Essential Workers of COVID Pandemic to be Inducted in Dept. of Labor’s Hall of Honor

  • New digital campaign asks people to share stories of essential workers in their lives

To recognize their sacrifices and ceaseless efforts to protect our health and keep our country moving forward amid the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the induction of Essential Workers of the Coronavirus Pandemic into the department’s Hall of Honor.

Through so many difficult months, frontline workers have helped to provide safety, healthcare, education, food and groceries, delivery service and many other necessities, kept our nation strong and made its recovery possible.

“Amid the pandemic, our nation’s essential workers redefined what it truly means to show up for your neighbor,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “As a country, we have a new understanding and appreciation of the vital work and the service these people provide to us every single day. The Department of Labor will ensure that their sacrifice and commitment are never forgotten as the Essential Workers of the Coronavirus Pandemic become the newest inductees in our Hall of Honor.”

Established in 1988, the Department of Labor Hall of Honor recognizes Americans whose distinctive contributions have elevated working conditions, wages and overall quality of life for the nation’s families. The Hall of Honor exhibit includes portraits and brief biographies of a select group of inductees who include John L. Lewis, Frances Perkins, Walter Reuther, Cesar Chavez, the 9/11 Rescue Workers, Helen Keller, Bayard Rustin and Sen. Ted Kennedy. The Hall of Honor is located inside the North Plaza of the department’s Frances Perkins Building at 200 Constitution Ave NW in Washington, D.C.

In addition to their induction, the department is also inviting people across the nation to submit the names, stories and pictures of essential workers who have helped or inspired them during the pandemic.

“We can’t induct every essential worker by name, so we’re inviting everyone to tell us about workers they want to recognize,” Secretary Walsh continued. “We look forward to sharing these stories as part of our Hall of Honor induction celebration.”

Share names, photos and stories of essential workers who have helped or inspired you. The department will review submissions and incorporate them into online communications and Hall of Honor induction materials.

Biden Administration Issues Sweeping Vaccine Rules for Health Care, Businesses

The Biden administration announced yesterday that his administration will require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement. NAHC is currently studying the administration’s announcement and we look forward to receiving more details in the very near future.

“NAHC has encouraged vaccinations throughout the pandemic. We look forward to seeing the details of the President’s Executive Order,” said NAHC President Bill Dombi in response to the news.

That said, we believe the policy will include, but is not limited to:

  • home health agencies
  • hospices
  • hospitals
  • dialysis facilities
  • ambulatory surgical settings.

According to the White House, these requirements will apply to approximately 50,000 providers and cover over 17 million health care workers, a majority of health care workers across the country. “This action will create a consistent standard across the country, while giving patients assurance of the vaccination status of those delivering care,” said the White House in a statement released Thursday.

The Administration’s plan is to include the mandate as part of the federal Medicare Conditions of Participation (CoPs). The CoPs also affect state Medicaid programs as federal requirements incorporate those standards into the conditions under which states are entitled to receive federal matching supports for a state’s Medicaid spending.

In response to a question from NAHC President Bill Dombi, the CMS told NAHC that the “staff vaccination requirement would only apply to Medicare and Medicaid-certified provider and supplier types that are regulated under the Conditions of Participation. If an entity is not regulated under the CoPs, then this requirement would not apply.”

Noncompliance with the Conditions of Participation can trigger a range of penalties including termination from Medicare and/or Medicaid, Civil Monetary Penalties as high as $20,000 per  day, suspension of Medicare and/or Medicaid payments, and the insertion of temporary management.

Notably for Medicaid home care, not all providers are subject to CoPs. Federal Medicaid standards specify CoP application only for “home health services” and “hospice” care. While states can require other home care services to be provided through entities that meet Medicare CoPs, most do not.  This means that the vaccination mandate is not likely to apply to a host of Medicaid home services such as private duty nursing, personal care services, home and community-based services (HCBS) optional services for the elderly, and section 1915 waiver programs for HCBS.

 

 

CMS is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued in October to lay out the vaccination requirements for health care providers. Nevertheless, CMS expects Medicare and Medicaid facilities to comply with the new vaccination requirements now and health care workers in covered facilities are being urged to begin vaccination without further delay. Facilities are urged to use all available resources to support employee vaccinations, including employee education and clinics, as they work to meet new federal requirements.

