IMA Weekend Update: PPP, OSHA, Workers' Compensation & Reopening Guidance
Illinois and our nation continue evolving as we deal with the global pandemic. The IMA team continues to provide updated and accurate information in order to allow you to make informed decisions about your operations. I’d like to highlight a few recent developments.
Paycheck Protection Act : The U.S. Treasury Department announced that the Paycheck Protection Act program exhausted its $350 billion in funding late this week. Treasury released a report showing 70,000 small businesses in Illinois were approved for loans or grants totaling $15.97 billion. Unfortunately, there continues to be a great need for continuation of this program. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association is working with the National Association of Manufacturers and continuing to advocate at the federal level for additional funding. Companies are encouraged to click here to reach out to your respective federal officials to support more funding.
OSHA Updates : The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has made two significant announcements in recent days impacting manufacturers and other employers. On April 10, OSHA announced guidance that confirmed cases of COVID-19 are not reportable incidents for recordkeeping purposes unless there is objective evidence that they are work-related with the exception of healthcare, emergency responders, and correctional institutions. Cases for all employers will continue to be reportable if (1) there is objective evidence such as a number of cases among workers who work closely together, and (2) the evidence was reasonably available to the employer.
Yesterday, OSHA announced that they understand that some employers may face difficulties complying with OSHA standards due to the health emergency. As a result, employers will be granted relief if they are unable to fulfill annual testing, inspection, training and auditing due to the COVID-19 outbreak if the employer makes good faith efforts to stay in compliance. OSHA will evaluate “whether the employer made good faith efforts to comply with applicable OSHA standards and, in situations where compliance was not possible, to ensure that employees were not exposed to hazards from tasks, processes or equipment for which they were not prepared or trained.”
Illinois Workers’ Compensation Claims : Unfortunately as we reported several days ago, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission passed an emergency rule over the strong objections of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association to create a rebuttable presumption that the workplace was the cause of the COVID-19 virus if contracted by employees. This essentially makes it very difficult for employers to defend claims and will significantly increase costs. While many other states have offered this presumption to healthcare workers and emergency responders, Illinois opened it up to all employees working for essential businesses. The IMA believes that this action was unlawful and is exploring all options up to and including legal action against the Administration. If you have had an employee file a WC claim for COVID-19, please let us know as soon as possible .
Reopening Guidelines : The White House announced a three-tiered approach for states to consider when they look to reopen the economy. These decisions will be made by Governor and other state leaders at the local level. The first level requires “gating” criteria for states where there has been a downward trajectory of documented cases for a 14-day period. These state or regional gating criteria for residents and businesses must be satisfied before proceeding to the phased opening. Employers should develop and implement appropriate policies and best practices including social distancing, protective equipment, temperature checks, testing, isolating, tracing, and sanitation.
Illinois Reopening : Governor JB Pritzker has joined a coalition of seven Midwest states to collaborate on safely opening the economy. The Illinois Manufacturers’ Association remains in daily contact with the Governor’s Administration about the economic ramifications of business closures and the need to restore our economy including a call yesterday with the Deputy Governor and Director of Commerce. The current stay-at-home order is in place until April 30 but it is likely to be extended with some additional changes that we hope will allow for additional business operations with safety measures in place.
At the IMA, we are grateful and appreciative of your efforts during this pandemic. The stories about how manufacturers are stepping up is heartwarming and provide a ray of hope for our state and nation. We will get through this together with manufacturers leading the way.
Be well.
Mark Denzler
President & CEO
Illinois Manufacturers' Association