NEW Updates For Tuesday, June 1, 2021
NEW PROGRAM TO HELP SMALL BUSINESSES:
BUSINESS ASSISTANCE PROGRAM FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IN DUTCHESS COUNTY -
Applications are available for the Dutchess County Small Business Micro-Marketing Assistance Program:
 
Title: Small Business Micro-Marketing Program
 
What: Dutchess County Government, Think Dutchess, Dutchess Tourism and the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to launch a “Micro Marketing” COVID recovery program. This program will provide support for small, independent businesses in Dutchess County to learn marketing best practices and funding to promote their business on digital platforms to increase visibility and expand their customer base.
 
Eligibility: Businesses operating exclusively in Dutchess County with 20 or less employees affected by the pandemic — either forced closed or with limited operations based on state Covid restrictions.
 
Informational Webinar Recording: The recorded webinar provides details about the program and explains how businesses can participate in it. You may watch the recording HERE.
 
Application: To apply click HERE.
 
Full Press Release: Click HERE.
UPDATED Guidance:
  • The SBA announced today the closure of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to new loan guaranty applications. Other disaster relief programs authorized by Congress are still operating however and can be accessed HERE.

  • Beginning on June 10th, small and micro businesses, as well as small for-profit independent arts and cultural organizations, can apply for up to $50,000 in state grants.

  • This aid could be used to help employers finance operating expenses incurred during the pandemic between March 1, 2020 and April 1, 2021 and can be used to cover:
  • Payroll costs,
  • Commercial rent or mortgage payments for NYS-based property,
  • Payment of local property or school taxes, 
  • Insurance costs,
  • Utility costs,
  • Costs of personal protection equipment (PPE) necessary to protect worker and consumer health and safety,
  • Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) costs,
  • Other machinery or equipment costs, and
  • Supplies and materials necessary for compliance with COVID-19 health and safety protocols

  • For program eligibility and use requirements, and for additional information, visit the state’s Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program website by clicking HERE.

  • While the application is not yet online, eligible employers are encouraged to begin preparing necessary documents in the days ahead, and to sign up to be alerted when the application does become available. To sign up for these alerts, please click HERE.

  • On Thursday, May 27, the State of New York announced that employers would be required to provide paid time off to employees who get the COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, employers are now required to provide paid time off for employees unable to work due to side effects of the vaccine. According to the state, fear of these side effects and the resulting possible loss of pay has been determined to be a factor in vaccine avoidance.

  • The New York State Department of Labor issued guidance clarifying that this is not a new leave mandate. The guidance clarifies that any time off required by an employee who suffers the side effects of the vaccine would be paid from the employee’s paid sick leave balance. That is, leave as required under NYS’s new paid sick leave law (Labor Law §196b). This is not an additional COVID sick leave benefit and does not come out of any NYS COVID paid sick leave bank.

  • The guidance states that such an absence would qualify as a “mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition…” as defined in the NYS paid sick leave law. Based on this, one would presume that if an employee has exhausted their employer-provided paid sick leave, then there would be no further obligation on an employer’s part to provide paid time off for this reason. All other provisions of your paid sick leave policy would apply.

  • If you are voluntarily participating in federal FFCRA leave under the American Rescue Plan, leave for the side effects of the vaccine is a qualifying reason for providing emergency paid sick leave and receiving the subsequent tax credits for providing such leave. These federal American Rescue Plan provisions are scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2021.
Advisory Issued By Ethan Allen Workforce Solutions:
On May 28, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated the vaccination section (section K) of its “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” The update clarifies a number of vaccination issues with which employers have grappled without any official guidance to advise them.

The vaccination issues that the EEOC update addresses include the following.

Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccine Policies—General
The EEOC continues to advise that employers may mandate that employees be vaccinated for COVID-19, subject to reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or a sincerely held religious belief that precludes them from being vaccinated. The updated guidance, however, cautions employers that they may need to consider the disparate impact that mandatory vaccination policies may have on other protected classes, including race, color, national origin, and age. Accordingly, employers with vaccine mandates may wish to periodically assess the extent to which the policy is disproportionately screening out employees in protected categories.

