Welcome to another week. Last week certainly was an interesting one considering it was noticeably quiet out in Washington DC, but definitely more action back home. Here is a recap from over the last few days and info about our next virtual conference.
Answers to COVID Questions Moving Forward
This is the topic for our next Virtual Conference this Thursday morning at 11 AM. Please join the Joliet Chamber and Attorney Scott Cruz to discuss issues facing employers today and moving forward during the COVID pandemic. We will cover just about everything that you have questions on and if not, Scott will happily answer what he doesn’t cover.
Topics to be covered include but not limited to:
- Personal travel policies and when can you prohibit personal travel.
- Paid leave under FFCRA when parents do not feel comfortable sending their child to school for in-person learning, or the school is offering in-person and remote learning.
- Paid leave under FFCRA when parents claim to not have childcare options, for personal reasons, their child has been wait-listed at a daycare, etc.
- Should employers take employees’ temperatures or require they sign a daily COVID questionnaire each day before they come to work?
- Should employers require employees/visitors to sign a COVID release, and how valid are these releases?
- Accommodating employees who claim they cannot wear a mask based on a pre-existing medical condition. Are there FMLA considerations?
- Reclassifying exempt employees to non-exempt if there is not enough work to justify paying a full week’s salary
- Reducing exempt employee’s salary for similar reasons of lack of work.
- Are your outside sales employees still “outside sales employees” if no one is taking in-person meetings?
- Do employers have a duty to compensate non-exempt employees for time spent conducting temperature checks?
- What’s the National Labor Relations been up to? Let’s find out.
- CDC’s new Return to Work Guidance following a positive COVID test.
- Can we still require employees to provide a negative COVID test following quarantine? CDC says you shouldn’t, but what is the best practice?
Suburban Cook Added to State Warning List
The Illinois Department of Public Health added suburban Cook County to its warning list of counties where COVID-19 numbers are headed the wrong way and where tighter controls of activities may be ordered.
The state said the two of the factors it keeps a particularly close eye on are moving in the wrong direction: average number of new cases over the past week per 100,000, which hit 112, more than twice the goal of 50, and the number of deaths in that week, which was up to 25, up from 15 the week before.
Other indicators are high but still below the warning level, with the positivity rate for COVID cases now at 6.8 percent, higher than the goal of 5 percent or less but not the 8 percent level, which would trigger action.
The county previously had banned indoor bar service and limited dining and drinking groups to a maximum of six people per table. But indoor dining still is allowed, at least for now.
Did Talks Resume?
An effort to restart stalled coronavirus negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House went nowhere Thursday, with the top House Democrat saying the talks are fruitless until GOP negotiators agree to a massive $1 trillion concession.
Pelosi had little new to say after a 25-minute phone conversation with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday afternoon, the first communication between the two since the coronavirus relief talks collapsed in early August.
Despite her comments, Pelosi came down $200 billion from her initial offer, to $2.2 trillion, during the call with Meadows. But it was not enough to restart the negotiations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated Thursday at an event in Kentucky that talks are “at a stalemate” and said he couldn’t predict whether there would be a breakthrough.
“I can’t tell you today we’re going to reach an agreement on another rescue package, but here’s what I do think, I think we need another one,” McConnell said. “I’m hoping that we can come together once again because the coronavirus is not involved in the American election. It does not care who wins.”
Lawmakers are not expected to return to Washington until after Labor Day, but this week’s jostling is taking shape along one new track — intelligence briefings — in addition to the months-long haggling over the size and components of the next coronavirus stimulus bill.
Meanwhile, remember the tens of millions of unemployed Americans? The House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis plans a hearing Tuesday to discuss the need for additional economic assistance during the pandemic with witness Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Mnuchin will describe the administration’s implementation of stimulus programs enacted earlier this year while lawmakers continue staking out favored positions for the September arm wrestling ahead.
Government Shutdown Plays Into COVID Relief
The odds are rising that any deal on a fifth coronavirus relief package will be tied to legislation to prevent a government shutdown.
After weeks of stalemated talks, the timeline for the two fights have all but merged: The House is set to leave until after the election by October 2, giving lawmakers only a matter of weeks to get a deal on another coronavirus bill. And government agencies cannot run when the next fiscal year begins on October 1 without new funding from Congress.
Tying the two together would set up a high-stakes election-year battle, combining the threat of a shutdown with help for roughly 30 million Americans out of work since the spread of the coronavirus.
State Unemployment Claims Rise Slightly
Some 25,000 idled Illinois workers filed for conventional benefits last week, up from 22,000 the week before. Claims for expanded federal benefits for independent contractors, freelancers, and so-called gig workers under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program inched up from 3,500 to 4,200
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry Staff and Board of Directors
Vice President – Government Affairs
Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry