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    ACEC Georgia is closely monitoring activities at the State and Federal level intended to address the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses. At times like these, it is more important than ever to have proactive advocates who are fighting for the needs of your firm and industry, so that you can focus on managing your firm.

     

    While the situation is fluid and there will be more governmental action at both the State and Federal levels in the days and weeks ahead, we want to provide you with the most up to date information affecting your business. In that regard, please see below for the latest update on the various Federal, State and Local initiatives that have been approved or are being discussed.

     

    As always, if there is anything we can be doing for you, your firm or our industry, please don’t hesitate to let us know. A list of staff contact information can be found here.

     

    Please connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as additional ways to get up to date information.

     


     

  • FEDERAL UPDATES FEDERAL UPDATES

    Recent Federal Action on COVID-19:

     


    On June 4, 2020, the US Senate unanimously passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (HR 7010) with no changes from the version that passed the House last Thursday (by a vote of 417-1) and the bill has now been sent to the President, who is expected to sign it into law. This legislation extends the PPP loan forgiveness period from 8 weeks to 24 weeks and includes several other much-needed reforms. 

     

    Key provisions include:

    • Extends the PPP loan forgiveness period to 24 weeks (from the previous 8 weeks) after a PPP loan is issued or through December 31, 2020 (whichever comes first).
      • Businesses that have already received a PPP loan can elect to keep the current 8 week period or opt to use the 24 week period.
      • Choosing the 8-week option would make sense for borrowers that have already spent those funds on expenses sufficient to qualify for full forgiveness. These borrowers can quickly confirm their loan forgiveness and clear their balance sheet so as to be better positioned to borrow other funds from commercial sources (while also relieving them of any worries about loan forgiveness).
      • New PPP borrowers will have the 24 week period, which can’t extend past December 31, 2020.
    • Eliminates the SBA’s “75% Test” for loan forgiveness. Previously, at least 75% of the total amount forgiven had to have been spent on payroll expenses or else the amount of the loan that would be forgiven would be reduced proportionally. Under the new law, borrowers will be eligible to receive full loan forgiveness for the entire loan amount if they spent at least 60% of the total loan amount for payroll costs (and would be allowed to use up to 40% for permitted rent, utilities, and interest on secured debt, as defined in the law).
      • Note, however, that where the prior 75% rule was applied as a sliding scale (merely reducing the portion of the loan that would be forgiven, but not making the borrower ineligible for partial loan forgiveness), it appears that the new 60% threshold is a minimum threshold standard that must be met in order to be eligible for forgiveness at all (i.e. if you meet the 60%, the total amount is forgiven and if you don’t meet it, none is forgiven).
      • There are already discussions about tweaks that may be made in coming weeks to make the 60% threshold a sliding scale, as was the case with the prior 75% rule.
    • Extends the deadline by which an employer’s staffing and payroll levels must be restored to their pre-COVID-19 levels to December 31, 2020 for full loan forgiveness (the previous deadline was June 30, 2020).
      • Just as with the previous June 30 deadline, the amount of loan forgiveness would be reduced in proportion to the reduction in the employer’s workforce during the 24 week period if the same number of employees have not been hired or rehired on or before December 31, 2020.
      • Example: if an employer had 50 employees pre-COVID-19 and reduces its employee count to 25 employees during the 24-week period, that employer would receive forgiveness for its full loan amount if it has 50 employees by December 31, 2020 (and the employer also met the 60% payroll threshold above). If that same employer has less than 50 employees on December 31, 2020, the loan forgiveness amount would be reduced proportionally.
      • Note that the number of employees does not have to be met with the same individual pre-COVID-19 employees, nor do they have to be doing the same things as your pre-COVID-19 employees.
    • The bill includes two new exceptions that will allow borrowers to receive full loan forgiveness even if they are unable to fully restore their pre-COVID-19 workforce levels.
      • The first new exception is for employers that can establish an inability to rehire individuals who were employees on February 15, 2020 and an inability to hire similarly qualified employees for unfilled positions on or before December 31, 2020.
      • The second new exception is for employers who are not able to return to a comparable level of activity due to compliance with guidelines issued by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration during the period beginning on March 1, 2020, and ending December 31, 2020, related to standards for sanitation, social distancing, or any other worker or customer safety requirement related to COVID-19.
      • In addition to these two new exceptions, employers still have the previous exception which allowed them to exclude from their workforce calculations any employees who declined a good faith offer to return at their previous hours and salary.
    • Repeals a provision from the CARES Act that barred companies with forgiven PPP loans from deferring their payroll tax payments. Employers will now be eligible for the deferral of payment of the employer’s share of Social Security payroll taxes, regardless of whether the employer receives loan forgiveness.
    • Allows borrowers to defer principal and interest payments on PPP loans until the SBA compensates lenders for any forgiven amounts, instead of the current six-month deferral period. Borrowers that don’t apply for forgiveness would be given at least 10 months after the program expires to start making payments.
    • Extends the repayment period to 5 years (previously 2 years) with 1% interest during the 5 year term.
      • The bill establishes a loan maturity period of five years following an application for loan forgiveness, instead of the current two-year deadline set by the SBA. That provision would apply to PPP loans issued after this bill becomes law, though borrowers and lenders with loans made prior to this bill could agree to extend current loan terms accordingly.
      • This extends the period for repayment of loans still owed (i.e. after they have been reduced for expenses that qualify for forgiveness) from 2 years to 5 years.  It also allows loan payments to be deferred until the date on which the SBA makes a final determination on loan forgiveness for that borrower (which could be up to 150 days after submission of the loan forgiveness application under current guidance).
      • The interest rate for these loans would remain at 1%.
    • Extends the deadline to apply for a PPP loan to December 31, 2020 (from the previous deadline of June 30).