Types of Reasonable Accommodations to Mandatory Vaccines
Section K.2 of the updated guidance offers some suggestions to employers as to reasonable accommodations they might consider for employees with disabilities and/or sincerely held religious beliefs. These accommodations include wearing face masks, socially distancing, working modified shifts, testing periodically for COVID-19, working remotely, and/or reassignment. The EEOC explains that employers also may need to accommodate employees who are not vaccinated due to pregnancy. Of course, these examples of reasonable accommodations are not exhaustive, and employers may consider other reasonable accommodations as well.

Vaccine Information
Section K.3 explains that employers may encourage employees and their family members to get vaccinated by providing them with information “to educate them about COVID-19 vaccines, raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination, and address common questions and concerns.” The EEOC proposes several public resources from which employers may obtain appropriate COVID-19 educational materials.

Vaccine Incentives for Employees
The updated guidance confirms that employers may offer vaccination incentives to employees so long as the incentives are “not so substantial as to be coercive.” Employers also “may offer an incentive to employees to provide documentation or other confirmation from a third party not acting on the employer’s behalf, such as a pharmacy or health department, that employees or their family members have been vaccinated” without violating the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

Vaccine Incentives for Family Members
Although employers may offer incentives to employees to become vaccinated, the EEOC takes the position that employers may not lawfully offer employees incentives for family members to become vaccinated. The EEOC reasons that such an incentive would violate GINA because it “would require the vaccinator to ask the family member the pre-vaccination medical screening questions, which include medical questions about the family member.” The EEOC points out that GINA does not restrict an employer from offering family members the opportunity to get vaccinated on a voluntary basis without an incentive.

Confidentiality of Vaccination Information
As many employers already concluded and are practicing, section K.4 of the guidance confirms that vaccination status is confidential medical information. Accordingly, employers must maintain the information’s confidentiality and store it separately from the employee’s personnel file. It is unclear whether the EEOC would take the position that having employees wear visual indicators of their vaccination status, such as a wristband or sticker, would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Direct Threat of Unvaccinated Individuals
Although employers can mandate vaccines, section K.5 makes clear that employers may not force compliance on employees who have disabilities precluding vaccination unless the employer can demonstrate that the employee poses a direct threat to the health and safety of the employee or others in the workplace.
The updated guidance explains that employers should conduct such an assessment based “on a reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge about COVID-19.” These factors include the following:
  • “the level of community spread at the time of the assessment”;
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statements;
  • information provided from the employee’s health care provider with the employee’s consent; and
  • “the type of work environment, such as: whether the employee works alone or with others or works inside or outside; the available ventilation; the frequency and duration of direct interaction the employee typically will have with other employees and/or non-employees; the number of partially or fully vaccinated individuals already in the workplace; whether other employees are wearing masks or undergoing routine screening testing; and the space available for social distancing.”

Of course, this updated guidance underscores that the direct threat assessment will likely vary over time and from circumstance to circumstance, and employers will want to carefully consider the latest medical knowledge and the particular circumstances of the employee’s work environment in determining whether a given unvaccinated employee poses a direct threat. Put another way, the new guidance stands as a warning against implementing a blanket policy excluding unvaccinated employees from the workplace on the basis that they pose a direct threat to the workplace. As infection numbers continue to decline, the direct threat argument generally begins to weaken. Finally, the EEOC guidance notes that, even if an employer determines that an unvaccinated employee would pose a direct threat, the employer must assess whether “providing a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship, would reduce or eliminate that threat.”

Interactive Accommodation Process
Section K.6 of the updated guidance discusses how an employee should request a reasonable accommodation from a vaccination mandate, as well as how employers should respond to such accommodation requests. While the guidance provides employers with helpful resource references, the EEOC confirms that employers should follow the same interactive process that they do with other disability accommodation requests.