“There is no question that staff, across any health care setting, who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health,” said Xavier Becerra, Secretary for Health & Human Services. “Ensuring safety and access to all patients, regardless of their entry point into the health care system, is essential.”

Additionally, the Department of Labor, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard requiring all businesses with more than 100 employees to either mandate vaccinations for all workers or require them to take weekly COVID-19 tests.  Each violation of the OSHA standard could trigger a $14,000 penalty. The White House believes the OSHA standard will cover 80 million workers, or two-thirds of the nation’s workforce.

The announcement leaves some important questions unanswered. Such as:

  • When will Interim Final Rule and the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard be published?
  • What will be the vaccination deadline for employees in the Interim Final Rule?
  • What vaccination exemptions will exist in the Interim Final Rule?
  • How will the vaccination exemptions be managed and monitored?
  • How will employees be counted? Full-time, FTE, all individuals regarding duration of a workday?
  • How will the mandate apply to franchise operations that individually do not have 100 employees, but exceed that number in combination?
  • Are there other ways beside the federal CoPs that the Administration can use to expand the reach of the mandate?
  • How does the mandate apply to self-directed care programs where the state or locality may be considered a joint employer?
  • What are the penalties for non-compliance outside of the $14,000 penalty referenced for an OSHA requirement?

You can expect NAHC to be in frequent contact with the administration and health care officials to obtain answers to these questions. When we receive answers, we will pass them on to NAHC members as quickly as possible. Please stay tuned to NAHC Report and other NAHC communications for updates.

The home care, home health, and hospice sectors of our health care system already suffer from severe staffing shortages and here is the very real possibility of even more significant staffing shortages should workers walk off the job rather than submit to vaccination. Shortages in staff will inevitably impact patients and patient care. This is a delicate balancing act in trying to keep patients and the workforce safe. NAHC hopes the Biden administration couples this action with efforts to help providers attract and retain more employees.

This action by the Biden administration builds on the vaccination requirement for nursing facilities recently announced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and will apply to:

  • nursing home staff
  • hospital staff
  • staff in other CMS-regulated settings
  • clinical staff
  • persons providing services under arrangements
  • volunteers
  • staff not involved in direct patient, resident, or client care.

Requiring Employers to Provide Paid Time Off to Get Vaccinated

OSHA is developing a rule torequire employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they suffer post-vaccination illness. This requirement will be implemented through the ETS.

New Support for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-⁠19

Small Business Administration (SBA) will increase the maximum amount of funding a small business can borrow through the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides long-term, low-cost loans, from $500,000 to $2 million. (An SBA analysis of current COVID EIDL borrowers who qualify for the increase shows that more than 80 percent have 25 employees or less.)

SBA will ensure that no small business has to start repaying these loans until two years after they receive the funding, so small businesses can get through the pandemic without having to worry about making payments.

Next, SBA will make it easier for small businesses with multiple locations in hard-hit sectors like restaurants, hotels, and gyms to access these loans.

SBA will offer a 30-day exclusive window of access where only small businesses seeking loans of $500,000 or less will receive awards after the new improved loan product launches.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Process

The administration’s plan is to make it easier for more than 3.5 million PPP borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less to get their loans wiped clean. Under the new streamlined approach, SBA sends a pre-completed application form to the borrower who can review, sign, and send back to SBA, which then works with the lender to complete the forgiveness process.

SBA expects more than 2.5 million additional small businesses to take advantage of this streamlined process in the months ahead, helping them avoid needless bureaucracy and avoid costly principal and interest payments on their loans.

Launching Community Navigator Program to Connect Small Businesses to Assistance

The ARP invested $100 million to establish a new SBA Community Navigator program, which will deploy trusted community partners in underserved communities to better connect business owners to federal, state, and local resources. Community Navigators will work with small business owners every step of the way to ensure that they are able to access the help that they need. Under the President’s plan, the SBA will complete the competitive review process to select Community Navigators and put them to work in underserved communities this Fall.