     

    NOTE: This summary is provided for informational purposes only. Contact your CPA, attorney or financial advisor for further guidance specific to your firm’s circumstances and needs.

     

    Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

    The  CARES Act was signed into law on March 27, 2020, and includes several provisions intended to provide economic relief to small businesses, individuals and state and local governments (subsections summarized below). 

     

    Paycheck Protection Program - Assistance for Small Businesses

    The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides small businesses with funds to pay up to 8 weeks of payroll costs, including benefits. The package initially authorizes $350 billion worth of 100% guaranteed SBA loans, a portion of which the SBA will forgive based on allowable expenses for the borrower. $380 billion in additional funding for the PPP program is expected to be passed into law on April 23, 2020. Qualified firms should contact their lenders as soon as possible to start the application process. 

     

    Funds are provided in the form of SBA loans that will be fully forgiven when used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. Forgiveness is based on the employer maintaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Forgiveness will be reduced if full-time headcount declines, or if salaries and wages decrease. Small businesses, as well as individuals who are self-employed or are independent contractors, are eligible if they also meet program size standards (i.e. firms with fewer than 500 employees). The PPP Act establishes the maximum loan amount of $10 million through December 31, 2020, and provides a formula by which the loan amount is tied to payroll costs incurred by the business to determine the size of the loan.

     

    On March 31, 2020, the White House released the following information regarding the small business assistance program under the Paycheck Protection Act.  

     

    Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) ​ - Assistance for Small Business

    • Provides $562 million for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to small businesses.  

    • This small business package also includes $10 billion in direct grants for businesses that do not qualify for the EIDL program and $17 billion to have SBA step in and make six months of principle and interest payments for all SBA backed business loans. 

    • Note that 501 c(3) non-profits qualify for small business assistance programs, not 501 c(6) entities; ACEC continues to work with other non-profit trade associations to address this in future stimulus bills.

     

    Business Tax Relief

    • Deferral of payment of the employer portion of the Social Security tax, with half due by December 31, 2021 and the other half due by December 31, 2022.

    • Allows net operating losses arising in 2018, 2019 and 2020 to be carried back for five years.

    • Modifies the loss limitation applicable to passthroughs and sole proprietors so they can utilize excess business losses and access cash flow.

    • Increases business interest deductibility from 30% to 50% for 2019 and 2020.

    • Provides a refundable payroll tax credit for employers whose operations are partially or fully suspended by a COVID-19 shutdown order or whose gross receipts declined by more than 50% compared to the same quarter in the prior year.

    • Provides a technical fix for the qualified leasehold improvement provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017.

     

    Assistance to Individuals

    • The agreement provides direct payments to individuals with incomes up to $75,000 ($150,000 for couples), $1,200 for each adult ($2400 for couples), as well as $500 for each child.

    • The bill would add $600 per person per week onto the base maximum unemployment benefit for four months.

    • The bill enables employers to provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis, contributing up to $5,250 annually toward an employee’s student loans, and such payment would be excluded from the employee’s income. The $5,250 cap applies to both the new student loan repayment benefit as well as other educational assistance (e.g., tuition, fees, books) provided by the employer under current law. The provision applies to any student loan payments made by an employer on behalf of an employee after the date of enactment and before January 1, 2021.  Note that this provision is based on legislation that ACEC has advocated for to Congress as part of our engineering workforce agenda.

     

    CARES Act Changes to Retirement Plans and Executive Compensation

    The CARES Act also provides a number of new, optional ways for plan participants to access their retirement accounts in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as summarized below.

     

    Impact on Retirement Plans & Access to Retirement Plan Account Funds

    • An increased limit on new loans taken from the plan (replacing $50,000 with $100,000 and 50 percent with 100 percent account balance limit);
    • Up to a one-year extension of the repayment of existing loans under the plan; and
    • Temporary withdrawals of up to $100,000 without being subject to the 10% early withdrawal tax. Such distributions can be taxed over three years with an ability to repay within three years.

     

    These special provisions can be made available to any individual:

    • Who is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a CDC-approved test;
    • Whose spouse or dependent is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a CDC- approved test; or
    • Who experiences adverse financial consequences from COVID-19 as a result of:
      • being quarantined;
      • being furloughed, laid off or having work hours reduced;
      • being unable to work due to a lack of child care;
      • closure or reduced hours of a business owned or operated by the individual; or
      • other factors determined by U.S. Department of the Treasury.

     

    These distributions may be made to participants any time in 2020, and the increased loans may be made within 180 days after enactment. Employers should note that offering these provisions to employees is optional and will require a plan amendment no earlier than the end of the 2022 plan year (2024 for governmental plans).

     

    Waiver of Required Minimum Distributions

    The Act provides for the waiver of 2020 required minimum distributions (RMDs) from defined contribution plans and IRAs. This applies to both 2020 RMD payments for individuals who were already receiving them and individuals who would otherwise have received their first RMD in 2020. Individuals who reached age 70½ in 2019 should note that this change in the Act waives the requirement that they receive their first RMD by April 1, 2020. In addition, as such individual’s RMD for 2020 is also waived, that individual will not be required to receive an RMD under the plan or IRA until December 31, 2021 (at the latest). Additional guidance regarding the options available to employers with respect to the RMD waiver is expected from the IRS.

     

    Single-Employer Defined Benefit Plan Funding

    The Act provides that any single-employer plan contributions that would otherwise be due during 2020 are instead due on January 1, 2021. This applies to quarterly contributions and the final contribution necessary to satisfy the plan’s minimum funding requirements, if otherwise due in 2020. These contributions will begin accruing interest on the prior deadline at the plan’s effective rate of interest. Employers should note that if payment of these contributions is delayed until 2021, the employer will need to pay both the 2020 and 2021 contributions in 2021. The Act does not provide for the ability to delay the payment of contributions that were otherwise due in 2021.

