Contractors sidelined by facility closures and stay-at-home orders in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic may now have a new pathway to recovering idle labor costs. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act includes a provision, Section 3610, that provides a new form of relief for contractors facing delays and additional costs as a result of employees being unable to work due to quarantine restrictions.
Recent legislation significantly expanded many workers’ entitlement to paid sick leave and paid family leave. These new benefits take effect on April 1st. Our employment and benefits experts have described those requirements in a series of posts, including overviews here and here, and New York-specific considerations here. Federal government contractors should pay particular attention to these new benefits and the way they interact with other paid sick leave requirements. Continue Reading
The Department of Health and Human Services published a notice on March 30, 2020 — effective March 25, 2020 — designating certain COVID-19-related personal protective equipment (“PPE”) and materials as “scarce” or “threatened” materials subject to the Defense Production Act’s (“DPA”) anti-hoarding provisions. As a result of this notice, the DPA now prohibits the accumulation of these materials in excess of reasonable demands of business, personal, or home consumption. The notice also results in a prohibition of the accumulation of these materials for the purpose of resale at prices in excess of the prevailing market rate.
Following up on our post earlier this week giving a general overview of the Defense Production Act of 1950 (“DPA”), 50 U.S.C. §§4501 et seq., this post comments on President Trump’s March 18, 2020 Executive Order on Prioritizing and Allocating Health and Medical Resources to Respond to the Spread of COVID-19 (the “COVID-19 E.O.”) and provides some key considerations that companies should keep in mind if they are concerned about receiving prioritized or rated contracts or allocation orders or directives under the DPA. Continue Reading
As a result of novel Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and COVID-19, federal and state governments have a sudden and unanticipated need for more goods and services. Some of those goods and services are highly specialized and specific to Coronavirus and COVID-19. But governments also have an increased and urgent need to buy otherwise-routine goods and services that have become newly critical in the wake of COVID-19.
All of this means that there are and will be procurements where speed is the priority, and where there is no time for the normal pace and cadence of the procurement process and contract formation. It also means that resources necessarily will get taken away from routine procurement tasks and reallocated to urgent matters.
Here are a few things to watch for:
On March 13, the President declared a national emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Doing so activated the authorities available to the President under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”) to provide federal assistance to state and local governments responding to the emergency, including financial assistance.
The federal assistance is coordinated and provided through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) under the National Response Framework. Although the Stafford Act generally does not make funding directly available to private businesses, a large portion of the nearly $50 billion that the President said will be available to FEMA may be used to procure goods and services from contractors assisting the relief effort.
As federal agencies adjust their worksites to the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, these changes will likely have a direct impact on government contractors and their employees who work at those sites. If the government closes or reduces operations at a site, a contractor may be forced to furlough or reduce the hours of employees. Some reduction actions could result in an employee who was exempt from overtime payments under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) being reclassified as non-exempt, which would require the employer to pay the employee overtime wages, with negative long-term repercussions.
An employee may volunteer to reduce her salary for any period of time without any FLSA consequences so long as her decision is completely voluntary. To the extent the employer must impose involuntary reductions on an exempt employee, the following options are available that should not result in the employee being reclassified as non-exempt under FLSA:
As the fallout from COVID-19 continues, federal contractors in every industry are seeing significant impacts on their ability to perform, ranging from scheduling delays to supply chain interruptions and increased costs of performance. We previously addressed the rules and regulations governing excusable delays, which permit a contractor to avoid default if a failure to perform arises from causes beyond its control. This next post addresses key FAR provisions that may entitle a contractor to a price adjustment or other recovery due to changes in contract requirements as a result of the pandemic.
As a followup to our recent post on the implications of the PREP Act for government contractors working to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, this post will provide an overview of the Defense Production Act—including its key powers that the federal Government might invoke to counter the pandemic. Continue Reading
We’ve covered several topics already this week on the U.S. Government’s varied responses to the COVID-19 outbreak and how these responses will affect contractors that do business with the government, including BARDA’s EZ-BAA for COVID-19 diagnostics, mission-essential services during the outbreak, and how excusable delay provisions may help federal contractors affected by the outbreak. But one area that has yet to receive in-depth discussion is the federal government’s mechanisms for addressing liability concerns raised by the use and distribution of countermeasures to the virus. After all, while contractors are no doubt responding with appropriate speed and diligence in developing and deploying various COVID-19 countermeasures, no contractor wants to be the subject of a product liability, warranty, or negligence lawsuit later down the road.
Thankfully, Congress anticipated this concern and addressed it in 2005 by passing the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (“PREP Act”), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 247d-6d. Since enactment, the PREP Act has been used to issue declarations covering various countermeasures, including therapeutics, diagnostics, devices, vaccines, and constituent materials for pandemic influenza, acute radiation syndrome, smallpox, Botulism, anthrax, Zika, nerve agents, certain insecticides, and Ebola. And earlier this week, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (the “Secretary”) issued a declaration pursuant to the PREP Act specifically for COVID-19 countermeasures.
This post will cover the PREP Act generally before discussing the implications of the COVID-19 declaration. Continue Reading