Suspension of equal opportunity requirements in federal contracting
In a move that garnered little media attention, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued an order suspending equal opportunity requirements during the coronavirus crisis. In a memo dated March 17, 2020, addressed to all federal contracting agencies, Craig E. Leen, director of OFCCP, said the laws administered by his office “authorize me to exempt contracts from requiring the inclusion of any part of the equal opportunity clause in any specific contract when I deem that special circumstances in the national interest so require, when it is impracticable to act upon requests for exemptions individually, and where such waiver will contribute to convenience in the administration of the authorities enforced by OFCCP.”
His decision to “grant a limited exemption and waiver” from that requirement was based on “the special circumstances in the national interest presented by the novel coronavirus outbreak,” he said. The order extends to “all affirmative action obligations of supply and service and construction contracts,” and remains in force until June 17, 2020, “subject to subject to an extension should special circumstances in the national interest so require.”
Describing the order as an “underhanded move [that] serves absolutely no legitimate purpose,” Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, said, “Companies who contract with the federal government are now free to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, disability, or veteran status… As Congress ponders a phase-four response to the coronavirus crisis, protections for vulnerable workers of color must be a top priority. House and Senate leaders need to press the Administration to fulfill its constitutional duty and restore equal opportunity requirements for federal contractors.”
The view from small business
Around 87 percent of business owners say their businesses are hurting from the coronavirus, according to WalletHub’s new Coronavirus Small Business Survey. According to the survey’s results, 35 percent of small business owners say their business can only survive for less than three months in current conditions; 79 percent say minimizing COVID-19 deaths is more important than re-opening the economy; 60 percent think restrictions placed in response to COVID-19 should stay the same or be relaxed; 68 percent think the government is not doing enough to help small business right now; and 33 percent say they have laid off employees due to COVID-19, while 36 percent say they plan to do so.
Travel disruption policies
The U.S. State Department has advised citizens to avoid international travel, including business travel, until further notice. Country-specific information regarding the impact on travel due to COVID-19, can be found at State’s website, https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/COVID-19-Country-Specific-Information.html.
Banks and credit card companies can provide information on how to change travel plans without incurring cancellation fees. Chase, for example, advises the following steps, which may be the same for other institutions:
• First, visit your airline, hotel, or other travel provider’s website and follow their process to cancel or reschedule your booking.
- If your trip has been canceled and your travel provider has not honored their change/cancellation policy, you can submit abilling dispute online.
- If your trip is more than 30 days away and you’re not sure if it will still take place, please wait to contact the bank closer to the travel date because your trip status may change between now and then.
New York City business loans
The City of New York launched the NYC Small Business Continuity Loan Program, available to New York City businesses with fewer than 100 employees and that can demonstrate at least a 25 percent decrease in revenue as a result of COVID-19. Eligible businesses can apply for an interest-free loan up to $75,000. Businesses must be located within the five boroughs of New York City; have been in operation for at least 2 years; demonstrate ability to repay the loan; have no outstanding tax liens or legal judgments.
For more information and to apply, go to https://sbsconnect.nyc.gov/en-US/SignIn?ReturnUrl=%2Fservices%2Fbcl%2Feligibility%2F.
How to Productively and Securely Work from Home, Hosted by the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce. Wednesday, April 8, 10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Mandatory reservation at https://www.chamber.nyc/event_register.php?event=706.
Code Fever, Miami-based non-profit coding academy focused on teaching youth from low-income communities the fundamentals of programming and design, says it will be providing free STEM activities and resources for youth on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to download and complete. It will post activities and resources at www.codefevermiami.com/stem-at-home at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on those days, and will host activity discussions and Q&As every Tuesday and Thursday via Zoom at 11:00 a.m. EST. The Zoom Meeting ID for the discussions and Q&As is: 307-968-064. Code Fever also hosts a Career Jam & Entrepreneurship Virtual Workshop Series every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. EST. Zoom Meeting ID: 871-304-735