Update 4/28 - FFCRA benefits, Scott Baldwin, and more
Today we have some good news, some okay news, and some… well, just news.
· We will start with the Baldwin Campaign. Based on calls alone, Mr. Baldwin is doing very well in Senate District 20 against J.R. Gaylor. He is overwhelmingly selected as the preferable candidate from those who learn even just a little bit about him vs. J.R. Regrettably, J.R.’s overwhelming financial support means that his name recognition is most likely far higher than Mr. Baldwin whose campaign has been financially limited from the start. We will keep you posted on this incredibly important Senate race as we near the election.
· Also in the good news category, The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) held an emergency meeting via conference call this morning. As expected, the Commission voted unanimously to withdraw the 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 The IWCC Chairman stated the rule is withdrawn due to the unknown financial costs that would be associated with pending litigation. While the withdrawal of this rule is an important step, we don’t believe this is final action on this issue. The Chairman further stated a committee/task force will be formed to advise the IWCC on their response to issues related to the COVID-19 public health crisis. In addition, it is possible legislation seeking to address this issue will be filed with the Illinois General Assembly.
· NECA National is asking everyone to do a Safety Stand Down tomorrow. Here’s a video about the nationwide effort.
· In related safety news, the Center for Construction Research and Training and NABTU have released updated COVID-19 Standards for Construction Sites. Hopefully, most of you have already implemented these procedures on your sites.
· Now on to the… news. It looks as if we have all the information we are going to get on what benefits need to be paid with someone receiving benefits under the FFCRA. You’ll note that I didn’t say that we actually received the information which we needed, just that we have all we are going to get. What we are left with is less than desirable, but this is the closest we can get to definitive advice.
It looks as if NEBF will need to be paid on all compensation under the FFCRA. No, it doesn’t say you have to under the law and there’s actually significant direction that it (and all pensions) were specifically excluded. We also haven’t received any correspondence from the NEBF itself saying that it needs to be paid… and yet, we are being told by NECA National that you do. So, despite my heartfelt disagreement with this, we cannot in good conscience put all of you in a position whereby you would find yourself delinquent with the NEBF or subject to fund/DOL audit. As such, EPR will pre-populate with the NEBF 3% auto-calculation. This can be altered by you, but we can’t advise you to do that.
Additionally, we also have some “guidance” from the NECA-IBEW H&W Fund on contributions to their plan. It’s not much. The fund will accept any payments you send and will not pursue any delinquencies at this time. However, they have stated that it is their belief that HRA should be included along with the base rate for whichever insurance your employee is enrolled with. Once again, this is unsupported speculation, however it has become common practice throughout the country so as such, we cannot advise you to NOT make this additional contribution. This is a decision you will have to make. EPR will pre-populate a base contribution for however many hours you report. You will be able to add in a contract-specified HRA amount if you so choose. Once again, we cannot advise you not to send in this amount.
The exception to this is in Local 481 where, thanks to being locally administered, we were able to negotiate that the only contribution required is the base rate on Health and Welfare for 40 hours (irrespective of how many hours are reported) and NEBF.
This is an unfortunate circumstance to find ourselves in, but as much as we might wish it were otherwise, we can’t provide you guidance contrary to the legal counsel we’ve been given.
To assist you with reporting this compensation, John Robinson will be sending all individuals responsible for payroll some documentation on our new FMLA Reports. These reports will contain all necessary information on rates and percentages you need to comply with the FFCRA. That being said as discussed above, there are some decisions regarding HRAs to be made in some locals which you will need to communicate directly to your payroll professional. Please ensure they are getting this information so benefits can be reported properly.
As always, stay safe and call me if you have any questions.