What Employers Need to Know and Plan for During the Coronavirus Crisis

March 11, 2020
Updated March 30, 2020


Employers need to be prepared in the event the Coronavirus (COVID-19) affects your workforce or communities. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mississippi State Department of Health and National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) have developed extensive plans to help during this crisis. Below are some helpful resources and recommendations available to you:

OSHA: Prevent Worker Exposure to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The novel coronavirus (officially called COVID-19) is believed to spread from person-to-person, primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus is also believed to spread by people touching a surface or object and then touching one’s mouth, nose, or possibly the eyes. 
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OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards.
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OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

Many employers with more than 10 employees are required to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. Minor injuries requiring first aid only do not need to be recorded.
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Mississippi State Department of Health: Coronavirus Disease

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) continue to closely monitor an outbreak of respiratory illnesses caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (COVID-19) that was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.
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National Association of Manufacturers

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has called on the federal government to take legislative action to assist manufacturers in health emergencies and has recommended five key areas of focus:

  • Keeping Our Workforce Safe and Healthy
  • Protecting Our Communities
  • Providing Economic Stability
  • Encouraging Resilient Growth in the United States
  • Encouraging Long-Term Job Growth

To view NAM's COVID-19 policy action plan recommendations in its entirety, click here.

To view NAM Coronavirus Resources, click here.


The Mississippi Manufacturers Association will continue to monitor and share relevant information regarding COVID-19 as it becomes available.

SBA Disaster Assistance in Response to the Coronavirus

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Upon a request received from a state’s or territory’s Governor, SBA will issue under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.

“Pandemic” Label for COVID-19 by WHO Triggers New ADA Rules for Employers

By: Gregory, Rouchell, Adams and Reese, LLP
Labor and Employment Coronavirus Alert, March 2020

WHO has called an outbreak a “pandemic” since the H1N1 "swine flu" in 2009.

Because COVID-19 has now been labeled a pandemic of the highest level, employers need to be aware of specific rules that are now applicable under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
 
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(Adobe PDF File)

Keeping Your Loading Docks Healthy

As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many truck drivers are finding that it's increasingly difficult to deliver freight. Some drivers are being denied into buildings, some are being required to fill out extra forms and bills are being left in the back of trailers.  Listed below are 9 tips for keeping your loading docks healthy. 
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Mississippi Businesses Affected by COVID-19 Now Eligible for Disaster Aid

Mississippi Emergency Management Agency
March 20, 2020

Governor Tate Reeves’s request for an Economic Disaster Declaration by the U.S. Small Business Administration was approved on Friday, March 20, 2020.

The entire state of Mississippi has just been declared a disaster for COVID-19 by SBA Administrator Carranza which now opens up disaster loan assistance for small businesses and eligible non-profits for economic injury relief.
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COVID-19 Relief Bill Impacts Employers

By Matthew McLaughlin, McLaughlin PC 

On March 19, President Trump signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) which will provide the first wave of relief to employees impacted by COVID-19. There is more legislation to come that will provide other types of relief to the general public, but this bill specifically gives your employees some financial resources while also placing obligations on you as an employer.
 
Here is what the FFCRA does:
 
First, this only applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees and employers’ obligations are effective 15 days from today (March 19, 2020) and expire on December 31, 2020.
 
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Employers are required to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to full-time employees regardless of how long the employee has been employed. Part-time employees are only entitled to receive the number of hours they have worked on average over a two-week period.
 
These benefits are only available to employees who cannot work for reasons related to the Coronavirus and must be related to one of the following: 

The employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine order related to COVID-19;
The employee has been advised by a health care provider to quarantine for COVID-19 concerns;
The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to an order as described in number 1 or has been advised by a health care provider as described in number 2;
The employee is caring for a son or daughter if the child’s school or place of care has been closed or the child’s provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions;
The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

Employees who need to care for themselves based on numbers 1-3 above may receive their full regular rate of pay for the number of hours they would have worked per day. Employers are allowed to cap this amount at $511 per day ($5,110 aggregate) per employee. Employees who need to care for others based on numbers 4-6 above are entitled to only 2/3 of their regular pay and employers can cap this at $200 per day ($2,000 aggregate) per employee.
 
Employers must provide these benefits in addition to any existing paid leave benefits that the employee is subject to already. Employees may access the emergency relief provided in the FFCRA before using any other available leave benefits the employer offers.
 
Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion
The FFCRA also expands the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to provide leave for employees with childcare needs. This covers all employers with 500 or fewer employees, including those with 50 or fewer employees. However, the Secretary of Labor has the discretion to exempt employers with fewer than 50 employees, but the extent of that discretion is unknown. Additionally, this only applies to employees who have worked for 30 days or more.
 
This applies to employees who are not able to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the employee’s child (under 18) if the child’s school or childcare center is closed due to a public health emergency.
 
Employers are allowed to provide the first 10 days of this leave without pay, though employees may voluntarily elect to use their emergency paid sick leave addressed above during the first 10 days of the leave. Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to use existing paid leave during this time period. After the first 10 days, the employer must provide additional paid leave to the employee for the remaining 10 weeks but only at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate. The amount is capped at $200 per day ($10,000 aggregate) per employee.
 
Employer Tax Credits
To compensate employers for this obligation, the FFCRA provides a refundable tax credit to employers for 100% of the qualified sick leave wages or family leave wages paid to their employees subject to the above-noted limits.