     

    In addition, for plan years that include any portion of 2020, the plan sponsor is permitted (but not required) to elect to treat the plan’s adjusted funding target attainment percentage as being equal to the percentage from the last year ending before January 1, 2020. This will allow plans to avoid reporting significantly lower funding percentages, which may trigger certain funding-related benefit restrictions (such as lump sum prohibitions). By using this provision of the Act, plan sponsors may be able to avoid these restrictions.

     

    Exclusion for Certain Employer Payments of Student Loans

    The Act expands the existing Code Section 127 to allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 toward employees’ qualified educational loans. This allows employers to make payments either to the employee or to the lender directly and applies to payments made after the CARES Act takes effect through December 31, 2020. Employers with workforces with outstanding student loans may use this provision to help their employees with student loan repayment.

     

    Executive Compensation Restrictions

    The Act authorizes the Treasury Department to make loans and other investments to provide liquidity to businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as a condition of such loans or financial assistance, employers must agree to a period of significant restrictions on their executive pay practices. This restricted period begins when the loan or loan guarantee commences and lasts for one year after the date the loan or loan guarantee is no longer outstanding.

     

    During the restricted period, no officer or nonunion employee whose total compensation exceeded $425,000 in 2019 may be paid more than his or her 2019 total compensation or receive severance exceeding two times his or her 2019 total compensation.

     

    In addition, during the restricted period, no officer or employee whose total compensation exceeded $3 million in 2019 may receive total compensation exceeding $3 million plus 50 percent of the excess over $3 million the individual received in 2019. For example, if an officer’s total compensation in 2019 was $5 million, the officer may not receive more than $4 million during any 12-month period in the restricted period.

     

    For these purposes, total compensation includes salary, bonuses, awards of stock and other financial benefits provided by the eligible business to an officer or employee. 

     

    CARES Act Transportation Funding

    • $25 billion for mass transit systems

      • Available for operating expenses to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19, and reimbursement for lost revenue

      • Distributed under current transit program formulas

    • $10 billion for airports

      • $7.4 billion available for any purpose, distributed 50/50 by number of enplanements and ratio of overall debt service

      • $2 billion for AIP formula grants, available for any purpose

      • $500 million to cover the 100% federal cost share of FY20 programs

      • The Georgia Department of Transportation has been awarded more than $410 million of these CARES Act funds by the FAA for 97 Georgia airports, which is the fourth highest amount awarded to any state. Funds are intended to support continuing airport operations and provide immediate financial relief for expenses and lost revenue. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is receiving the largest amount of CARES Act grant funding of all airports in the United States - more than $338 million - with the remaining funding being divided among the other 96 airports around the state.

    • $1 billion for passenger rail

      • $492 million for Amtrak Northeast Corridor, to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19

     

    CARES Act State Assistance

    • Provides $150 billion to States, Territories, and Tribal governments to use for expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 in the face of revenue declines, allocated by population proportions, with a minimum of $1.25 billion for states with relatively small populations.

    • Community Development Block Grant – $5 billion is provided for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program to enable nearly 1,240 states, counties, and cities to rapidly respond to COVID-19 and the economic and housing impacts caused by it, including the expansion of community health facilities, child care centers, food banks, and senior services. 

     

    CARES Act Treasury  Exchange Stabilization Fund

    Provides $500 billion for loans, loan guarantees, and other investments, distributed as follows:

    • $25 billion for passenger air carriers, eligible businesses that are certified under part 145 of title 15, Code of Federal Regulations, and approved to perform inspection, repair, replace, or overhaul services, and ticket agents;

    • $4 billion for cargo air carriers; and

    • $17 billion for businesses important to maintaining national security;

    • $454 billion, as well as any amounts available but not used for direct lending, for loans, loan guarantees, and investments in support of the Federal Reserve’s lending facilities to eligible businesses, states, and municipalities. Federal Reserve 13(3) lending is a critical tool that can be used in times of crisis to help mitigate extraordinary pressure in financial markets that would otherwise have severe adverse consequences for households, businesses, and the U.S. economy.

     

    Additional CARES Act Information: 


    Families First Coronavirus Response Act (HR 6201)

     

    The Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) became effective on April 2, 2020. While the Act has many provisions addressing the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, two provisions apply specifically to employers (the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act), as outlined below. Note that this update is provided as a courtesy to our members and does not constitute legal advice. For advice on how these provisions may impact your firm generally, or in a specific instance, please contact your firm’s attorney.

     

    Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act

    • Expands Coverage and Eligibility of FMLA entitlement

      • The Act expands FMLA on a temporary basis to employees who have been on an employer’s payroll for at least 30 calendars days. There does not appear to be a correlating hourly requirement (as there is with regular FMLA eligibility). It also only covers employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers. This is a new category of FMLA leave specific to a public health emergency.

    • Qualifying Reason for Emergency FMLA Leave

      • Eligible employees (those who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days) may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to allow an employee who is unable to work or telework to care for the employee’s child (under 18 years of age) if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency. 

    • Paid Leave Provisions

      • Unlike “regular” FMLA leave, after an initial 10 calendar days employers must pay employees as follows:

        • Full-time employees at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate for the number of hours the employee would have otherwise been scheduled. Note: this is capped at $200 per day and $10,000.00 total.

        • Part-time employees or those who work irregular schedules are entitled to be paid based on the average number of hours the employee worked over the six-month period prior to taking the emergency FMLA leave. Employees who have worked less than 6 months prior to taking the leave are entitled to the employee’s reasonable expectation at hiring of the average number of hours the employee normally would be scheduled to work.

    • The first 10 calendar days of unpaid leave may be substituted by any paid leave the employee has already accrued.

    • Right to Job Restoration

      • Employees have the same right to be returned to the same or an equivalent position upon returning to work as they do under traditional FMLA leave.

      • If reasonable efforts to return to an equivalent position fail, then the employer must make reasonable efforts to contact the employee about any such position that becomes available for 1 year after the employee’s leave ends.

     

    Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act

    • Uses for Emergency Paid Sick Leave

    1. Employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.

    2. Employee is advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.

    3. Employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.

    4. Employee is caring for an individual subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order or advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.

    5. Employee is caring for the employee’s child if the child’s school or place of care is closed or the child’s care provider is unavailable due to public health emergency. OR

    6. Employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.

    • Eligibility

      • 80 hours of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay for reasons 1,2, & 3 listed above, capped at $511 per day or $5,110 total.

      • 80 hours of paid sick leave at 2/3rds the employee’s regular rate of pay for reasons 4,5, & 6 listed above, capped at $200 per day or $2,000 total.

      • The rate of pay for part-time or irregularly scheduled employees is based on the average number of hours the employee worked over the six month period immediately prior to taking the paid sick leave. Employees who have worked less than 6 months prior to taking the leave are entitled to the average number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work over a two-week period.

    • Carryover and Interaction with other Paid Leave

      • This paid sick leave will not carry over to the following year and may be in addition to any other paid sick leave currently provided by employers.

    • Interaction with the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act summarized above:

      • At the request of the employee, employers must pay full-time employees taking emergency FMLA leave for 80 hours of emergency paid sick leave instead of the 10 days of unpaid leave permitted by the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act. It is unclear as to whether there is any similar requirement for part-time or irregular schedule employees.

    • Paid Sick Leave Credit

      • For an employee who is unable to work because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, eligible employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee's regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days.

      • For an employee who is caring for someone with Coronavirus, or is caring for a child because the child's school or child care facility is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee's regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

    • Child Care Leave Credit

      • In addition to the sick leave credit, for an employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or child care facility is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, eligible employers may receive a refundable child care leave credit. This credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee's regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the childcare leave credit. Eligible employers are entitled to an additional tax credit determined based on costs to maintain health insurance coverage for the eligible employee during the leave period.

