Public Policy Update - March 25, 2020
Mar 25, 2020
The KC Chamber is working to make sure Kansas City and its business community are well represented in conversations about federal relief, and we have more information for you about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) at these critical times. Here’s our latest update.
First FaceTime with the region’s Federal Staffers – here are the highlights!
- The KC Chamber held its first in series of briefings for federal staff on Coronavirus impacts and community response in the Greater KC region.
- Calls are scheduled every Wednesday afternoon during the COVID Crisis
- On the call were reps from all 4 US Senate offices and Cleaver’s, Graves’, Davids’, Hartzler’s and Watkins’ offices
- The KC Chamber shared early findings from the regional joint business COVID Impact study (in partnership with KCADC and the Civic Council) pointing out trends including belief among businesses that after the crisis subsumes, businesses still believe their greatest need will be attracting qualified workforce. This is encouraging and shows that people are planning for the best.
- The Chamber shared info about the launch of the COVID Response and Recovery Fund and how important this will be as one tool in the toolbox to assist community with relief and support as the crisis runs its course.
- Our Chamber shared these key points about health provider needs:
- Costs: Kansas City area healthcare providers are incurring millions in unplanned costs to prepare their facilities for testing and treating patients for COVID-19.
- Revenues: Many hospitals have canceled elective surgeries to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients which is severely hurting revenues at the same time costs are increasing.
- Testing Supplies & PPE: hospitals tell us testing supplies and protective equipment for staff are incredibly scarce. Most providers report they need more of both.
- FQHCs: Our region’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which serve our communities’ most vulnerable populations—low income, food insecure, homeless, HIV positive and those who have experienced chronic health inequities and higher rates of chronic diseases, are already under tremendous financial stress due to a lack of Medicaid expansion and the current volumes of uninsured and underinsured patients. FQHCs operate on a thin margin and most have 30-60 days of operating reserves at most.
- The Chamber urged all the offices on the call to work collaboratively in a bipartisan and bistate manner with the chamber to bring a fair share of the COVID-19 relief resources back to our community.
U.S. Department of Labor – National Online Dialogue
The U.S. Department of Labor will be hosting a national online dialogue to provide employers and employees with an innovative opportunity to offer their perspective as the Department develops compliance assistance materials and outreach strategies related to the implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The ideas and comments gathered from this dialogue will inform compliance assistance guidance, resources, and tools, as well as outreach approaches, that assist employers and employees in understanding their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA. They need your input by March 29, 2020. Anybody who is interested can participate online at https://ffcra.ideascale.com from March 23 through March 29, 2020.
U.S. Department of Labor – Published Guidance
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced its first round of published guidance to provide information to employees and employers about how each will be able to take advantage of the protections and relief offered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) when it takes effect on April 1, 2020.
FFCRA will help the United States combat and defeat COVID-19 by giving all American businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees with paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. The legislation will ensure that workers are not forced to choose between their paychecks and the public health measures needed to combat the virus while at the same time reimbursing businesses.
The guidance – provided in a Fact Sheet for Employees, a Fact Sheet for Employers and a Questions and Answers document – addresses critical questions, such as how an employer must count the number of their employees to determine coverage; how small businesses can obtain an exemption; how to count hours for part-time employees; and how to calculate the wages employees are entitled to under this law.
WHD provides additional information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19, and its effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic.