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  • Ted Uppole

May 4th: NEBF under FFCRA leave, PPE from NECA, PPP Concerns, and Roadmap to Reopening Indiana

Good Morning! Welcome to the first day of Stage 2 of Indiana’s Roadmap to Reopening!  There is an awful lot of material in this blog post…but there’s some incredibly important material in it so please at least scan the entire thing before moving on!  By now many of you have had a chance to review the Governor’s latest executive order 20-26.  In a nutshell, it outlines a plan for moving through a series of stages to take us back to something we might call a “new normal.”  You might think that none of this order pertains to us as we’ve been exempt the whole time, but that’s not quite true.  We will discuss this in more depth in later paragraphs, but there’s quite a lot to get through this morning:

  • FFCRA NEBF Amendment - NEBF has issued a temporary amendment waiving contributions for the Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) (the first 80 hours of benefit under the FFCRA) to the fund! In their own words:  

Please be advised that the Trustees of the National Electrical Benefit Fund (NEBF) and the National Employees Benefit Board (NEBB) have agreed to a temporary amendment to the Trust Agreement. This temporary amendment will waive the requirement for the 3% NEBF contribution on federally mandated sick pay due to the COVID-19 virus.  The waiver is for up to a maximum of 80 hours and it is effective for the period of April 16, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Please see the attached summary. The summary will be mailed to all contributing employers.  We wanted you to have this information in advance should you receive any questions.  Should you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to  NEBF.

This came out on the evening of May 1st and it is retroactive to April 16th which is a little inconvenient and problematic to implement.  We went through some things this weekend and it looks like we will not need to reissue any additional agreements on EPR.  However, you will want to let payroll know that new provisions apply.  Additionally, John will be sending guidance to them directly this morning on how to zero out NEBF when reporting and some of the complications involving possible split reports due to the April 16th retroactive date and the fact that this isn’t a blanket waiver of collection under the FFCRA.  They are still expecting contributions for FMLA under the act. Therefore, it’s possible to have someone not receiving NEBF contributions made on their behalf for up to 80 hours under EPSL and then switch to FMLA and need contributions on the FMLA portion.   Again, John will talk your folks through this and both he and Jacob will be available to answer questions for everyone starting their MPR’s this week.   On a personal note, I want to call attention to the fact that this wasn’t easy.  David Long and Dennis Quebe (our NEBF trustees) fought for more than a month to get us this relief and I’m incredibly grateful they took input from the Chapters so seriously and got this done.  

  • PPE ORDERING FROM NECA - In yet MORE good news, you will soon be receiving notification (directly from National) about a webinar on Thursday, May 7th to discuss the different types of PPE you are going to  be able to order through NECA.   Order forms will be sent on May 11th and the Chapter will do everything we can to assist and expedite this process once it begins.  We do not currently have many details on this, but they will be passed along to you as soon as we receive them.

  • ILLINOIS WORKERS COMP CHANGE - In Illinois, the Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC) met on April 27th to withdraw their April 16th emergency rule that created a right for injured workers to a rebuttable presumption if they contracted or were exposed to COVID-19.   The Chairman stated that there will be a task force created to inform/advise the IWCC on this issue and NECA will be participating in guiding the IWCC’s actions on this matter.

  • EXECUTIVE ORDER 20-26The Governor’s latest EO outlines the existence of 5 stages for reopening the state, but only provides information at this time through Stage 2.  In doing so, it provides some specific provisions for individual sectors of the economy and some general provisions to affect all Hoosier employers. Sections 4-6 address issues for all employers beginning with the requirement to create a plan on or before May 11, 2020 “to implement measures and institute safeguards to ensure a safe environment for their employees, customers, clients, and members.  This plan shall be provided to each employee or staff and posted publicly.  The plan shall address, at a minimum, the following points: 

  • Instituting an employee health screening process;

  • Employing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols for the workplace, including regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces;

  • Enhancing the ability of employees, customers and clients to wash hands or take other personal hygiene measures such as use of hand sanitizer; Complying with social distancing requirements established by the CDC, including maintaining  six-foot social distancing for both employees and members of the general public when possible and/ or employing other separation measures such as wearing face coverings or using barriers; and (b) IOSHA Standards:”

In Section 26, construction is directly addressed with: “Building, construction, and other trades including plumbers, electricians, exterminators, operating engineers, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, HVAC, painting, moving, and relocation services and other service providers may continue to be open and operate subject to requirements in section 4” It’s worth noting that although all employers are directed to comply with IOSHA standards related to COVID 19 as it pertains to their industry, IOSHA has been pretty silent on COVID 19.

OSHA released these guidelines for construction but that’s really about it.  In fact, the most recent offering from OSHA is a detailed disclaimer from OSHA basically saying that they are going to exercise individual discretion on assessing employers good faith efforts for all safety provisions during this outbreak.   

Given this lack of guidance for you in developing your COVID plan, we recommend the NABTU CPWR guidelines as a fairly detailed, well considered approach to safety measures in our industry.   

  • PPP LOAN CONCERNS – As we approach the May 7th “no harm no foul” deadline on returning money that you may not have been qualified to receive under the PPP Loan program, we wanted to note that we have been receiving feedback from the membership who have been communicating with their attorneys that the guidance they have been receiving has changed recently to where, even if they met the specific criterion for the qualification testing provided for in the PPP loan application, they are having concerns as to whether or not they were complying with the spirit of the law when certifying whether or not there was an actual need for them to get the loan. NECA really can’t advise on specific provisions of a loan agreement between you and your bank, but we can remind you that it is your responsibility to comply with the latest provisions and guidance on the terms of the loan program even though you already applied for and received the loan itself.   Please make sure you have gotten the latest from your banker with regards to both your qualification and terms of repayment/forgiveness for your loan.

Guidance on the changing landscape of the terms and conditions of these loans from Ice Miller can be found here.

That’s it for now everyone.  As always stay safe and call if you have any questions.

Have a great day!

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