    • Prompt Payment for the Cost of Providing Leave

      • When employers pay their employees, they are required to withhold from their employees' paychecks federal income taxes and the employees' share of Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employers then are required to deposit these federal taxes, along with their share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, with the FIRS and file quarterly payroll tax returns (Form 941 series) with the IRS.

      • Eligible employers who pay qualifying sick or child care leave will be able to retain an amount of the payroll taxes equal to the amount of qualifying sick and child care leave that they paid, rather than deposit them with the IRS.

      • The payroll taxes that are available for retention include withheld federal income taxes, the employee share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the employer share of Social Security and Medicare taxes with respect to all employees.

      • If there are not sufficient payroll taxes to cover the cost of qualified sick and childcare leave paid, employers will be able file a request for an accelerated payment from the IRS. The IRS expects to process these requests in two weeks or less.

     

    Additional FFCRA Resources: 

    STATE UPDATES STATE UPDATES

    On Monday, April 20, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp issued a new Executive Order which will allow certain businesses to reopen beginning on Friday, April 24, 2020. This Order modifies the previous Shelter in Place Order which went into effect on April 3 (see below) and will expire at 11:59 PM on Thursday, April 30, 2020.

     

    Previously, Governor Brian Kemp issued a statewide shelter in place Executive Order, which went into effect at 6:00 pm on Friday, April 3, 2020. This order suspends enforcement of all previously issued local government orders that “in any way conflicts, varies or differs from the terms of this Order” and prohibits the issuance of any future local ordinances unless they are “designed to enforce compliance with this Order” (see paragraph 4 on Page 8). This Order created a uniform, statewide standard, something that ACEC Georgia had been strongly advocating for in our discussions with the Governor's Office.

     

    This Executive Order does not prohibit the continued in-person operation of engineering firms, as they fall under (1) the “Critical Infrastructure” workforce exemption provided in Gov. Kemp’s Order, and (2) also “provide essential services to the critical infrastructure workforce,” which is also exempted in the Order (see Page 5 of the Order).

     

    The Critical Infrastructure exemption in the Order refers to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Guidance on the Critical Infrastructure Workforce,” an Advisory that has also been widely used in numerous other statewide and local shelter in place orders across the nation. While the Advisory states that it “is not intended to be the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions” it is also “intended to be overly inclusive” and to this point has been understood in all of these jurisdictions to include engineering and related services (such as surveying and inspections) that support critical infrastructure. Under the Advisory, “critical infrastructure” includes healthcare facilities, energy, water & wastewater, transportation & logistics, public works & infrastructure support services, communications & IT infrastructure, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, chemical, defense, commercial and residential construction. You can review the Department of Homeland Security’s Advisory HERE and in the FAQ (link below).

     

    Note, however, that the Order does require Critical Infrastructure businesses to implement measures to mitigate exposure and spread of COVID-19 for their in-person operations (see requirements on Page 5 of the Order).

     

    Additionally, any business that is not specifically prohibited from operating (a list that begins at the bottom of page 6 of the Order) is still permitted to operate in-person under the “Minimum Basic Operations” exemption which begins at the bottom of page 3 of the Order. While the Minimum Basic Operations regulations do NOT apply to firms that fall under the Critical Infrastructure definition, these companies can continue to conduct, in-person, the “minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of a business…provide services, manage inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits or for related functions” and allows in-person work “where employees are working outdoors without regular contact with other persons.” These companies would be subject to the overall shelter in place prohibition of not having more than 10 persons gathered at a single location if such gathering requires persons to stand or be seated within six feet of any other person. The Order also requires these businesses to implement measures to mitigate exposure and spread of COVID-19 for their in-person operations (see Page 4 of the Order).

     

    The Governor's Office has created a statewide shelter in place FAQ sheet, which can be found here.

