Last week the Virginia Health and Safety Codes Board voted to adopt changes to the COVID-19 Permanent Standard.
Virginia Retail Federation, along with the Virginia Business Coalition, strongly advocated that the board repeal the Permanent Standard and remove the static regulatory burden in Virginia; and secondly, if the board chose to keep the standard in place, to adopt Governor Northam’s recommendation to provide employers with safeguards should they comply with the most recent CDC guidance. The board voted by a vote of 10-4 to adopt our second recommendation.
Specifically, they amended Section 16Vac25-220-10.E to say:
|To the extent that an employer actually complies with a recommendation contained in CDC guidelines, whether mandatory or nonmandatory, to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease related hazards or job tasks addressed by this standard, the employer's actions shall be considered in compliance with the related provisions of this standard. An employer's actual compliance with a recommendation contained in CDC guidelines, whether mandatory or non-mandatory, to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 related hazards or job tasks addressed by a provision of this standard shall be considered evidence of good faith in any enforcement proceeding related to this standard. The Commissioner of Labor and Industry shall consult with the State Health Commissioner for advice and technical aid before making a determination related to compliance with CDC guidelines.|
The Board also approved, by a vote of 11-3, the Department of Labor and Industry’s recommendation to allow businesses over 11 employees, who must prepare a “Infectious disease preparedness and response plan,” to exclude counting employees who are vaccinated when determining their employee count.
These changes are now before the Governor for review, and after that step, they will be sent to the Richmond Times-Dispatch for publication. Publication in the RTD is considered public notice, and therefore officially activates changes adopted by the Board.
Although we do not have a specific date of when this will occur, we anticipate that the changes will be effective by mid to late September. VRF will keep members informed as to when the changes officially go into effect.
You may view the meeting where the board reviewed all proposed and adopted changes to the standard by clicking here.
|From the National Retail Federation: |
The SBA has recently made some important changes to two of its key lending programs that have been critically important to small retailers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SBA recently announced the launch of a streamlined application portal that will allow PPP borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less to apply for loan forgiveness directly through the SBA. The SBA estimates that the streamlined portal will provide immediate loan relief to over 6.5 million small businesses. The platform will begin accepting applications on August 4, 2021. Lenders are required to opt-in to this program. The Direct Forgiveness Portal may be accessed here.
Additionally, the SBA is in the process of approving changes to the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. This program provides economic relief to small businesses and nonprofit organizations that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. Unlike the PPP, the EIDL loan cannot be forgiven. However, the loan terms are advantageous for eligible organizations, with a fixed interest rate for 30 years and no pre-payment penalty or fees. The SBA will be expanding the EIDL loan cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loans approved prior to April 7, 2021, for less than $500,000 are likely to be eligible to apply for additional funds.
As a reminder, Governor Northam has called a Special Session of the General Assembly to begin on August 2nd. There is not currently an end date sate for the Session. The General Assembly will be taking up the Governor's proposed budget amendments regarding the spending of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) federal funding that Virginia received. They will also be voting on Judges during the Special Session.
VRF will keep you informed as things progress during the Special Session. Please be on the lookout for potential Action Alerts on important issues that could impact the Retail Industry.
VRF’s priority issues will be requesting that the General Assembly use ARPA funds to shore up the Unemployment Trust Fund. If this is done, it will prevent a huge payroll tax increase for all employers across the Commonwealth. Virginia Employment Commission recently reported Virginia businesses’ payroll taxes will quadruple in January 2022. Payroll taxes are expected to soar next year from an average of $90 per employee to $360 per employee. It is critical that the General Assembly invest significant ARPA funds to the Unemployment Trust Fund to prevent this from happening.
The Governor has announced that he would like the General Assembly to invest $862 million of ARPA funds into the Unemployment Trust Fund. See his press release here (Virginia Governor Ralph Northam - July). VRF will work hard to make sure members of the General Assembly understand how important it is to maintain this funding for Virginia’s retailers.
(OSHA) issued new guidance on COVID-19 safety for all industries focused on protecting workers who are not vaccinated or who are otherwise at risk in the workplace. OSHA urges all employers to familiarize themselves with the guidance as soon as possible.
Below are selected key points taken from the guidance.