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Daily Briefing – 115

Post: Jul. 26, 2020

Mid-Hudson Region School Reopening Plans Beginning to Take Shape

Mid-Hudson Schools are beginning to submit their reopening plans for the Fall and they vary greatly from entirely remote, to delayed start dates, to hybrid in person, remote learning models.  

The State Education Department must approve all plans.  Plans must be submitted to by the end of this week – Friday, July 31, and the Governor will announce which regions will be eligible to reopen the following week. We have provided 2 reopening samples below.  Plans are beginning to appear on District websites. Suffice to say that you should expect nothing close to a “normal” back to school season.

CDC Releases Updated Guidelines for Reopening Schools

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late Thursday released new guidelines with a heavy focus on reopening schools in the fall, saying children are less likely to experience severe symptoms or spread the virus in schools.

Under the new guidelines, the CDC recommends that schools follow a certain level of precautions based on the amount of community transmission in their area. The CDC advises that unless there is substantial, uncontrolled community transmission in an area, schools should reopen to some extent.

Read more at The Hill

Mnuchin: GOP Plan for Unemployment Extension Will be ’70% Wage Replacement’  GOP Also Calls for Additional $1,200 Stimulus Payment 

he Republican coronavirus relief plan will extend enhanced unemployment insurance “based on approximately 70% wage replacement,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday. It is unclear how Republicans would structure the plan to provide 70% wage replacement. Lawmakers chose the $600 per week sum in the March rescue package because they decided outdated state unemployment systems could not handle processing payouts for 100% of a worker’s previous wages. 

Read more at CNBC

High Absenteeism is Straining Automakers

So many employees are missing work that it’s causing issues on production lines at plants in states such as Michigan, Missouri and Kentucky where Covid-19 cases are surging. It’s not just employees who are sick with the coronavirus. Many employees on sick leave are perfectly healthy, but they’ve been exposed to the virus and are missing work because they have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Another full or partial shutdown of plants would be devastating to the industry as automakers try to restock dealer lots and recoup some of their losses following a roughly eight-week shutdown from March to mid-May.

Read more at CNBC

IRS Liberalizes Rules for 2020 Mid-Year Reductions in Safe Harbor Contributions – Plan Sponsors May Need to Act Fast

Council Associate Members and Friend Bond Schoeneck and King Report that the Internal Revenue Service liberalized certain limitations on a plan sponsor’s ability to reduce or suspend contributions to the sponsor’s safe harbor 401(k) or 403(b) plan. The relief is limited, however, to amendments adopted between March 13, 2020 and August 31, 2020. The temporary relief is being provided “[d]ue to the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic . . . .”

Notice 2020-52 provides temporary relief with respect to the circumstances under which safe harbor contributions can be reduced or suspended mid-year. 

Read more at Bond Schoeneck and King

Alphabet Soup: US DOL Updates Guidance for FMLA,  FLSA, and FFCRA

The U.S. Department of Labor last week published additional guidance for employers on how the protections and requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) affect the workplace as workplaces reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The guidance from the Department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) includes commonly asked questions and answers that address critical issues in all three laws.

OSHA Issues Citations for Respirator Program Violations after Employees Were Hospitalized with COVID-19

Council Associate Member and Friend Jackson Lewis writes that in an effort to use existing regulations to respond to the ongoing public health emergency, OSHA cited an Ohio healthcare company for alleged serious violations of OSHA’s respirator regulations. OSHA launched an investigation at three of the employer’s healthcare facilities after seven employees were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Even though the employer provided the necessary N95 respirators to its healthcare workers, OSHA alleges that the employer committed two violations of OSHA’s respirator standard: (1) failure to have a written respirator program and (2) failure to provide a medical evaluation to determine employees’ ability to use a respirator in the workplace. OSHA’s press release announced that it cited each of the employer’s three facilities for the same two violations and a total proposed penalty of $40,482.

Read more at Jackson Lewis

The Economist: The Covid-19 Pandemic is Forcing a Rethink in Macroeconomics

In the form it is known today, macroeconomics began in 1936 with the publication of John Maynard Keynes’s “The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money”. Its subsequent history can be divided into three eras. The era of policy which was guided by Keynes’s ideas began in the 1940s. By the 1970s it had encountered problems that it could not solve and so, in the 1980s, the monetarist era, most commonly associated with the work of Milton Friedman, began. In the 1990s and 2000s economists combined insights from both approaches. But now, in the wreckage left behind by the coronavirus pandemic, a new era is beginning. What does it hold?

Then coronavirus hit. Supply chains and production have been disrupted, the desire to invest has plunged, while people across the rich world are now saving much of their income.  The pandemic has also exposed and accentuated inequities in the economic system. Those in white-collar jobs can work from home, but “essential” workers—the delivery drivers, the rubbish cleaners—must continue to work, and are therefore at greater risk of contracting covid-19, all the while for poor pay. 

Read more in The Economist