Monday March 23 COVID-19 Update

For information about how to protect yourself and your family, please visit the CDC for resources, as well as your local health department website, and the Canadian response page. For updated information for SMART members, visit our dedicated SMART COVID-19 hub

We will be adding to this list as new legislation and regulations are adopted.

IN THIS UPDATE: STAY-AT-HOME ORDERS, SICK LEAVE, STUDENT LOANS, FUTURE LEGISLATION, CDC PROTOCOL FORM

 

Stay-At-Home or Shelter-In-Places orders in 9 states:

 

California                             Ohio

Connecticut                        New Jersey

Delaware                             New York

Illinois                                   Nevada

Louisiana

 

States are interpreting Stay at Home and Shelter in Place differently. Generally, all “non-essential” businesses are ordered closed under the directives, leaving only hospitals, fire departments, law enforcement and limited essential businesses including grocery stores and pharmacies open. Although the directives can fall short of the fully enforced lock downs that multiple European countries have implemented to combat the virus, breaking the order in San Francisco is a misdemeanor.

U.S. Federal Legislation Signed into Law

Two coronavirus related bills have been signed into law, and a third is being negotiated in Congress.

The most recent is the Families First Coronavirus Act. Here are the portions that could impact our members and their families:

2-WEEK PAID SICK LEAVE FOR ILL OR QUARANTINED WORKERS

Who gets it? Not everyone. Only people being tested or treated for coronavirus or have been diagnosed with it. Also, eligible would be those who have been told by a doctor or government official to stay home because of exposure or symptoms. Note: This was originally going to be a more generous benefit for workers, but Republicans in the Senate balked at the effect on businesses.

What does it pay? Payments will be capped at $511 a day, roughly what someone making $133,000 earns annually.

Who pays for it? According to the IRS, employers will receive 100% reimbursement for paid leave. Health insurance costs are also included in the credit. Employers face no payroll tax liability for these leave hours paid. An immediate dollar-for-dollar tax offset against payroll taxes will be provided. Where a refund is owed, the IRS will send the refund as quickly as possible.

In addition, under guidance that will be released next week, eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or childcare leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and childcare leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS. The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees. If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and childcare leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less. The details of this new, expedited procedure will be announced soon.

2-WEEK PAID SICK LEAVE FOR OTHER WORKERS

Who gets it? Workers with family members affected by coronavirus and those whose children’s schools have closed. The number of people affected by school closures will run into many millions.

What does it pay? These workers will receive up to two-thirds of their pay, though that benefit is limited to $200 a day. That would cover two-thirds of the typical daily wage of someone earning up to about $75,000 annually.

Who pays for it? Same as above.

How long does it last? This benefit lasts up to a total of 12 weeks, including two weeks of sick leave. Note that many schools could be closed through the end of the year.

What if employers can’t pay? Most of the 35 million American workers at small businesses don’t currently get paid family leave. Small businesses — fewer than 50 employees — can apply for financial hardship waivers from the leave provisions affecting workers whose children are out of school. The Department of Labor will be creating a measure for determining which businesses qualify for hardship waivers.

What about large employers? Companies with more than 500 employees are exempt.

What about employees who work under multi-employer bargaining agreements?

Under multi-employer bargaining agreements, employers may satisfy their obligations regarding the paid sick leave and extended FMLA provisions by making contributions to a multi-employer fund that permits such contributions and allows for employees to obtain these benefits through the fund.  If such an arrangement is not in place, individual employers are still obligated to provide paid sick leave and extended FMLA benefits under the legislation.

  • S. Federal Student Loans:

The Trump administration has allowed for student loan interest suspension and temporary suspension of loan payments. For more information, visit the Department of Education.

  • S.: What’s still on the table: Rebate checks and more

What’s being negotiated now is a massive $1 trillion-plus stimulus bill. This could include direct aid to some households, bridge loans for small businesses, and other industry bailouts. We will update when this passes Congress.

CANADA: New Emergency Care Benefit

The Federal Government recently announced the creation of an Emergency Care Benefit of up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks administered through CRA for those workers who don’t otherwise qualify for EI sickness benefits and/or EI regular benefits.

Who gets it?

  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are quarantined or sick with COVID-19 but do not qualify for EI sickness benefits;
  • Workers, including the self-employed, who are taking care of a family member who is sick with COVID-19, such as an elderly parent, but do not quality for EI sickness benefits; and
  • Parents with children who require care or supervision due to school closures, and are unable to earn employment income, irrespective of whether they qualify for EI or not.

Based on these initial eligibility requirements indicated by the Federal Government, the new Emergency Care Benefit appears to be available to piece work subcontractors in the construction industry, “gig” economy workers and part-time employees who would otherwise not be eligible for EI sickness benefits and/or EI regular benefits.

CANADA: New Emergency Support Benefit:

Who gets it? Canadians who lose their jobs or face reduced hours as a result of COVID-19’s impact.

The Emergency Support Benefit will be delivered through the CRA to provide up to $5.0 billion in support to workers who are not eligible for EI and who are facing unemployment. Details of the benefit amounts payable to individuals and eligibility requirements for this benefit have yet to be articulated by the Federal Government. The Federal Government has indicated the Emergency Support Benefit will provide payments comparable to EI and last for 14 weeks. When further details become available, we will communicate them.

TD Member Report Form to Support CDC Protocol Procedures

This form is for members who are aware of an employee who has tested positive with coronavirus, or if a carrier is refusing to provide a clean and sanitized workplace as well as supplies for sanitation.  Members in these cases are asked to use this form.  Responses will remain anonymous.

Submissions via this form will go to union leadership and be used as evidence to support emergency measures sought by the SMART Transportation Division in petitions to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).   CDC guidelines state that employers should do the following to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  1. reduce transmission among employees,
  2. maintain healthy business operations, and
  3. maintain a healthy work environment.

As transportation workers are considered to be essential workers, even in a time of national emergency, making them exempt from stay-at-home orders issued by local, state and federal officials, it is paramount that these guidelines be followed so that the health of workers, co-workers, their families and the general public is not jeopardized by employers’ failure to follow CDC protocols.