President Biden announced Thursday evening that the Department of Labor will now require all workplaces with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or show negative weekly COVID-19 tests in order to remain employed.
“We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from their unvaccinated coworkers,” Biden said in a press conference Thursday, adding that the Department of Labor will also require companies to give employees time off to get vaccinated.
The emergency rule — which will impact 80 million Americans nationwide — is part of the White House’s new COVID-19 action plan which aims to crack down on the large proportion of Americans that remain unvaccinated and continue to expand economic assistance for struggling businesses.
“What more is there to wait for, what more evidence is there to see?” Biden continued. “We made vaccines safe, free and convenient. We’ve been patient but our patience is wearing thin.”
Additionally, vaccines will also be required for all federal employees and contractors and for healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid-participating hospitals.
The COVID-19 action plan also includes an expansion of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which now mirrors the rules and requirements of the depleted Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Here’s what businesses can expect from the newly refurbished loan program:
- Loan limits increased from $500,000 to $2 million per business
- Funds can now be used to pre-pay off commercial and credit card debt, along with payroll, rent, utilities, and other business expenses
- The SBA will tighten its reins on which businesses can receive economic assistance, assuring that small businesses are prioritized
- SBA will offer a 30-day window during which only small businesses asking for loans of $500,00 or less can apply
“At a time when there is still an extreme need for small business restaurants to access working capital, these changes will improve the outlook for thousands of operators and will lift the economic outlook for communities small and large,” Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of public policy for the National Restaurant Association said in a statement. “We worked with the SBA to improve the terms and use of these federal loans so they could be more impactful. The changes we secured will provide an additional rebuilding tool at a time when operators are once again faced with uncertainty.”
Besides improvements to the EIDL program, Biden also announced that the SBA now provides pre-completed Paycheck Protection Program forgiveness applications that businesses with loans of $150,000 or less can automatically sign to get their loans forgiven-- a new streamlined approach that began Aug. 6.
The federal government is also launching a community navigator program that will help businesses in underserved communities connect to federal and state government resources to help them dig out of economic challenges.
“Because of the vaccination program, we’ve had record job creation economic growth unmatched in 40 years,” Biden said. “We cannot let the unvaccinated undo this progress.”
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