NEW Updates For Tuesday, May 18, 2021
NEW EVENTS:
Title: Presentation on Workers Compensation, Disability, PFL and COVID-19 Related Updates

Who: Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce

What: A keynote presentation will be given by Neil Gilberg, Advocate for Business from the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, providing an overview of workers’ compensation, disability and paid family leave benefits, related COVID-19 details, specialized one-on-one customer service, and responsibilities of small to large businesses, corporations and non-profit enterprises.

When: Wednesday, May 19, 2021, 7:30AM-9AM

Format: Virtual and in-person options available


Register: Click HERE.
NEW INFORMATION:
  • On May 17, 2021, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new Executive Order that can be found HERE. The following changes were made due to this Executive Order:
  • Effective May 19, 2021 there shall no longer be capacity limits based on percentage at houses of worships, places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, and indoor dining and food services in New York City and in areas outside of New York City. Please review NYSDOH guidance for requirements. 
  • Effective May 19, 2021, there shall no longer be capacity limits based on percentage of maximum occupancy for large outdoor venues, including sports, performing arts and live entertainment, and horse and auto racing venues, subject to adherence to Department of Health guidance. Large indoor event venues shall be permitted to operate at a capacity to be determined by the Department of Health, effective May 19, 2021, provided that applicable state-issued guidance is adhered to.
  • Food and beverage establishments shall, effective May 17, 2021, no longer be required to cease all on-premises outdoor service and consumption of food and beverages (including alcoholic beverages) at or before 12:00AM. Effective May 31, 2021, food and beverage establishments shall no longer be required to cease all on-premises indoor service and consumption of food and beverages (including alcoholic beverages) at or before 12:00AM.
  • Effective May 19, 2021, individuals who are fully vaccinated to cover their noses or mouths with a mask or cloth face-covering while indoors except in certain settings as prescribed in Department of Health guidance, which aligns with guidance published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • The directive contained in Executive Order 202.8, as modified by Executive Order 202.43, that permitted in-person transactions at county-operated Department of Motor Vehicles offices only if such transactions are conducted by appointment only shall no longer be in effect.

  • Small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private nonprofit organizations in Columbia, Dutchess, and Rensselaer counties in New York may still apply for federal economic injury disaster loans as a result of drought that began on Aug. 18, 2020. The deadline to apply is June 16, 2021.
  • These counties are eligible because they are contiguous to one or more primary counties in Massachusetts. 
  • Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. 
  • Except for aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers.
  • Nurseries are eligible to apply for economic injury disaster loans for losses caused by drought conditions. 
  • More information and the application process can be found HERE.
Please see the below message from Ethan Allen Workforce Solutions in regards to the updated mask guidance.
The CDC’s recent guidance suggesting that most fully vaccinated individuals may discontinue certain safety measures, such as masking and social distancing, has created significant confusion for employers navigating conflicting and ever-changing state and local COVID-19 workplace laws, regulations, and guidance.

Effective May 19, New York Adopts CDC's "Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People" for Most Businesses and Public Settings. While the most recent CDC guidance endorses resuming activities (indoors and out) without masks for most fully vaccinated individuals, the guidance around vaccination verification and disparate treatment between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is still lacking.  Employers are now facing these sensitive but critically important return to office issues without the benefit of critical guidance from Federal, state, and local regulators. We provide some guidance below regarding vaccine verification and some considerations for employers thinking about instituting vaccine policies.

The Current Guidance Remains Incomplete, But Updates Should be Forthcoming

As with the CDC’s guidance, the EEOC’s December guidance also fails to provide specific guidance around vaccination inquiries. While the EEOC permits employers to obtain a “proof of receipt” of vaccination, the only additional guidance the EEOC offers is to warn employers against requesting medical information during the verification process to avoid triggering an ADA or GINA violation. While the EEOC guidance does not discuss the permissibility of treating vaccinated workers differently than unvaccinated workers, it reminds employers implementing a mandatory vaccination policy that they must offer reasonable accommodations to workers who remain unvaccinated for disability or religious-based reasons.  

OSHA’s January guidance does not address vaccine verification but recommends employers require vaccinated and unvaccinated workers to follow the customary COVID-19 protective measures (such as wearing masks) because, it says, the data on COVID-19 transmissibility is not fully understood. But both agencies have updated their websites to indicate that they are considering the impact of the CDC’s recently updated guidance. 

The current regulatory flux results in part from the lack of data around the impact of vaccines on disease transmission, the absence of a national approach for documenting and verifying COVID-19 vaccine status, and the apparent lack of coordination among the relevant agencies. In other words, while the CDC supports relaxing restrictions for most vaccinated individuals in the workplace, and the EEOC permits employers to ask about vaccination status, no Federal agency provides guidance on the most pressing questions for employers: how does an employer (or indeed any business) verify that someone has been fully vaccinated, and may to what extent may employers treat vaccinated workers differently from unvaccinated workers?

