Check back here for the latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates:

October 20, 2020

California Covid-19 Federal & State Employee Leave Benefits

October 15, 2020

COVID-19 Senate Bill 1159 and Workers Compensation

There are new changes to California Workers Compensation laws related to COVID-19 claims.  These changes were passed by the California Legislature on 8/31/2020 and signed into law by Governor Newsom on 9/17/2020.  They apply retroactively to July 6, 2020 and remain effective until January 1, 2023.

This legislation replaced the executive order put in place by Governor Newsom back on March 19th and expired on July 5th, 2020. The executive order and this law presume a WC injury for any employee who tests positive for COVID-19 and was working at their place of employment within the preceding 14 days.

OVERVIEW of SB 1159:

This new law requires that Employers with five (5) or more employees must report to their claims administrator (WC insurance company)  via email or fax, any instance they become aware of an employee who tested positive for COVID-19, or risk substantial financial penalty (up to $10,000).

If an employer is aware of an employee who tested positive prior to the effective date of this statute, between July 6, 2020 and September 16, 2020 they have until October 29, 2020 to report those cases.

SB 1159 divides COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims into three categories:

  •  Executive Order Claims - Claims that otherwise would have been subject to prior executive order.
  •  Healthcare Worker and First Responder Claims - Claims brought by certain health care workers and first responders.
  • Outbreak Claims - Claims that arise out of an outbreak at a particular facility

Summary of SB1159 – Three Claim Categories:

  • CLICK HERE to read about CAREMINDr’s release of back-to-work employee screening tool to detect early signs of COVID-19
    • Solution alerts employers and healthcare organizations of potential coronavirus symptoms before work shifts begin to prevent spread within workplaces and communities.
  • CLICK HERE to read about mid-year election changes to cafeteria plan and FSA relief: IRS update
    • Health Coverage – Employers may allow employees to make prospective mid-year elections with regard to employer sponsored health coverage. These permissive election changes include: (1) electing previously declined coverage, (2) electing different employer sponsored health coverage, and (3) revoking elections in certain circumstances.
    • Health FSA and Dependent Care FSA – Employers may allow employees to make prospective mid-year elections to revoke a previous election, make a new election, or change an election (increase or decrease amount).
  • CLICK HERE to read about COBRA regulations change due to COVID-19
    • Some COBRA regulations have changed as part of the government’s response to the COVID-19 National Emergency.
    • The Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service issued joint regulations on April 29, 2020, providing significant extensions of various deadlines applicable to employee benefit plans, especially group health plans.
    • COBRA regulations are affected as well, including extending the election period for COBRA continuation coverage, the date for making COBRA premium payments, and the timeframe a plan/sponsor has to provide a COBRA election notice.
  • CLICK HERE to read about Governor Newsom signing an executive order regarding workers’ compensation presumption for certain COVID-19 related claims
    • On May 6, 2020, Governor Newsom signed Executive Order #N-62-20 which creates a presumption that any COVID-19-related illness of an employee shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment for purposes of awarding workers’ compensation benefits if the following applies:
      • The employee has tested positive or been diagnosed within 14 days after performing labor or services.
      • The labor or services must have been performed at the employee’s place of employment (work performed at home or residence does not apply).
      • The labor or services must have been performed at the employer’s direction on or after March 19, 2020, and the date of injury must occur on or prior to July 5, 2020.
      • There must be either a positive test or a diagnosis by a medical professional who holds a physician or surgeon license issued by the California Medical Board. The diagnosis must be confirmed by further testing within 30 days of the date of diagnosis.

      Items Worth Noting

      • There is no requirement that the worker be “essential” nor be part of “critical infrastructure.”
      • The order alters how benefits are paid. For instance, an employee must exhaust all state and federal sick leave specific to COVID-19 before temporary disability benefits are paid and there is a 30-day deadline for making a compensability determination. There is also no waiting period for Temporary Total Disability benefits.
      • The order creates a “rebuttable presumption,” meaning a claim can be rebutted by evidence that the employee developed his or her illness due to exposure outside of work, such as in the community or at home.
  • CLICK HERE to review the Flash Report requested by Senators Schumer (D-NY), Cardin (D-MD), and Brown (D-OH) on the implementation of the PPP
    • The Paycheck Protection Plan was created through the CARES Act, which was signed into law on March 27th, 2020.
    • Since then millions of loans have been given out…but who are they going to?
    • And is the PPP Loan administered through the SBA following both the law and spirit of the CARES Act?
  • CLICK HERE to read a Deloitte report on COVID-19’s impact to property and casualty insurance
    • Actuarial perspective on 2020 loss reserves and future pricing.
    • COVID-19 is impacting property and casualty (P&C) insurance companies and is expected to continue to affect claims and premium trends over the next several months—and potentially for years to come.
  • CLICK HERE for The Small Business Administration, in consultation with the Treasury Department, released updated Paycheck Protection Program loan FAQs, specifically Question 46.
    • Question: How will SBA review borrowers’ required good-faith certification concerning the necessity of their loan request?
    • Click through for answer…
  • CLICK HERE for a great report on the Future of Work: Ways of working in uncertain times
    • Increasing organizational resilience in the face of COVID-19
    • This perspectives piece provides insights for organizations that must explore new ways of working to sustain and thrive in uncertain times brought forward by COVID-19.
    • Topics covered in this article: Response to the virus, Building Future of Work capabilities and Making work portable across the organization.
  • CLICK HERE for revised Federal Reserve Main Street Lending Program: Terms and Key Considerations
    • To facilitate lending to small and mid-sized businesses that were in good financial standing before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Reserve recently updated and expanded its Main Street Lending Program to now include three separate credit facility options. Providing up to $600 billion in combined availability, these three facility options may provide additional liquidity options to eligible companies that accept the facilities’ restrictions and can strategically align a chosen facility with their existing indebtedness.
      • CLICK HERE for Main Street Lending Program FAQ Link
  • CLICK HERE to Track where states stand on reopening as COVID-19 cases fall
  • CLICK HERE for 5 employee stress management solutions in the time of Coronavirus
    • Have you taken proactive steps for employee stress management as your workforce faces the impact of COVID-19?
    • For Stress Awareness Month 2020, we discuss:
      • The link between working from home (WFH)/remote work and employee stress
      • 5 employee stress management technologies you need during COVID-19
      • Why these tools matter now more than ever before
CLICK HERE to review a thorough – and ready to use - document regarding: Creating a Return to Work Action Plan
  • Echoing the sentiments of public health officials, a return to normalcy won’t be like flipping a switch, but rather a gradual effort. In preparation for reopening your business and asking employees to come back to work, it’s imperative that your company thoughtfully constructs a return to work action plan for its employees to keep everyone healthy and safe following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) & World Health Organization (WHO)

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) & Small Business Administration (SBA)

HR and Employment Law Resources

  • Layoffs & Furloughs:
    • Make sure you provide this document to all newly terminated employees. Click here to visit the EDD website which can provide much more details you would need as an employer.
    • CA WARN Act, Temporarily MODIFIED through Executive Order, please click here to learn what kind of notice you need to give employees you are laying off.
  • Health Insurance Companies list of Resources and Links. Click here to find all the info you need to access the resources your insurer is providing.
  • CA Workshare Program: for those who have to reduce work hours for employees, you may be eligible to participate in the active Workshare program through the EDD. Click here for more info.
  • For up to the minute information, please visit the CDC here
  • Individual Health Plan Options: For those who want to look into options OUTSIDE of Cobra, we can help. Please email myplan@teaguefs.com for immediate help with rates and even help understanding if you or your employees might qualify for help paying premiums.

Additional Resources

Paycheck Protection Program:

SBA PPP guidance on laid-off employees who refuse to be rehired

Businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans can exclude laid-off employees from loan forgiveness reduction calculations if the employees turn down a written offer to be rehired, according to new guidance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which warned that employees who reject offers of reemployment may find themselves ineligible to continue receiving unemployment benefits.

Should You Defer Payroll Taxes If You Apply for a PPP Loan?

Next round of small business relief may come with fewer strings attached

Banks have agreed to lend out more than $500 billion of the $670 billion allocated in the first phases of the small business aid package, known as the Paycheck Protection Program. But many employers are still complaining that the program’s hastily written rules are too stringent to help them stay afloat through the pandemic and keep their workers on the payroll.