Pre-screening Questions—General
Previous EEOC guidance raised questions regarding whether pre-screening questionnaires used by healthcare providers in administering the COVID-19 vaccine would raise restrictions or concerns under federal EEO laws where the vaccine is administered directly by the employer or through a healthcare provider under contract with the employer. Section K.7 of the updated guidance expands on that discussion by noting that “because the pre-vaccination screening questions are likely to elicit information about a disability, the ADA requires that they must be ‘job related and consistent with business necessity’ when an employer or its agent administers the COVID-19 vaccine.” Similar to the discussion above, the EEOC states that an employer would need to first “have a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence” that an unvaccinated person would pose a direct threat in the workplace. However, section K.8 of the guidance makes clear that such pre-screening questions do not violate the ADA, regardless of any direct threat, when employees are vaccinated on a voluntary basis.

Pre-Screening Questions—No GINA Issues
Previous EEOC guidance cautioned that pre-screening questions associated with getting the COVID-19 vaccine may violate the GINA when asked of current employees when such questions seek “genetic information.” In sections K.14 and K.15 of the updated guidance, the EEOC now clarifies that based on the pre-screening questions that vaccine providers currently are using, GINA is not implicated when employees get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Voluntary Vaccine Offers to Only Some Employees
Some employers have looked at the possibility of offering voluntary vaccinations to only a select group of employees. Section K.10 of the guidance makes clear that doing so is lawful, as long as the employer’s selection criteria are not discriminatory.

Reasonably Accommodating Fully-Vaccinated Employees
In section K.11 of the guidance, the EEOC cautions that some fully-vaccinated employees may still need reasonable accommodations, such as when an employee has an underlying medical condition that creates a heightened risk of severe illness from COVID-19. In those circumstances, the EEOC states that employers should follow the normal ADA interactive accommodation process, which “typically includes seeking information from the employee’s health care provider with the employee’s consent explaining why an accommodation is needed.”

Reasonably Accommodating Religious Objections
Section K.12 of the guidance provides helpful insight to employers regarding how to navigate religious accommodation requests. The EEOC notes that such requests may come in the context of seeking an exemption from a vaccine requirement altogether or in seeking the ability to receive an alternative version of the COVID-19 vaccine that is not objectionable on religious grounds (or waiting until such an alternative becomes available). The EEOC recommends that “the employer should ordinarily assume that an employee’s request for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.” However, if an employer is aware of facts that would create an objective basis on which to question “the religious nature or the sincerity” of a belief, practice, or observance, “the employer would be justified in requesting additional supporting information.”

Conclusion
While the updated CDC guidance contains a significant amount of new discussion regarding COVID-19 vaccine issues in the workplace, most employers will find that the new guidance affirms practices and policies they have already been following or anticipating, rather than dictating a major change in policy or practices. However, in addition to reassurance, some employers may find that the updated guidance adds helpful context and talking points to help better ensure that employer assessments (such as whether an employee poses a direct threat) are taking into consideration the appropriate type of information that the EEOC, and potentially courts, will deem relevant.
COVID resources for your organization
Business Resources:
  • NYS Small Business Development Center has published a list of micro-grant and micro-loan programs for pandemic relief. View it HERE.
  • The U.S. Small Business Association has created a streamlined webpage of federal resources which you can find HERE. It includes:
  • Funding options
  • Tax credits and tax filing help
  • Contracting assistance
  • And more!
  • 2020 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
  • NYS Homes & Community Renewal (HCR) is pleased to announce the opening of the 2020 NYS Community Development Block Grant Program competitive application for Public Infrastructure, Public Facility and Community Planning projects and open round application for Economic Development and Microenterprise activities.
  • CDBG Economic Development, Small Business & Microenterprise Application materials are available now. Applications for Open Round Economic Development and Microenterprise applications will be accepted throughout 2021 with rolling awards.
  • $17 Million in Funding Available for New York Communities' Climate Goals
  • NYSERDA’s Clean Energy Communities Program Can Help You Reach Your Community’s Climate Goals
  • Learn more about how the program works or connect with your Clean Energy Community Coordinator to get started
  • Find a Coordinator here
Funding Assistance:

