President Donald Trump signed four executive orders (EO) to extend federal enhanced unemployment benefits and potential limitations on housing evictions. The executive action comes after Senate Republicans and House Democrats disagreed on the next coronavirus relief package. We take a closer look at executive orders and some of the other steps this week to address the ongoing economic and public health impact of the coronavirus.
The first executive order would give unemployed people an expanded benefit of $400 per week. The benefit would be comprised of $300 paid by the federal government, and $100 provided by states. The second executive order is a payroll tax cut, a key White House priority in the bipartisan stimulus negotiations. The EO calls for a tax holiday for Americans earning less than $100,000 per year and would be retroactive to August 1st and run through December 2020. The third action addresses the federal moratorium on housing evictions that expired in July, leaving an estimated 12 million renters in danger of losing their homes. The housing order instructs the secretaries of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury to consider limiting both evictions and foreclosures. We will monitor the Orders, which some pundits believe could lead to further negotiation or litigation.
COULD LIFT YOU UP
In a related story, a federal judge in New Yorkruled that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) exceeded its authority by limiting employees' eligibility for paid coronavirus leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). New York State challenged four provisions of the DOL's Final Rule related to FFCRA including: (1) a provision denying workers' benefits when their employers “do … not have work” for them (the “work-availability” requirement); (2) the DOL's interpretation of the law's exclusion for health care providers; (3) the Final Rule's limits on taking intermittent leave, which required employer consent; and (4) the Final Rule's documentation requirements. Overall, the ruling expands employees' ability to take paid leave under the FFCRA. We will continue to monitor these developments as more claims for paid leave could arise as schools and other segments of the economy re-open.
HOLD YOUR GROUND
Back here in Illinois, Governor Pritzker signed SB 471 to protect workers in retail by adding a penalty for assaulting or battering a retail worker who is conveying public health guidance. These include: requiring patrons to wear face-coverings or promoting social distancing. The law will also increase paid disability leave for any injury that occurs after March 9, 2020 by 60 days for first responders and correctional officers whose recovery was hindered by COVID-19.
YOU'LL BE STANDING NEXT TO ME
Finally, a bipartisan coalition of 44 state attorneys general is urging Congress to include “Edith's Bill” in coronavirus relief legislation. The Edith Shorougian Senior Victims of Fraud Compensation Act (S. 3487) would amend the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 to include senior citizens, so penalties and fines from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, including white collar criminal conduct against seniors, are deposited into the Crime Victims Fund. The AGs cite a surge in COVID-19 scams targeting vulnerable seniors during the pandemic.
In San Francisco, a California superior court issued a preliminary injunction ordering several leading transportation network companies (TNC) to immediately reclassify ride-share drivers as employees. Under the order, the companies must begin complying within 10 days. California's attorney general, as well as the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego alleged that the TNCs violated California AB 5 by misclassifying drivers as independent contractors, thereby limiting labor protections like minimum wage, overtime pay, paid sick days, medical insurance, and workers' compensation. The TNCs are expected to appeal.
Effective Tuesdaya ruling from a panel of judges on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals holds that the NCAA violates federal antitrust law by barring certain expenditures to college athletes. The latest challenge concerns whether schools can give money to athletes for items like computers, study abroad scholarships, paid internships, musical instruments, and other products and services related to academic pursuits. The NCAA is asking the Supreme Court to freeze a lower court ruling that allows colleges to compensate athletes for educated-related expenses. We'll be following this court action.
Turning to the weather, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D-NY) declared a state of emergency and announced new action by the New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) to expedite the payment of insurance claims for New Yorkers affected by Tropical Storm Isaias, including more than 920,000 power outages. DFS will allow temporary, expedited permits to be issued to qualified out-of-state independent insurance adjusters working on behalf of authorized insurers under New York law. In his announcement, Governor Cuomo said, "We know New Yorkers are tough, but they're also smart enough to ask for help when they need it and in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias, our friends and neighbors need all the support they can get."
In other catastrophic news, North Carolina Insurance Commissioner issued an alter to policy holders across the Tar Heel State to consult their property insurance coverages and seek assistance from the NC DOI as the state suffered from both an earthquake and a Category 1 hurricane within the past week. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed this to be the first earthquake in the region since 1916. The earthquake was a magnitude of 5.12, triggering more 6,000 reports to the USGS within a 200-mile radius across seven states. Also this week, residents in the Midwest felt the wrath of a “derecho,” which left widespread damage and more than a million customers in the dark. The Way is proud to be part of an industry that runs to problems and, to that end, we are equally proud supporters of the CLAIM Act, a measure designed to ease the deployment of qualified claims adjusters into storm-ravaged environments. Our well wishes go to all those affected.
SAFE AND SOUND
Back to our main story, this week is “Safe + Sound Week,” a nationwide campaign each August that recognizes the successes of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America's workers safe. The initiative is led by OSHA, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the National Safety Council, who are urging employers to host events outlining the importance of programs that focus on management leadership, worker participation, and finding and abating workplace hazards. Until next week, stay connected, stay well, and stay #SafeAndSoundAtWork.
Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.