Employers Can Take Certain Steps to Verify Vaccination

There is no current national standard or registry for certifying COVID-19 vaccination status although some states have started to implement such systems, such as New York’s Excelsior Pass. The COVID-19 Vaccination Record Cards issued to individuals at vaccination sites are unverified by government regulation (such as a driver’s license or passport) and could easily be misplaced, altered, or even falsified. While paperwork must be presented to obtain the vaccine (identification and health insurance cards, for those who are insured), there is no national registry to verify vaccination.

Employers considering following the CDC’s guidance – again, in those jurisdictions that permit an individual to go maskless in the workplace, something that appears to be changing on a daily basis as reflected in the recent announcement from New York – should consider implementing vaccine verification policies to address the following (Ethan Allen Workforce is currently, developing this Policy Template):
 
  • A workplace vaccination policy should clearly identify the vaccination verification process, including the records the employee must provide – e.g. a CDC-issued vaccination card – but also, importantly, the policy should specify the information an employee should not provide – such as any medical or genetic information ancillary to the actual inoculation. 
  • The vaccination policy should also make clear how the employee may obtain the vaccination record and encourage employees to keep a copy of the record. For example, some pharmacies are offering individuals the ability to access their vaccine records digitally and other businesses are offering free laminating services. 
  • Employers should consider what happens if an employee claims the employee cannot obtain verification. If the employee did not make and cannot obtain a copy, the employer could require the employee to contact the vaccination site or state health department to understand how to retrieve one and provide the employee the necessary time off to do so. Employers could also elect to require employees to attest to their vaccination (in the same way employees acknowledge employment policies). 
  • Employers should consider whether vaccination records must be updated to account for potential annual or other periodic booster vaccinations going forward.
  • Lastly, as with any employment policy, it is recommended that employers clearly state to the employee the potential consequences of violation, and the approach should be no different here.

Employers considering implementing workplace protocols based on vaccination status will need to consider how they implement a vaccine-verification system for others who enter the employers’ premises, such as vendors, customers, and those who serve the business. Because we currently lack a national system for vaccine verification, this system might be based on requesting the individual to present vaccination cards or asking the individual to certify vaccination status in a manner similar to employees. Absent the ability to implement a robust system, however, especially when dealing with individuals (such as retail customers) looking to engage in short-term access to a worksite, and absent a national registry or other government-sanctioned method of vaccination confirmation, the honor system might be the only system currently available.

Vaccine Status as Gatekeeping to Workplace Benefits

Vaccine-certified employees, while enjoying a mask-free workplace existence, create other challenges, and employers need to consider the legal and other consequences for creating workplace policies that provide certain benefits to vaccinated individuals but necessarily impact others who cannot benefit from those policies.

Employers must consider the impact of limiting workplace areas to vaccinated-only employees, such as kitchens, rest areas, and other communal areas. Cordoning off workplace areas for the vaccinated-only or forcing unvaccinated workers to work in designated areas could potentially lead to other issues, as would providing badges advertising the wearer’s vaccination status to everyone in the workplace. While vaccine status might justify a change in workplace protocol (again, if state and local regulations permit it), the vaccinated employees who are permitted to remove their masks and gather in groups may be provided with employment benefits unshared by individuals who cannot be vaccinated, including for medical reasons or who have legitimate religious objections (or even for those who continue to be hesitant to take an experimental vaccine). 

Employers must also be mindful of their workers’ reactions when implementing policies that treat workers differently. Some unvaccinated employees may perceive employment benefits as being provided to the vaccinated-only, which could create resentment and misunderstanding. Such a policy might also appear inequitable on its face, and could expose an employer to discrimination or other claims. At the same time, resentment and misunderstanding may materialize from vaccinated employees who are often equally as interested in vaccine status as the employer itself, particularly as scientific data around transmissibility takes shape. Employers, therefore, must be careful to ensure that their vaccinated workers do not in turn mistreat their unvaccinated coworkers, and from a recruiting and retention standpoint, there may be concerns that vaccinated employees may look for work elsewhere if they believe their employer is not addressing concerns about unvaccinated coworkers – whether those concerns are legitimate or not. Likewise, on the recruiting front, candidates for employment might press an employer to provide details about how the employer regulates vaccination, if at all, and those policies could potentially form the basis for employment decision-making.

Make Vaccination Policies Consistent and Flexible

Even before the pandemic, creating consistent and mindful workplace policies was challenging. The CDC’s recent guidance highlight just how difficult it is to create a consistent workplace policy when science is unpredictable and governmental regulation shifts without warning. Even other Federal agencies, such as OSHA, have yet to catch up. And employers of course must comply with rapidly changing state and local regulations – for multi-jurisdictional employers, the regulatory framework for returning to the office will be an onerous task. Under the circumstances, employers should be cautious about implementing a “vaccinated only” policy and if they wish to adopt such a policy, they should carefully consider the most appropriate method to ask for vaccine certification and design their workplace that allows both vaccinated and unvaccinated workers to succeed. Whether or not a vaccination policy is implemented, the consequences to the workforce, both from a moral and legal basis, are significant. 

A Q&A document can be found HERE that attempts to answer some questions that we have already received. 

We anticipate further regulatory guidance and we will keep you informed.
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.
If you were forwarded this email but would like to be added to the email list, please let us know by clicking HERE.
Dutchess Business Notification Network | Contact@DutchessBNN.com