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Government Issues Vaccine Mandate for Large Employers

Posted on September 9, 2021

By Brooke Thomson

Private employers with 100 or more workers will be required to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing under a rule announced this afternoon by President Joe Biden.

The rule, which will be issued in the next several weeks through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), could impact as many as 80 million workers. Companies that fail to comply would face fines of up $14,000 per violation.

OSHA will also develop a rule stating that employers will be required to offer paid time off to workers for vaccination.

OSHA is part of the US Department of Labor and oversees workplace safety. The agency has issued other guidelines for pandemic precautions, such as a rule in June requiring health care employers to provide protective equipment, provide adequate ventilation and ensure social distancing, among other measures.

“We have tools to combat the virus if we came together as a country and use those tools,” Mr. Biden said in a speech this evening.

Addressing the 80 million Americans who have not yet obtained a COVID vaccinations, he said “What more is to wait for? What more do you need to see?”

The vaccine mandate for private employers with more than 100 workers is among a series of steps dubbed “Path Out of the Pandemic” that the president is imposing in an effort to control rising COVID infections and the spread of the Delta variant.

The administration will impose sweeping new vaccination requirements on federal employees and contractors. Under an executive order announced by the president, federal employees will have 75 days to be fully vaccinated, with limited exemptions for religious or medical reasons. There will be no testing option.

Mr. Biden is also dramatically expanding vaccination requirements for health workers. Last month, the administration said it would require all staff at about 15,000 nursing homes to be vaccinated in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, a move that would impact about 1.3 million employees. Under the new plan, workers in most other health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including major hospitals, will need to be vaccinated. The rules would impact 50,000 providers and about 17 million workers.

The president’s plan also includes stepped-up COVID-19 testing. He announced that major retailers such as Walmart, Amazon and Kroger would begin selling home COVID-19 tests at cost.  Free testing will be expanded at 10,000 pharmacies around the country and the government is spending $2 billion to provide rapid tests to community health centers, food banks and schools.

Finally, Mr. Biden announced an expansion of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program loan that will allow small businesses to borrow up to $2 million instead of the current $500,000. Small businesses may use the loans for inventory, hiring or to retire high-interest debt.