Technical Assistance for Businesses:
 
Resources for Employers/Employees:
 
Resources for Individuals:
  • New Tool to Help New Yorkers Access Critical Social Service Benefits Here
  • For Job Seekers:
  • NYS Department of Labor’s Jobs Express website
  • SUNY Online Training Center – Free skill-building, college prep, and employment certification programs with one-on-one career coaching
  • Free Online Platform for New Yorkers to Learn New Job Skills, Earn Certificates & Advance Their Careers: Create a free account with Coursera HERE
  • Dutchess One Stop Career Center - Free employment-related services for employers and job seekers including job postings, job fairs, resume help, interview skills, and online trainings with Coursera. For individuals that meet the eligibility requirements, funding assistance for training and on-the-job training opportunities are also available. Transportation assistance (defensive driving courses, DMV registration, auto insurance assistance and more) is offered for qualified individuals

Hudson Valley list of local PPE suppliers: CLICK HERE
Representative Contacts
County Representatives:
County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro, County Executive (R)
Phone: 486-2000
Fax: 486-2021
 
County Legislature A. Gregg Pulver, Chairman (R)
Carolyn Morris, Clerk
Toll Free: 866-694-4800
Phone: 486-2100
Fax: 486-2113
 
County Clerk Bradford Kendall, County Clerk (R)
Toll Free: 866-694-4700
Phone: 486-2120
Records Room: 486-2125
Fax: 486-2138
 
Comptroller Robin Lois, Comptroller (D)
Phone: 486-2050
Fax: 486-2055
 
Sheriff's Office Adrian Anderson, Sheriff (R)
Phone: 486-3800
Sheriff’s Tip Line: 845-605-2583
NYS Sheriffs' Victim Hotline: 888-846-3469

State Representatives:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D)
State Capitol
Albany, NY 12224
518-474-8390

State Senators:
Pete Harckham (D, WF) - 40th District
Albany Office 
188 State Street, Legislative Office Bldg
Albany, NY 12247
518-455-2340
 
Susan Serino (R) - 41st District
Albany Office 
617 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
518-455-2945

 

State Assembly Assemblymembers:
Kevin A. Cahill (D) - District 103
716 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
518-455-4436
District Office:  
1 Albany Ave., Governor Clinton Bldg., Suite G-4,
Kingston, NY 12401
845-338-9610
 
Jonathan G. Jacobson (D) - District 104 
435 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
518-455-5762
District Office: 
154 North Plank Road, Suite 2
Newburgh, NY 12550
845-562-0888
 
Kieran Michael Lalor (R) - District 105
531 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248 
518-455-5725
District Office:
1075 Rt. 82, North Hopewell Plaza, Suite #1
Hopewell Junction, NY 12533
845-221-2202
 
Didi Barrett (D) - District 106
553 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
518-455-5177
District Office:
12 Raymond Avenue, Suite 105
Poughkeepsie, NY 12603
845-454-1703
 
Federal Representatives:
President Joseph Biden (D)
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
 
Federal Senate Representatives:
Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D)
478 Russell
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202-224-4451
Fax: 202-228-0282
 
Charles E. Schumer (D)
322 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: 202-224-6542
Fax: 202-228-3027
 
Federal Congressional Representatives:
Sean Patrick Maloney (D) - 18th District
2331 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: 202-225-5441
Fax: 202-225-3289
District Office
123 Grand Street, 2nd Floor
Newburgh, NY 12550
Phone: 845-561-1259
Fax: 845-561-2890

Antonio Delgado (D) - 19th District
1007 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
202-225-5614
To view the Dutchess Business Notification Network website and see previous emails, important documents, and other resources available, click HERE.
 
If you have any questions regarding the information in this notification, please email Contact@DutchessBNN.com.
 
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To view our website and see previous emails, important documents, and other resources available, click HERE.
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Dutchess Business Notification Network | Contact@DutchessBNN.com