Department of Transportation


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a national emergency declaration to provide hours-of-service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This declaration is the first time FMCSA has issued nation-wide relief. FMCSA’s declaration provides regulatory relief for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs for:

Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19
Supplies and equipment, including masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants, necessary for healthcare worker, patient and community safety, sanitation, and prevention of COVID-19 spread in communities.
Food for emergency restocking of stores.
Equipment, supplies and persons necessary for establishment and management of temporary housing and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19.
Persons designated by Federal, State or local authorities for transport for medical, isolation or quarantine purposes.
Personnel to provide medical or other emergency services. 

IRS Extends Filing Deadline to July 15


The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced March 20 that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.
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Export-Import Bank (EXIM)


The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) announced relief measures for U.S. exporters and financial institutions due to the anticipated effects of the coronavirus outbreak. EXIM is offering relief measures, including waivers, deadline extensions, streamlined processing, and flexibility, to its customers for an initial period of 30 days (with the possibility of a further extension of the period, at EXIM’s discretion) for the following programs:

Working Capital Guarantee Program
Multi-Buyer and Single-Buyer Short-Term Insurance Program
Medium-Term Single-Buyer Insurance Policies Issued to Exporters

To read complete details regarding the relief provisions and contact information for specific EXIM program representatives, click here.

Governor Reeves Signs Executive Order 1463 in Effort to Slow Spread of COVID-19

On Wednesday, March 24, Governor Tate Reeves signed a statewide executive order to limit gatherings and close dine-in restaurants. Until April 17, Mississippi residents shall avoid gathering in groups of 10 or more. There are some exceptions including healthcare facilities, grocery stores, manufacturing facilities, and any operation deemed an essential business or operation. “Essential business” is defined within the order and covers a wide range of manufacturing, utility and agricultural related operations.

The executive order also suspends dine-in services at restaurants and bans visits to nursing homes and retirement facilities until April 17. Large areas of the state had already been operating under such restrictions, but in an effort to promote the seriousness of our circumstances, the Governor felt it necessary to issue a statewide order. At this point, Governor Reeves says he does not plan to make a “shelter in place” order until state and federal health officials advise him otherwise.

To view the full order, click here.

United States Senate Approves $2 Trillion Stimulus Package

On Wednesday night, March 25, the 3rd installment of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, passed the US Senate. Following several days of negotiations, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) passed unanimously 96-0. Even though the House is technically in recess, they plan to convene Friday morning to consider the legislation on a voice vote so as to avoid requiring all members to physically return to Washington and further delaying passage. After the House vote the bill will then be signed into law by President Trump. Below are the provisions found in this historic stimulus legislation.

• A one-time direct payment to lower and middle-income Americans (those making less than $75,000 a year) of $1,200 for each adult, and $500 for each child.
• The payments begin to phase out at $75,000 for singles and $150,000 for joint taxpayers.
• Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says they expect payments out within three weeks for those who they have depository information for, those who will need paper checks it will likely take longer.
• $600 per person per week onto the base maximum unemployment benefit for four months.
• $500 billion that can be used to back loans and assistance to companies, including $50 billion for loans to U.S. airlines, as well as state and local governments. It also has more than $350 billion to aid small businesses.
• $30 billion in emergency education funding, $25 billion in emergency transit funding and creates an employee retention tax credit to incentivize businesses to keep workers on payroll during the crisis.
• $150 billion “Marshall Plan"-style ramp of health care capacity.
• State and local governments would receive $150 billion, with $8 billion set aside for tribal governments.
• Creation of an inspector general and oversight committee for the corporate assistance program, similar to what was done for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
• Ban on stock buybacks to any company receiving government loans through the term of the loan plus one additional year. They also would have to limit executive bonuses and take steps to protect workers. The Treasury Department would have to disclose the terms of loans or other aid to companies and the new inspector general would oversee the lending program.
• Ban on businesses owned by the president, vice president, members of Congress and the heads of federal executive departments from receiving loans or investments through the corporate liquidity program. The prohibition also applies to their children, spouses and in-laws.
 

 

Coronavirus Biohazard and Decontamination Services

Click here to view MMA member companies who offer these services.

 

COVID-19 UPDATE

Mississippi Legislature Will Not Reconvene April 1

When the Mississippi Legislature suspended the 2020 session on March 18, they stated that they would reconvene on April 1st or at a date agreed upon by the Lt. Governor and Speaker. As April 1 approaches, leadership in both chambers agree that now is not the time to call legislators back to Jackson. Mississippi could still be in the early stages of this pandemic, so to ensure the safety of all legislators, staff, press and others, Lt. Governor Hosemann and Speaker Gunn will be assessing the situation and taking it week by week.

President Signs Historic CARES Act into Law

On Friday morning, March 27, the US House of Representatives passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a massive stimulus package that was approved by the Senate on Wednesday. The $2 Trillion piece of legislation, that will deliver much needed relief to Americans during this uncertain time, was signed by President Trump later Friday afternoon.

To see a summary of the CARES Act provisions click here and for an FAQ document on the bill click here .

Business Interruption Insurance Coverage and the Coronavirus

As instances of documented COVID-19 (“Coronavirus”) cases rise across the country, many businesses are unable to continue operations, as their workforce stays home in light of the recommended practices of social distancing. Other businesses are forced to close by governmental mandates aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. As entire industries are interrupted by the proliferation of Coronavirus, many business owners are left asking the question: does my insurance coverage protect me?

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EPA Issues Unprecedented Civil Enforcement Relaxation Policy Due to COVID-19

On March 26, 2020, U.S. EPA (EPA) announced a sweeping policy for relaxation of EPA
enforcement of environmental noncompliance resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic (“COVID Enforcement Policy” or “Policy”). The Policy applies retroactively beginning on March 13, 2020

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