Access to Booster Shots

The Administration is preparing for COVID-19 vaccine boosters to start as early as the week of September 20th, subject to authorization or approval by the FDA and a recommendation from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Booster shots will be free and are to be made available at 80,000 locations around the country.

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice has strongly communicated to HHS how important it is that shipments of booster vaccines be sent directly to home care providers, so that safe and efficient booster vaccinations of the elderly and disabled – the most at-risk population – can take place in the home. NAHC will continue to make this case and we will keep our members up to date on this critically important topic.

Affordable and Available At-Home Tests

Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger will offer to sell rapid at-home tests at-cost for the next three months. In addition, Medicaid must cover at-home tests for free for beneficiaries, and states should ensure that any tools they use to manage at-home testing do not establish arbitrary barriers for people seeking care. The administration also plans to expand the number of retail pharmacy sites around the country where anyone can get tested for free through the HHS free testing program to 10,000 pharmacies.

The administration is also urging:

  • states to require school employees to be vaccinated;
  • schools to set up regular testing in their schools for students, teachers, and staff consistent with CDC guidance.

Getting Monoclonal Antibody Treatment to Those Who Need It

The Administration will increase the average weekly pace of shipments of free monoclonal antibody treatment to states by a further 50 percent in September. Monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70 percent for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe disease. As hospital systems experience increased COVID-19 cases, many have identified monoclonal antibody treatment as a key tool to improve health outcomes, prevent hospitalizations and reduce the strain on overburdened hospitals.

Expanding the Pool of Health Care Professionals Providing Treatment by Deploying Federal Monoclonal Antibody Strike Teams

The COVID-19 Surge Response Teams have conducted in-person technical assistance and virtual trainings for physicians and health system officials to increase education and interest in administering these treatments. To ensure that more patients can access these lifesaving COVID-19 therapeutics, the Administration’s COVID-19 surge response effort will launch monoclonal antibody strike teams to deploy clinical personnel through HHS, FEMA, and DOD to help hospitals and health systems stand up the delivery of this key treatment option. HHS will also take action to amend the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act declaration to allow more providers, including pharmacists, to administer this treatment.

This is a critical topic for our industry and our country and NAHC is heavily engaged in both studying and communicating concerns on this topic. Please stay tuned for updates.

Biden Administration Issues Sweeping Vaccine Rules for Health Care, Businesses

The Biden administration announced yesterday that his administration will require COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement. NAHC is currently studying the administration’s announcement and we look forward to receiving more details in the very near future. “NAHC has encouraged vaccinations throughout the pandemic. We look forward to…

OSHA Updates Guidance on Protecting Unvaccinated and At-Risk Workers from COVID-19

  • Medicare to pay for COVID-19 booster vaccines

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued updated guidance to help employers protect workers from the coronavirus. The updated guidance reflects developments in science and data, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated COVID-19 guidance issued July 27.

The updated guidance expands information on appropriate measures for protecting workers in higher-risk workplaces with mixed-vaccination status workers, particularly where there is often prolonged close contact with other workers and/or non-workers.

OSHA’s latest guidance:

  • Recommends that fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks in order to protect unvaccinated workers;
  • Recommends that fully vaccinated workers who have close contacts with people with coronavirus wear masks for up to 14 days unless they have a negative coronavirus test at least 3-5 days after such contact;
  • Clarifies recommendations to protect unvaccinated workers and other at-risk workers in manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, seafood processing and agricultural processing; and
  • Links to the latest guidance on K-12 schools and CDC statements on public transit.

OSHA continues to emphasize that vaccination is the optimal step to protect workers and encourages employers to engage with workers and their representatives to implement multi-layered approaches to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers from the coronavirus.

As part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to review the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard every 30-days, OSHA also said that the safeguards set forth by the standard remain more important than ever. After reviewing the latest guidance, science and data, and consulting with the CDC and partners, OSHA has determined the requirements of the healthncare ETS remain necessary to address the grave danger of the coronavirus in health care.

***

In other COVID-19 news, Medicare will pay for administering an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine consistent with the FDA emergency use authorization (EUA). Medicare will pay the same amount to administer this additional dose as it did for other doses of the COVID-19 vaccine (approximately $40 each).

CMS expects to share more information in the coming days about billing and coding.