    LOCAL UPDATES LOCAL UPDATES

    ACEC Georgia has worked with AGC Georgia to address the problem of local governments shutting down their respective building departments, thus not providing important project plan reviews and inspections. Fortunately, current Georgia law already allowed licensed engineers and architects to provide private plan review and inspection services. This existing law was the result of a successful effort by ACEC Georgia, AGC Georgia, Rep. Kevin Tanner, and Sen. Mike Dugan to pass House Bill 493 in the 2019 legislative session. Unfortunately, a few local governments were resisting efforts by owners to utilize this existing private review and inspection process.

     

    We are extremely grateful to Governor Brian Kemp and his staff for their leadership and willingness to work with us to ensure that design and construction activity can continue by issuing an Executive Order to address this issue which makes clear the ability of owners to utilize private plan review and inspections pursuant to existing law.

     

    In addition, on March 30, 2020, Governor Kemp issued a new Executive Order that further expanded the use of Private Plan Review and Inspections so that these services can now be offered in relation to the following types of structures (which were previously excluded from private plan review and inspections by O.C.G.A. 8-2-26(g)(17), and which is now suspended by this Order): hospitals, ambulatory health care centers, nursing homes, jails, penal institutions, airports, buildings or structures that impact national or state homeland security, or any building defined as a high-rise building in the State Minimum Standards Code.

     

    Please be aware that you must also complete the “Affidavit of Plan Review By Private Professional Provider” (which can be found on the DCA website) for each plan review and/or inspection you perform.

     

    Click here for guidance from the DCA regarding private plan review and inspections and references the Governor’s first Executive Order (which has now been expanded to include the previously prohibited structures by the Order)

     

    ACEC Georgia has compiled a list of providers who are qualified to provide private plan review and inspection services for county/city governments as well as private industry partners. The firms that are on the list employ engineers and/or architects who meet the following criteria (as required by O.C.G.A. 8-2-26(g)):

    • 'Private professional provider' means a professional engineer who holds a certificate of registration issued under Chapter 15 of Title 43 or a professional architect who holds a certificate of registration issued under Chapter 4 of Title 43, who is not an employee of or otherwise affiliated with or financially interested in the person, firm, or corporation engaged in the construction project to be reviewed or inspected.

    • All private professional providers providing plan review or inspection services pursuant to this subsection shall secure and maintain insurance coverage for professional liability (errors and omissions) insurance. The limits of such insurance shall be not less than $1 million per claim and $1 million in aggregate coverage for any project with a construction cost of $5 million or less and $2 million per claim and $2 million in aggregate coverage for any project with a construction cost of more than $5 million.

    • The private professional provider shall be empowered to perform any plan review or inspection required by the governing authority of any county or municipality, including, but not limited to, inspections for footings, foundations, concrete slabs, framing, electrical, plumbing, heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), or any and all other inspections necessary or required to determine compliance with all regulatory requirements and for the issuance of a building permit or certificate of occupancy by the governing authority of any county or municipality, provided that the plan review or inspection is within the scope of such private professional provider's area of competency.

     

    If you are a qualified provider who would like to be added to the list, please contact Ashley Jenkins at ashley.jenkins@acecga.org, In the email, please provide the person who should be the point of contact for your firm, their contact information, and what type of plan review or inspection services you are qualified to provide.



    Please click here for the updated list of Qualified Engineering & Architecture Firms for Private Plan Review and Inspections.

     

    Click here to watch the ACEC Georgia Webinar: Managing the Risks of Private Plan Review & Inspections for more information on the executive order, legal concerns, insurance requirements, and other issues.

    ACEC GEORGIA EVENTS ACEC GEORGIA EVENTS

    ACEC Georgia understands the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the health and well-being of those who attend our in-person events is of the utmost importance to us. After all, we represent a profession that has as its primary charge the protection of public health, safety, and welfare.

    After months of exclusively online programs, we are slowly beginning to return to hosting some in-person events. The decision to hold an in-person meeting will be made on a case by case basis. Most importantly, we will monitor the latest COVID-19 data and will cancel, reschedule or “convert to online” any in-person event that we believe it would be unsafe for us to host in-person.

