Government Affairs

OSHA Releases Revised Coronavirus Recording Guidance

On May 19, 2020, OSHA released its Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus that it began enforcing last week, according to a recent issue of PCA’s “This Week in Washington” newsletter.

Along with the new guidance, OSHA also released an Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan.

Based on the Enforcement Guidance, OSHA will enforce recordkeeping requirements for recording cases of COVID-19 at the workplace as a reportable illness, and employers must record work-related cases of the novel coronavirus.

Recognizing that it is still extremely difficult to determine whether a case of COVID-19 is work-related, OSHA will use its enforcement discretion to assess whether employers made a reasonable and good faith determination of work-relatedness based on available evidence.

Under OSHA’s Enforcement Response Plan, the agency will increase in-person inspections at all workplaces. However, OSHA will continue to prioritize COVID-related inspections and workplaces deemed by OSHA as a high or very high-risk type, for example, hospitals, emergency medical centers, and emergency response facilities. Construction operations subject to OSHA rules are likely to fall into the lower exposure risk category.

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Permitting Council Issues Annual Report on Infrastructure

The Federal Permitting Improvement Steering Council (Permitting Council) issued its Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2019, showcasing another year of success in reducing costs and timelines for permitting infrastructure projects that fuel America’s job market and economy.

In the report, Executive Director Alexander Herrgott, reports, “President Trump inherited a fragmented Federal process for authorizing infrastructure projects, fraught with unnecessary costs, delays, and uncertainty.

“As this annual report demonstrates, the Permitting Council plays a vital role in President Trump’s commitment to cutting red tape and delivering infrastructure that America’s communities and businesses need now more than ever. The Permitting Council has helped reduce delays, costs, and uncertainty for these vital infrastructure projects, while ensuring environmental protection,” he says.

“This year alone we reduced environmental review times for projects covered by the Council by an average of 1.5 years, supported the creation of more than 127,000 temporary construction jobs and over 3,000 permanent jobs across the country. We estimate that if Federal agencies complete all Federal permitting decisions that are achievable for Council-managed projects in the next 365 days, the result will be $56 billion in new infrastructure investment and over 40,000 new construction-related jobs,” he adds.

Click here to see a fact sheet from the Permitting Council.

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HMG Letter Outlines Concerns About Aspects of PPP Loan Program

A letter from the Highway Materials Group expressed concerns about specific terms associated with loans under the CARES Act passed by Congress at the end of March.

Addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), the letter details three concerns: 

  • There is no clarity on how a firm demonstrates necessity in seeking a loan. Businesses applying for Paycheck Protection program (PPP) loans were required to certify in good faith that the uncertainty of economic conditions made the loan necessary for their business at the time they applied for it. Comments by public officials in the wake of revelations of publicly held companies receiving loans have left small businesses concerned that they may face penalties, despite acting in good faith. The letter says further assurances are needed for small businesses with loans above $2 million.
  • The tax deductibility of expenses paid with PPP funds. PPP loans were intended to cover payroll and limited business expenses like rent and mortgage obligations. Guidance issued by Treasury more than three weeks after SBA began accepting PPP loans indicated that business expenses previously considered tax deductible would not be so considered if paid for with PPP funds. The letter urges Congress to ensure this issue is resolved in future relief legislation.
  • Many small businesses are now uncertain how to use their PPP funds because of the ambiguities and complexities of the guidance. The level of guidance does not provide sufficient detail necessary for small businesses to proceed with any degree of certainty, and our members now fear SBA audits, fraud charges and bad publicity, despite acting in good faith from the start.
  • The HMG urges Congress to provide additional assurances that companies utilizing PPP loans, in the spirit in which they were intended, will not face penalties for failure to comply with retroactively imposed requirements.

Click here to see the complete letter.

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TCC to Host Virtual Washington Briefing

ACPA is encouraging members to circle this Thursday on your calendar and to make plans to participate in the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) Virtual Washington Briefing tomorrow, May 21 from 11:15 to 1:00 p.m. (CDT) /12:15-2:00 p.m. (EDT).

For those interested in the event, we strongly urge you to register as soon as possible. Registration is free of charge for TCC members, including all member and affiliates of ACPA. Click here to register.

As we have reported previously, the TCC Fly-In was canceled earlier this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, to continue to provide useful and timely information about the prospects of infrastructure legislation as part of COVID-19 recovery efforts and the prospects of highway reauthorization this fall, TCC will present this virtual briefing in its place.

Featured presenters include:

  • Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (confirmed)
  • Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), Senate Environment & Public Works Committee (confirmed)
  • Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (confirmed)
  • Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO), House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee(invited)

Why is this event important now? The briefing from Congressional leaders will address the status of current pandemic relief and recovery efforts and infrastructure legislation in Congress, as well as the status of reauthorization of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which expires Sept. 30.

Of course, an immediate infusion of $50 billion for state departments of transportation and an inclusion of a multi-year surface transportation bill, continue to be TCC’s main priorities.

For those interested in the event, we strongly urge you to register as soon as possible. Registration is free of charge for TCC members, including all member and affiliates of ACPA. Click here to register.

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FMCSA Publishes Final Hours of Service Rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published the final Drivers Hours of Service Rule last Thursday.

The final rule allows truckers who drive short distances to drive up to 14 hours instead of 12 hours. In February 2019, ACPA successfully advocated for an exemption for concrete paving operations. Leif Wathne worked with ACPA contractors and led an effort to collect and report comments during the rulemaking period.

“Under the final rule, time spent loading and unloading a truck will be counted as breaks from driving,” says Jerry Voigt.

“Broadly speaking, we are very happy with the final rule as announced,” he says, adding, “While it did not create a uniform construction industry exemption that a coalition of industry groups—including ACPA—would have liked to see, the rule has essentially made permanent the 5-year exemptions ACPA was granted in February 2019.” Jerry’s commented on the rule in this week’s “3 Minutes on Monday,” our weekly video report to members.

Click here to see the video report for Monday, May 18. Click here to see the final HOS rule.

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