OSHA Updates Guidance on Protecting Unvaccinated and At-Risk Workers from COVID-19

Medicare to pay for COVID-19 booster vaccines The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today issued updated guidance to help employers protect workers from the coronavirus. The updated guidance reflects developments in science and data, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated COVID-19 guidance issued July 27. The updated…

Feds: $21M+ in Grants for Training on Workplace Hazards, Infectious Diseases

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced funding opportunities for more than $21 million in Occupational Safety and Health Administration training grants for non-profit organizations. The first availability will provide $10 million under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for Workplace Safety and Health Training on Infectious Diseases, including the Coronavirus grants. To be eligible for…

Department of Labor Withdraws Independent Contractor Rule

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the withdrawal – effective May 6 – of the “Independent Contractor Rule,” to protect workers’ rights to the minimum wage and overtime compensation protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The Department is withdrawing the rule for several reasons, including: The independent contractor rule was in tension with the FLSA’s text and…

Department of Labor Withdraws Independent Contractor Rule

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the withdrawal – effective May 6 – of the “Independent Contractor Rule,” to protect workers’ rights to the minimum wage and overtime compensation protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Department is withdrawing the rule for several reasons, including:

  • The independent contractor rule was in tension with the FLSA’s text and purpose, as well as relevant judicial precedent.
  • The rule’s prioritization of two “core factors” for determining employee status under the FLSA would have undermined the longstanding balancing approach of the economic realities test and court decisions requiring a review of the totality of the circumstances related to the employment relationship.
  • The rule would have narrowed the facts and considerations comprising the analysis whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, resulting in workers losing FLSA protections.

Withdrawing the independent contractor rule will help preserve essential workers’ rights. The FLSA includes provisions that require covered employers to pay employees at least the federal minimum wage for every hour they work and overtime compensation at not less than one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for every hour over 40 in a workweek. FLSA protections do not apply to independent contractors.

In addition to preserving access to the FLSA’s wage and hour protections, the department anticipates that withdrawing the independent contractor rule will also avoid other disruptive economic effects that would have been harmful to workers had the rule gone into effect.

OSHA’s Virus Protection Program Could Put Home Health Agencies Under the Microscope

In response to an executive order from President Joe Biden, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched a national emphasis program aimed at protecting workers from COVID-19 while on the job.

OSHA, part of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), is responsible for assuring “safe and healthy working conditions” for most workers in the U.S..

READ @ HOME HEALTH CARE NEWS

Dept of Labor Plans to Rescind Rules on Independent Contractors, Joint Employer Relationships

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced plans to rescind two final rules under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The first Notice of Proposed Rulemaking proposes the withdrawal of the Independent Contractor Final Rule issued by the department on issued on Jan. 7, 2021, for several reasons. They include the following:

  • The rule adopted a new “economic reality” test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor under the FLSA.
  • Courts and the department have not used the new economic reality test, and FLSA text or longstanding case law does not support the test.
  • The rule would narrow or minimize other factors considered by courts traditionally; making the economic test less likely to establish that a worker is an employee under the FLSA.

Among its provisions, the FLSA requires covered employers to pay employees at least the federal minimum wage for every hour worked and overtime premium pay of at least one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for every hour worked over 40 in a workweek. An independent contractor has no FLSA protections.

The second Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks to rescind a current regulation on joint employer relationships under the Fair Labor Standards Act, published in the Federal Register and which took effect on March 16, 2020. In February 2020, 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the department, arguing that the Joint Employer Rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The court vacated the majority of the Joint Employer Rule on Sept. 8, 2020, stating that the rule was contrary to the FLSA and was “arbitrary and capricious” due to its failure to explain why the department had deviated from all prior guidance or consider the effect of the rule on workers.

The department invites comments from the public on both proposed rules at www.regulations.gov. The comment periods end on April 12, 2021.

Anyone who submits a comment (including duplicate comments) should understand and expect that the comment, including any personal information provided, will become a matter of public record. The division will post comments without change at www.regulations.gov and include any personal information provided. The division posts comments gathered and submitted by a third-party organization as a group, using a single document ID number at the site.

More information about the proposed rules is available at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/2021-independent-contractor and at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/flsa/2020-joint-employment.