7/24 Update 2 of 3: Gov't Affairs, Safety, and Covid-19
Good Evening again,
Our next subjects are Government, Safety, and Covid-19 which seems to be a blend of both these days.
It’s almost impossible to separate these three items really, so please forgive the more than incidental overlap.
While Marion County has had a mask requirement for quite some time now, the rest of the state had been on an easing of most Covid-19 related restrictions until the recent increase in positive cases across the country. Then, instead of moving to Stage 5 of our recovery plan, a Stage 4.5 was implemented prior to July 4th and in a startling move (for Indiana at least), the Governor has issued Executive Order 20-37 mandating masks for the entire state. To add a little soap opera level drama to this, Indiana State Attorney General, Curtis Hill is contesting the mask mandate saying that it’s unconstitutional.
Despite this, in the absence of an injunction, the mandate is in effect for the state and all Hoosiers are required to wear masks in any public venue… with exceptions. Those exceptions don’t really affect us in our industry, but you might want to review them within the order itself to see how and if they apply to you and to just have a shake your head moment and ponder how incredibly predictable all the conflict they’ll generate will be. We’ve received a few emails and calls on this mandate, but I’ll go into those details under Safety.
While the big story is still brewing as NECA actively engages House and Senate Leadership regarding Stage IV of Coronavirus Relief packages, a great deal of additional guidance has come out on PPP Loan forgiveness and FFCRA requirements. Instead of listing all of this here as its quite extensive, I’ll just remind you that its all in our resource page. I’ve hyperlinked the new PPP Loan forgiveness document simply because its only been posted for one day so you might have missed it.
In non-pandemic news, we are heavily pursuing an infrastructure spending bill (which to be honest, would be considered absolutely critical and a lead story in any other news cycle), and we’ve achieved some victories with alteration to Change Order protocols in the National Defense Authorization Act which we expect to be passed.
Chapter App - I recently fielded a question about how in the heck such a thing could possibly take this long and I’ll explain to all of you what I explained to them. Firstly, we had to take a break for about 3.5 months while the start of the pandemic happened. Secondly, this isn’t a simple app. I know we’ve all heard stories of how some kid develops an app in their parent’s basement in a week and instantly becomes a billionaire. This… isn’t like that. This is an enterprise level piece of software that is far more complicated than most apps you’ve probably ever used in a number of ways:
It interfaces with 7 different user types for whom the app behaves in different ways depending upon their classification and activity.
It has two completely separate functions (safety tracking and work reports) which would normally be two separate apps entirely. Combining them into a single convenient package isn’t twice as hard, its exponential.
It’s the only NECA Chapter App that I’m aware of actually has union or field participation and input.
It has to allow for off-app interfacing (meaning it’s a computer program in addition to an app) for certain classes of users.
Finally, it has 7 different groupings of users (Chapter and each local) which are comprised of the previously mentioned 7 different types of users making for a staggering number of variables when putting data on certain people in the right place.
Like I said. It's way more complicated than I thought possible when we started this thing. Having said all that, I’m pleased to announce that Watt App version 1.0 will actually be ready to Beta in early August. You’ll notice I didn’t say it's ready to go or that it's being published on the app stores (an entirely different hurdle we have yet to address), just that it's ready for testing. This process will probably take about two months. We will need to have our field testers run reports a few times and submit any bugs, glitches, or even design flaws they encounter and then correct those errors for the 2nd round of beta testing before we do our initial release.
I say “initial” release because there are already features I’ve been asked to add. Luckily these features can be in development for Version 2.0 even while Version 1.0 is in Beta.
After receiving a call on what an employer’s obligations are in light of the Governor’s most recent executive order, I reached out to Safety Resources to see if they could put something together for all of you. After all, this is somewhat unclear territory as the Order doesn’t really mention employers and OSHA is still silent on this matter. Thankfully, Safety Resources has compiled some best practices for your consideration on how best to navigate what is safe when that might be different than what is strictly required.
In a related matter, the Common Wealth of Virginia is the first state to adopt an Emergency Temporary Standard to address Covid-19 safety for employees. In other words, where we are kind of flying in the dark, they have actually put new safety requirements in place to guide employers in keeping their employees safe. While we don’t generally side in favor of additional regulation, in this instance the national absence of such guidance is frustrating as it creates disparities in how some employers are responding to the pandemic which not only could result in unsafe conditions for their employees, but also makes bidding incredibly difficult. Obviously this standard isn’t in place here yet, but there is reason to believe that their program will likely serve as the template for the rest of the country. If you want to gain some insight into what might be coming, it's worth your time to review.