June 19, 2020

New COVID Requirements for Construction

Late on Monday, Governor Walz and the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) issued new COVID-19 Guidance/Requirements for all industries, including those designated as essential/critical, as the state moves into gradual phased reopening of the economy. Later in the day, specific and prescriptive guidance was posted to the MN DLI website addressing the construction industry. 

Significantly, the first two pages read very prescriptive and unyielding. These requirements are presented as MUST requirements compared to the previously permissive and encouraged "Best Practices" approach. Note that going forward contractors MUST have "Site-specific" COVID-19 Preparedness Plans for all projects where they are currently engaged and performing work. 

AGC has been actively engaged throughout the week with DLI leadership trying to bring focus and attention to the myriad challenges and impracticalities this approach will most certainly yield. We are actively working to define, communicate, and provide voice for the concerns of the construction industry. We provided detailed feedback to DLI, with the overarching message that the requirements are overly prescriptive and impractical. AGC shares in your surprise over the 180-degree change from how the industry has been operating for the last 10 weeks. We are trying to understand what prompted this prescriptive and one size fits all language.

With the implementation of   Executive Order 20-74, we noted that industry specific guidance would be issued on June 15th. To that end, AGC reached out to DLI and had a direct phone conversation with the Commissioner. The conversation with DLI on Thursday, June 11th, assured us that DLI was not looking to reinvent the wheel, was supportive of how AGC and the workforce have been operating since being declared an essential/critical industry in March, and was simply working toward integrating any construction guidance in accordance with other guidance from the Department of Health. Pages 3-15 of the "Preparedness Plan Requirements Guidance - Construction" reflect the spirit of that conversation, as do supplemental resource materials posted on the Stay Safe MN landing page for construction.

After the new requirements-guidance document was posted on June 15, AGC requested and participated in an extensive conference call with the Commissioner of Labor and Industry on Wednesday, June 17th, and subsequently transmitted a comprehensive list of concerns to the DLI staff. The Governor's Office is also aware of our questions and concerns. AGC has been in frequent communication with most major public owners since March regarding COVID-19 safety and operations protocols and has been advised that member efforts have been exemplary in keeping jobsites and workers safe.
Currently, the situation remains fluid. AGC believes the Requirements listed on Page 2 will not be changed or amended significantly. Instead, DLI will likely proceed with a FAQ process. We have been advised that a webinar may be scheduled next week to address questions around these new mandates.

We advise:

1.)    Share individual questions and concerns with the Department of Labor of Industry - OSHA Workplace Safety Consultation at OSHA.consultation@state.mn.us or at 651-284-5060. Please cc Laura Ziegler at lziegler@agcmn.org .
2.)    Watch your email for webinar information and subsequent clarifying information on how to proceed. There are many questions regarding implementation. At a minimum, AGC has requested the current June 29th compliance date be extended for construction businesses due to the extensive demands the guidance will require.

Special Session: Is it the final day until July?

The Senate set a self-imposed midnight Friday deadline to wrap up legislative work, while the House has indicated they will continue to meet to pass their legislative priorities. With the peacetime state of emergency likely to be extended in July, the Legislature expects to come back - or they could remain in special session.

Several major initiatives are still up in the air. Legislators are discussing a bonding bill, tax bill, criminal justice reform, CARES Act funding to local governments, and a myriad of other policy matters. Despite the Senate Capital Investment Committee passing a bonding bill out of committee on Monday, neither the House nor the Senate has taken up a bonding bill for all legislators to vote on.

Negotiations continue among political leaders on an infrastructure package. Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) indicated today that leadership was close to a deal. A bonding bill must pass by a 3/5ths majority. While the House introduced a package just over $2 billion during the regular session, the Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) this week that they are amenable to a $1.35 billion bill. AGC continues to push for a strong economic stimulus for the state.

Below is a link to the Senate bill spreadsheet and summary of the language:
Minnesota Small Business Relief Grants Program Funding Available

On June 16th, Governor Walz signed  HF5 into law, a bipartisan bill that provides $62.5 million in grants for small businesses impacted by COVID-19.  The bill includes $60 million from the federal CARES Act and $2.5 million from the Department of Employment and Economic Development's Emergency Loan Program.

This program will make available $10,000 grants to Minnesotan owned and operated businesses that can demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. A total of $60.3 million is available for grant awards which will be selected through a computer-generated, randomized selection process.

Awards will be disbursed and administered by qualified local and regionally based nonprofit organizations. Grant funds received by individual businesses shall be used for working capital to support payroll expenses, rent, mortgage payments, utility bills, and other similar expenses that occur or have occurred since March 1, 2020, in the regular course of business. These are grants and no repayment will be required.

Businesses with 50 or fewer employees can apply for grants of up to $10,000 with half of the funding allocated for Greater Minnesota businesses.  Additionally, at least $10 million is allocated to minority-owned businesses, $2.5 million to veteran-owned businesses, $2.5 million will go to women-owned businesses, and $2.5 million will support cultural malls. For a complete list of eligibility requirements and an application, click here.
Building Resilience: A construction contractor's guide to strategic relationships during COVID-19

Listen to Laura Cataldo and Courtney Davison detail the common questions and considerations within strategic relationships during the coronavirus pandemic and road to recovery. From relationships with employees, banks, financial lenders and project owners, to leadership and professional services providers, we have prepared a checklist of the various conversations you should be having.   Listen now.

Written by   Laura Cataldo, Senior Manager; laura.cataldo@bakertilly.com and Courtney Davison, Senior Manager; courtney.davison@bakertilly.com
Jeff Jensen Memorial Construction Safety Excellence Awards

AGC is pleased to announce that nominations are now being accepted for the Jeff Jensen Memorial Construction Safety Excellence Award  . This award, based on safety standards achieved in 2019, will presented in three different categories. The awards will be recognized this fall at the 2020 AGC Recognition Evening. 

Completed applications are due no later than August 24, 2020 and should be returned to Merry Beckmann at mbeckmann@agcmn.org or mailed to the AGC office.
AGC of America Requests Highway Contractor Participation in Survey

Each year AGC of America surveys highway and transportation members about the state of highway work zone safety. Their intent is to measure the extent, and impact, of highway work zone crashes, their impacts on the safety of construction workers and motorists and their impacts on highway construction. Please complete the online survey by Monday, June 22nd. 
White Markings Increase Locator Efficiency

Gopher State One Call would like to remind all excavators to mark the excavation area in white prior to submitting the locate request. White marks increase the efficiency of locators by clearly showing where they need to mark. The use of white marks helps excavations go more smoothly as well as providing more time for locators to mark for other excavations.



Associated General Contractors of Minnesota 

525 Park Street, Suite 110  |   St. Paul, MN 55103