As businesses who received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan look forward to maximizing their loan forgiveness, the following outlines the steps to take for PPP loan forgiveness. Look over these steps now to prepare for maximum loan forgiveness at the end of the 8-week covered period.

PPP FAQ’s from the American Institute of CPAs – This is a long read, so we pulled out some of the best Q&A’s in case you don’t have time to dig through the whole thing.

  • When does the 8-week period begin to determine the amount of the forgiveness for the PPP loan?The 8-week period begins on the date the lender makes the first disbursement of the loan. The lender must make the first disbursement of the loan no later than 10 calendar days from the date of the loan approval.
    • What is included in utilities?
      • The CARES Act defines utilities in Sec.1106(a)(5) as electricity, gas, water, transportation, telephone or internet access for service which began prior to February 15, 2020. Further guidance released added gas used when driving a business vehicle.  Other common utilities such as garbage collection or security monitoring may also be classified as a utility, but a business should confirm with the lending institution.
    • Are employee federal withholdings and employer payroll taxes on wages for the 8-week period included in payroll costs?
      • The employee federal withholding is included in allowable payroll costs for the purposes of determining the amount to be forgiven. The employer federal payroll taxes (i.e. FICA and Medicare taxes) imposed on the gross payroll are not eligible payroll costs for the loan forgiveness calculation.
    • What about if the business had employees who left for their own reasons? Or need to be fired due to performance issues? Is the loan forgiveness still reduced for those employees?
      • More guidance is needed on this issue. As the statute is written in the CARES Act, the forgiveness is tied to employee count comparisons and also specific employees and whether their pay was substantially reduced. FAQ #40 addresses the situation where a business lays off an employee, offers to rehire the same employee and the employee declines the offer. SBA and Treasury intend to issue an interim final rule that excludes laid-off employees that the business offers to rehire from the forgiveness calculation. The business must make a good faith, written offer to rehire and the rejection of the offer must be documented. It was also noted that employees who reject offers of re-employment may forfeit eligibility for continued unemployment compensation.
    • Can you increase pay for employees during the forgiveness period (for example, hazard pay, bonuses or other salary increases)?
      • A decrease in wages of more than 25% will decrease forgiveness and wages is capped at an annualized rate of $100,000 per employee. The current guidance does not prevent an increase in pay in the form of a short term pay increase, hazard pay or bonus.
    • Are payments to employees when they are not currently able to work (due to business being closed or for any other reason)?
      • The PPP was intended to keep businesses’ employees employed and paid. In order for the PPP loan to be forgiven, a minimum of 75% of the loan proceeds must be spent on payroll. Based on guidance provided currently, the covered 8-week period starts when the loan is funded. If a business is not open and the business’ PPP has been funded, employees will need be paid even if they are not able to work to ensure maximum forgiveness of the loan.
    • Are these expenses tax deductible if the loan is ultimately forgiven?
      • IRS Notice 2020-32 was issued on April 30, 2020 to state that no deduction is allowed for an expense that is otherwise deductible if the payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a PPP loan.
    • Is the forgiveness of the loan taxable income?
      • No, the forgiveness of the loan does not constitute federal taxable income. States are providing guidance on state taxability that will be included in the AICPA state tax guidance chart.

CLICK HERE for the application to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program

CLICK HERE for a GREAT summary of the PPP from Steptoe & Johnson LLP

CLICK HERE for the Corona Virus Emergency Loans Small Business Guide and Checklist published by the US Chamber of Commerce. For personal assistance in applying for any of these loans, please reach out to: Cynthia Diaz, CPA 760.294.8727 or cynthia@soluorient.com

Additional Points of Interest for Businesses:

CLICK HERE for COVID-19 resources for small businesses from Liberty Mutual

CLICK HERE for
information from the Department of Labor re: Benefits for Workers Impacted by
COVID-19

CLICK
HERE
for information from the Treasury regarding assistance for Small
Businesses

CLICK
HERE
to learn about Limited non-enforcement periods for in force rules as a
result of COVID-19 notice

CLICK
HERE
to review information from the IRS re: the Employee Retention Credit
available for many businesses financially impacted by COVID-19

CLICK HERE for the special section the IRS has set up for information on Coronavirus Tax Relief

CLICK HERE FOR COVID-19 FAQ Will illnesses be considered Worker's Compensation Claims? - Is there coverage for business losses? - Will liability policies respond? - What other coverages should I possibly look to? - What Employment issues do I need to be concerned about?

