Whether we want to or not, the country will continue to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for years to come in a multitude of ways. Many actions were taken by the government in the early days to help United States’ citizens through the largely unprecedented times, particularly to help support small businesses. As I’m sure many small business owners would say, the assistance offered through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program was critical to small business owners who, in the early days of 2020, were suddenly facing an unknown future. As closures and restrictions were put into place from every level of government in a bid to try to protect Americans from the novel virus, hospitals and their staff, doctors, and scientists all scrambled to contain the virus and determine the best path forward.
PPP and EIDL applications flooded the SBA in the hopes that the assistance offered through these programs would help to prevent millions of small businesses from sinking under the weight of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the roughly $1.2 trillion in assistance provided by the programs, while good-intentioned and critical to many small business owners’ chances of survival, was not immune to massive levels of fraud. In a report released on January 30, 2023, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) details a breakdown of the fraud, what is being done about it, and safeguards to help prevent it from happening again.
President Biden signed two bills aimed at preventing fraud by participants within the Small Business Association on August 2, 2022. H.R. 7334 is titled the COVID-19 EIDL Fraud Statute of Limitations Act of 2022 (EIDL Act). H.R. 7352 is titled the PPP and Bank Fraud Enforcement Harmonization Act of 2022 (PPP Act). Both Acts establish a ten-year statute of limitations for fraud by borrowers under their respective programs. The head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman credited the Acts with a renewed ability to investigate and prosecute borrowers who committed fraud in SBA lending programs created to assist small businesses during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For both programs, the main purpose is to put in place a a ten-year statute of limitations for fraud.
On Wednesday, January 5, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued another setback to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal government contractors. In its opinion, the four-judge panel upheld the November 30, 2021 preliminary injunction and denied the Government’s request to stay the injunction “because the government has established none of the showings required to obtain a stay.” On appeal, the government asserted that the three states involved, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee, and two Ohio sheriffs’ offices which brought the initial claim did not have standing to bring such a case. Additionally, the government argued that even if there was standing, the Property Act authorizes the contractor mandate. However, the Court of Appeals determined all plaintiffs established standing based on four elements and held the Property Act does not authorize the President to take such action.
For government contractors, trying to predict how COVID-19 might affect a government project can be extraordinarily challenging task. One bidder recently attempted to provide some clarity by stating, in its bid, that COVID-19 was a “force majeure event” and that the bidder would be entitled to extra time if COVID-19 affected the project.
Unfortunately for the bidder, its effort failed: the agency rejected the bid for improperly exceeding the scope of a relevant FAR clause. The GAO then confirmed that the agency had acted properly.
A federal judge in Georgia has recently imposed a nationwide injunction on the federal contractor vaccine mandate. This will likely be appealed, but for now, here are the key points from the decision.
If you missed it before, here’s your chance to attend one of Koprince McCall Pottroff LLC‘s most popular webinars.
Please join me, Shane McCall, and Steven Koprince on December 1 for this informative webinar hosted by Catalyst on the vaccine mandate. We will cover which contractors and subcontractors must comply, which employees are covered, when employees must be vaccinated, how employers should confirm employee vaccination, and much more, including the latest guidance from the Safer Federal Workplace Task Force.
It’s easy to register: just click here. See you on today!
This morning, the White House released updated Covid-19 vaccination guidelines. This update includes a nearly month-long delay in the mandate implementation. Previously, all federal workers and contractors must have either been fully vaccinated or granted some form of extension or accommodation by December 8, 2022. Fully vaccinated means two weeks following the final dose, meaning the actual deadline was early November for employees to begin the two-shot cycle of Pfizer or Moderna.
The new deadline also comes with updated recommendations from OSHA.