New Federal COVID-19 Program Places Additional Regulatory Burdens On Small Businesses

On Friday, President Biden announced a multi-pronged program to fight the spread of the COVID-19 delta variant.

The program will require mask and testing requirements for certain public and private employers, mandatory paid time off for testing and vaccination, additional funding for the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and streamlining the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness for small loans.

The detail of the program include:

— Requiring All Employers with 100+ Employees to Ensure their Workers are Vaccinated or Tested Weekly

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require workers who remain unvaccinated to produce weekly negative test results before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement which will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.

— Requiring All Employers with 100+ Employees to Provide Paid Time Off for Covid Shots and Recovery:

The new OSHA rule will also require employers to provide paid time off the time it takes employees to get vaccinated or to recover from vaccine side effects post- vaccination. This requirement will be implemented through the ETS.

— New Support for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19:

The plan will also aid small businesses by strengthening the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which provides long-term, low-cost loans. First, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will increase the maximum amount of funding a small business can borrow through EIDL from $500,000 to $2 million.

The funds can be used to hire and retain employees, purchase inventory and equipment, and pay off higher-interest debt. Small businesses will not be required to start repaying these loans until two years after they receive the funding.

Finally, 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.

— Streamlining Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness for small loans:

Through the PPP, the SBA has made more than 11 million loans to small businesses that can be forgiven and taken off their books if they use the funds to keep employees on payroll. The SBA will 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.

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