Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Third Relief Bill Message to Federal Contractors: Keep Your Workforce Employed and Safe

By Elizabeth Sullivan

**Update: Check out the guidance/FAQs for both defense and civilian agencies on this provision here.

The President has signed the third negotiated COVID-19 relief package into law. It includes an important provision for government contractors:

Sec 3610. Federal Contractor Authority. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, and subject to the availability of appropriations, funds made available to an agency by this Act or any other Act may be used by such agency to modify the terms and conditions of a contract, or other agreement, without consideration, to reimburse at the minimum applicable contract billing rates not to exceed an average of 40 hours per week any paid leave, including sick leave, a contractor provides to keep its employees or subcontractors in a ready state, including to protect the life and safety of government and contractor personnel, but in no event beyond September 30, 2020. Such authority shall apply only to a contractor whose employees or subcontractors cannot perform work on a site that has been approved by the Federal government, including a federally-owned or leased facility or site, due to facility closures or other restrictions, and who cannot telework because their job duties cannot be performed remotely during the public health emergency declared on January 31, 2020 for COVID–19: Provided, That the maximum reimbursement authorized by this section shall be reduced by the amount of credit a contractor is allowed pursuant to division G of Public Law 116–127 and any applicable credits a contractor is allowed under this Act.

March 20 memo to the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) stated, “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule,” which has caused massive issues for contractors. In order to stay in business, contractors have had no other choice other than to send their employees to work – sick or not. This doesn’t promote social distancing for millions of workers (the DIB employs almost 2.5 million) and puts an even larger population at risk. The above change solves this issue immediately by telling agencies to pay their contractors who cannot come to work until this pandemic is over.

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