CLICK HERE for ergonomic tips while working from home.

Coronavirus & Workplace Hygiene

Increase your employees’ awareness of COVID-19 and ways to prevent its spread.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is the latest communicable disease outbreak with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified this illness as a pandemic because of its worldwide spread with no pre-existing immunity. While it may be a novel illness, workplace hygiene best practices remain the same.

What is a Coronavirus?

The term coronavirus describes a broad category of viruses that affect both people and animals. The name is based on the crown-like spikes on the virus’s surface. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these types of viruses were identified in the mid-1960s and are a common cause of colds and upper respiratory infections. Note: Antibiotics have no effect on viruses.

  • COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus. Evidence suggests it began with animal-to-person transmission then shifted to person-to-person spread.
  • Symptomatic people are the most frequent source of COVID-19 spread (as is true for the flu and colds).
  • The incubation period — the time frame between exposure and having symptoms — ranges from 2 to 14 days for COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 data to date suggests that 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe, requiring oxygen, and 5% are critical, requiring ventilation. The percentage of severe and critical infections are higher for COVID-19 than for influenza.
  • There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
  • People who have already had a coronavirus infection, including COVID-19, may get it again, particularly if it mutates.

Symptoms: Allergies vs. Flu vs. COVID-19

Many ailments share symptoms. Here are some ways to tell them apart.

ALLERGIES
  1. Sneezing
  2. Itchy Eyes or Nose
  3. Runny or Stuffy Nose
  4. Watery, Red, or Swollen Eyes
  5. Shortness of Breath
  6. Wheezing
  7. Cough
  8. Rash or Hives
  9. Nausea or Vomiting
  10. Dry/Red/Cracked Skin
FLU
  1. Fever
  2. Cough
  3. Sore Throat
  4. Runny or Stuffy Nose
  5. Muscle Pain or Body Aches
  6. Headache
  7. Fatigue
COVID-19
  1. Fever (100.4+° F)
  2. Cough
  3. Shortness of Breath
  4. Phlegm Production
  5. Fatigue
  6. Sore Throat
  7. Headache
  8. Muscle or Joint Pain
  9. Chills
  10. Nausea or Vomiting
  11. Nasal Congestion

Sources: Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), CDC

How Viruses Spread

Person-to-Person Contact
  • Being in close contact with someone who is sick.
  • Coming in contact with droplets expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Contaminated Surfaces
  • With COVID-19 it may be possible to contract the virus by touching a surface or object that has a live virus on it and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Poor Hygiene
  • Not washing your hands long enough or often enough
  • Not covering your own coughs or sneezes.

Take Precautions to Protect Yourself

The CDC recommends taking the following steps to reduce your risk of contracting viruses, including COVID-19:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick (staying 6 feet away or more is recommended).Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, etc.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • To the extent possible, avoid touching things — elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, etc. — in public places. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.
  • Clean and disinfect your home and workplace to remove germs. Wipe down frequently touched surfaces, including tables, doorknobs, light switches, handles, toilets, faucets, sinks, and cell phones.
  • Avoid crowds and keep your distance from others, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Avoid non-essential travel, including plane trips and cruises.

Personal Risk Factors

Aspects of people’s personal health may increase their risk for more severe instances of COVID-19.
People with a higher level of risk include:

  • Older adults (risk is highest for ages 80+)
  • People who have serious chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease

COVID-19 May Be OSHA Recordable

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicated COVID-19 is a recordable illness and thus employers are responsible for recording cases of COVID-19, if:

  1. COVID-19 was confirmed as part of CDC protocols for a person under investigation, presumptive positive, or as a laboratory-confirmed case.
  2. The case is work-related as defined under OSHA standard 29 CFR 1904.5.
  3. The case involves one or more of the recording criteria specified in OSHA standard 29 CFR 1904.7.

Employees who have gotten the common cold or the flu are not considered reportable incidents. Follow your employer’s protocols.