such requirements is terminated, whichever is earlier. If there are employees physically present at a work location, no exceptions are being implemented at this time for in-person verification of identity and employment eligibility documentation for Form I-9.

EEOC Technical Assistance: COVID

The EEOC posted updated and expanded technical assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing questions and new resource for job applicants and employees, explaining how federal employment discrimination laws protect workers during the pandemic.

The expanded technical assistance provides new information about how ADA and GINA apply when an employer offers incentives for employees to provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination when an employee gets a vaccine in the community or from the employer or its agent. The technical assistance answers COVID-19 questions only from the perspective of the EEO laws.  Other federal, state, and local laws come into play regarding the COVID-19 pandemic for employers and employees.

The key updates to the technical assistance are summarized below:

  • Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations. Other laws, not in EEOC’s jurisdiction, may place additional restrictions on employers.  From an EEO perspective, employers should keep in mind that because some individuals or demographic groups may face greater barriers to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination than others, some employees may be more likely to be negatively impacted by a vaccination requirement.
  • Federal EEO laws do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party (not the employer) in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or public clinic. If employers choose to obtain vaccination information from their employees, employers must keep vaccination information confidential pursuant to the ADA.

Employers that are administering vaccines to their employees may offer incentives for employees to be vaccinated, as long as the incentives are not coercive, according to the EEOC. Because vaccinations require employees to answer pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions, a very large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information.

Lastly, here is an article about job openings at a record-breaking high without enough qualified applicants. The latest monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS report, from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) showed job openings surged to a record high in March, led by 185,000 new openings in hospitality and food services. Openings overall shot up 597,000 to 8.1 million by the end of March, the highest monthly total since the report debuted in 2000. This vacancy is a common theme from clients of both Delta Personnel and Delta Administrative Services. Please make sure you take care of the employees you have and try not to burn them out while shorthanded. We have seen a lot of turnover due to burnout alone.

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