This week, we saw federal and state governments around the country intensify quarantine measures and social distancing guidelines to help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. The White House has recommended canceling all gatherings of more than 10 people, while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) continues to encourage that businesses reconsider employee travel and consider implementing flexible work sites (e.g. teleworking) or work hours (e.g. staggered shifts) to increase the physical distance between employees.
With many states and localities now implementing aggressive mitigation policies, including lockdowns and mandatory closures of schools and businesses, RSI has compiled a list of available resources to help you keep you and your employees safe.
Available Resources for Businesses:
What Congress and the Executive Branch are Doing
Congress and the Administration are taking aggressive actions to address the pandemic, having already signed one bill into law and two more in the works. Here's what you need to know:
- On March 6, President Trump signed into law $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. This included $20 million for the Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans program to support SBA’s administration of loan subsidies that will be made available to entities financially impacted as a result of the coronavirus.
- Congress is expected to finalize additional legislation this week that would mandate employee leave for companies with fewer than 500 employees and issue tax credits to businesses to help offset the associated costs. This would include emergency paid sick leave for specific situations resulting from COVID-19, including mandatory quarantines, isolation, and care of dependents.
- At this time, the proposed legislation only covers businesses with fewer than 500 employees. It also includes an exemption for certain businesses with under 50 employees whose business would be jeopardized by the new rules.
- Proposed tax credits to offset the costs of mandatory leave would come in the form of dollar-for-dollar credits based on the wages paid to employees, but are limited both daily and in the aggregate. For example, under one of the proposed bills, the credit is capped at $511 per day, or $200 if for employees who take leave to care for others or for childcare.
- A Phase 3 stimulus bill is also in the works on Capitol Hill focused on minimizing the economic impacts of COVID-19. While the bill is still in preliminary discussions, RSI is in talks with both Congress and the Administration regarding ways we can mitigate impacts to the railway supply industry, including our planned support for APTA's recent request for $12.875 billion for public transit.
You can find a detailed summary of the current legislation here
Looking ahead, we are likely to see an increased risk to the freight rail industry moving into the second quarter as the effects of oil's collapse and social distancing begin to mount. For those manufacturers who are already seeing impacts from the virus, please let us know and help us by sharing your story. Learning more about any impacts occurring to members’ manufacturing, repair, or other operational activities helps us ensure that those issues are being addressed at all levels.
RSI staff are teleworking to the maximum extent possible but remain available to answer questions or support our members in any way we can. Exhibit sales for the 2020 RSI Expo & Education Conference have been postponed to April 1, 2020 to allow companies time to focus their resources on responding to this pandemic and adjusting their policies and schedules accordingly. Additional information on exhibit space will follow in advance of the April 1 sale date.