ALEXANDRIA, Va.—President Joe Biden yesterday announced a sweeping vaccine mandate for federal employees and contractors, plus companies with more than 100 employees as part of a White House action plan to address the latest rise in COVID-19 cases in the United States.
The plan requires vaccines against COVID-19 for executive branch employees, federal contractors and certain health-care workers—with no option to forgo the vaccines by opting for weekly testing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to release an emergency temporary standard in the coming weeks outlining new requirements for companies with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines for their workforce. Companies would face penalties of $14,000 per violation for noncompliance. Large companies also must provide paid time off for staff to be vaccinated or recover from any side effects. The rule would affect more than 80 million Americans, the White House said.
NACS is working to determine how a forthcoming emergency standard might affect convenience and fuel retailers, which were deemed essential businesses as the pandemic took hold in the U.S. in 2020.
Another provision of the plan increases the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program loan amounts for small businesses to $2 million from the current $500,000 limit. Small businesses can use the funds to hire and retain employees, purchase inventory and equipment, and pay off higher-interest debt.
The action plan also streamlines the process for loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Loan program. The White House said the move will “make it easier for more than 3.5 million PPP borrowers with loans of $150,000 or less to get their loans wiped clean. Under the new streamlined approach, SBA sends a pre-completed application form to the borrower who can review, sign, and send back to SBA, which then works with the lender to complete the forgiveness process.”
Biden called for stadiums, concert halls, arenas and other large entertainment venues to require vaccinations or proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry.
In addition, mask requirements will remain in place for federal properties and interstate travel, including airlines, and the Transportation Security Administration will double fines for people who violate the rules.
Amazon, Kroger and Walmart will offer rapid test kits for consumers to use at home at cost.
NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.