How did cities do under the new federal COVID-19 relief bill
that passed Congress?
Cities did not receive substantial new relief funding as was
hoped. Perhaps the most useful element of the bill for cities is a
one-year (until December 31, 2021) extension for states and localities to
spend CARES Act funds (it does not, however, expand the possible usage
categories for those funds). See the attached for a summary of what appears to be in the
bill (the actual bill is thousands of pages long; we’ll update if we find
something new or different from what has been reported).
Are there newly filed state bills related to Coronavirus?
Yes, the following bill for the 2021 legislative session has
been filed since we last reported.
S.B. 239 (Powell) – Disaster Educational Materials: would: (1)
require the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to develop and
implement a disease prevention information system for dissemination of
immunization information during a declared state of disaster or local state
of disaster; and (2) provide that during a declared state of disaster or
local state of disaster, DSHS shall ensure that educational materials
regarding immunizations are available to local health authorities in this
state for distribution to certain organizations.
If there is a direct threat that cannot be reduced to an
acceptable level, the employer can exclude the employee from physically
entering the workplace, but this does not mean the employer may automatically
terminate the worker. Employers will need to determine if any other
rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and local
authorities. For example, if an employer excludes an employee based on
an inability to accommodate a request to be exempt from a vaccination
requirement, the employee may be entitled to accommodations such as
performing the current position remotely. This is the same step that
employers take when physically excluding employees from a worksite due to a
current COVID-19 diagnosis or symptoms; some workers may be entitled to
telework or, if not, may be eligible to take leave under the Families First
Coronavirus Response Act, under the FMLA, or under the employer’s policies. See
also Section J, EEO rights relating
Managers and supervisors responsible for communicating with
employees about compliance with the employer’s vaccination requirement should
know how to recognize an accommodation request from an employee with a
disability and know to whom the request should be referred for
consideration. Employers and employees should engage in a
flexible, interactive process to identify workplace accommodation options
that do not constitute an undue hardship (significant difficulty or
expense). This process should include determining whether it is
necessary to obtain supporting documentation about the employee’s disability
and considering the possible options for accommodation given the nature of
the workforce and the employee’s position. The prevalence in the workplace
of employees who already have received a COVID-19 vaccination and the amount
of contact with others, whose vaccination status could be unknown, may impact
the undue hardship consideration. In discussing accommodation requests,
employers and employees also may find it helpful to consult the Job
Accommodation Network (JAN) website as a resource for different types of
accommodations, www.askjan.org. JAN’s
materials specific to COVID-19 are at https://askjan.org/topics/COVID-19.cfm.
Employers may rely on CDC recommendations when deciding
whether an effective accommodation that would not pose an undue hardship is
available, but as explained further in Question K.7., there may
be situations where an accommodation is not possible. When an employer
makes this decision, the facts about particular job duties and workplaces may
be relevant. Employers also should consult applicable Occupational
Safety and Health Administration standards and guidance. Employers can
find OSHA COVID-specific resources at: www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/.
Managers and supervisors are reminded that it is unlawful to
disclose that an employee is receiving a reasonable accommodation or
retaliate against an employee for requesting an accommodation.
Can we expect another Update on Christmas Eve?
No. We are giving you a break from city-related COVID-19
news on Thursday. We're grateful to you for your work and dedication to Texas
cities during this especially challenging year, and wish you and your family
a happy and healthy holiday. Look for the next Coronavirus Update on
Tuesday, December 29.
Where can I find archived issues of the TML Coronavirus
TML Coronavirus Updates are archived by date here and by subject here.