US President Unveils Vaccine Mandates for Government Employees and for Certain Private Businesses
Last week, President Biden made public his desire to increase COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees in the country. These mandates included a mandate on private businesses that employee at least 100 individuals: such entities would need an entirely vaccinated workforce, or have any vaccine holdouts test for COVID at least once per week.
The president’s main pronouncements surrounding these mandates were placed into a White House document known as Path Out of the Pandemic. This document notes six “prongs” that the federal government will use to combat COVID-19 into the end of 2021. Relevant pieces of this plan are highlighted below:
- Vaccinations mandates are the main thrust of the plan. Using OSHA’s regulatory authority, the federal government will require employers with at least 100 employees to either require their employees to be vaccinated or to be tested weekly for COVID-19. Employers must provide paid time off to its employees in order to get vaccinated. Vaccination booster shots will be rolled out in the near future, once approved by the FDA and the CDC. While not explicitly stated, it is probable that employers will be required to provide paid time off for eligible individuals to obtain boosters as well.
- A continued emphasis on masking as a means to combat the virus. While it does not mandate masks in private workplaces, it does mandate them on federal property and for interstate travel: employees travelling on business should be made aware of this federal requirement.
- New support measures are being implemented to assist small businesses:
- The COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is being strengthened. Not only is the amount a small business is allowed to borrow being increased (from $500,000 to $2 million), but the program is being expanded to allow those business hardest hit by the pandemic (such as restaurants and gyms) to have an easier time accessing funds.
- The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is being updated to allow those businesses with outstanding loans of $150,000 or less to have an easier time having those loans forgiven.
- The new SBA Community Navigator Program will assist small businesses in finding needed aid.
In the next few weeks, OSHA will release more specific guidelines surrounding the vaccine mandate for private companies. Employers should prepare to implement a vaccine mandate verification and recording program in the event this mandate is upheld. Employers should also remind employees of the mask mandate for interstate travel and the double fines attached to any violations.
You can read the entire White House document HERE.