    Here is what we are doing to keep our guests safe:
    • Events will only be hosted at venues that follow the most current CDC guidelines as well as the requirements contained in any Executive Orders issued by Governor Brian Kemp. We will only consider venues that have ample space to facilitate social distancing, and that will work with us to ensure that all safety protocols are met while still providing the level of service to make the event successful for our guests. These safety protocols include but are not limited to:
      • Screening workers for symptoms.
      • Face masks and other appropriate PPE required for all workers when interacting with guests.
      • Training workers on proper safety protocols, including food prep, back of house, and service.
      • Implementing procedures for thorough and frequent sanitation of the venue, particularly high contact surfaces.
      • Seating arrangements that provide for appropriate social distancing.
      • Guest ingress/egress procedures designed to accommodate social distancing requirements.  
      • Providing guests with hand sanitizer stations.
    • While ACEC Georgia staff will be onsite to ensure that you have registered, we will not have onsite registration. In order to minimize person-to-person contact, attendees must register and pay in advance. Name badges, if used, will be spread out at stations for self pick-up. Any materials that you need for the event (seat assignments, drink tickets for sponsors, for example) will be distributed prior to the event.
    • We will not host traditional receptions in pre-function areas prior to events. Ballrooms will be open upon guest arrival in order to provide ample space for networking.
    • All guest seating will be socially distanced (likely no more than four people at each table). If you are attending an event with a spouse or someone in your “quarantine bubble,” let us know so that we can seat you together.
     
    Here is what we expect of our attendees:
    • Attendees must wear a face mask at all times unless sitting at a table eating or drinking.
    • Networking must be contact-free and take place at a safe distance. This means no hand shaking, hugging, fist bumping, etc.
    • While we will not require guest temperature checks upon arrival at this time, we do request that each attendee self-check their temperature prior to arrival.
     
    To download a PDF copy of this policy, please click here.
     
    To view our upcoming events (both in person and virtual), please visit our events calendar: https://www.acecga.org/events/calendar/.

    WEBINAR & VIRTUAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES WEBINAR & VIRTUAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

    As the COVID-19 crisis continues to develop, ACEC Georgia is compiling a list of available resources to help you manage your firm through these very trying times. Please see below a link to available virtual learning opportunities for you to participate in. Most of these webinars are available for free and on-demand.

     

    Webinar & Virtual Learning Opportunities

    ADDITIONAL RESOURCES ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

    Useful Links:

     

    IRS and Department of Labor Informal Guidance

    ACEC National Coronavirus Resource Page

    Greyling Report on Insurance Coverage Issues Related to the Coronavirus Pandemic

    OSHA Resources for Workers and Employers on Coronavirus

    AEC Industry Poll on COVID-19 Impacts - Conducted by Design-Build Institute of America

     

    WEEK 1 SURVEY

     

    ACEC National conducted a survey among member firms on COVID-19. You will see the top line results below. Graphs that give you a fuller picture of all the responses can be found here.

     

    Survey Results:

    • There were 794 respondents to the survey. Of them, 53% were firms under 25 FTEs. 

    • Most of our firms do not travel internationally (60%) and therefore, there was no change to their policies.

    • For domestic travel: 66% of respondents have restricted travel to training or conferences. 52% have restricted air travel.

    • For work from home: 20% have not changed their policy and said it’s business as usual. Most (64%) are either encouraging or allowing employees to work from home. Only 8% have made work from home mandatory.

    • 23% of responding firms are providing paid emergency leave, 13% are providing emergency unpaid leave. Interestingly, 13% already have an unrestricted leave policy.

    • When asked how firms are working with clients to ensure work can continue- 77% are ensuring social distancing, 73% are allowing virtual work, 52% are focusing on meeting and project hygiene, and 52% are limiting access to offices, project and construction sites.

    • 96% said they have not had problems with public clients when protective measures may conflict with contract terms.

    • 56% have not experienced project delays or cancellations; 44% have experienced delays/cancellations.

    • 76% have not experienced delays in the issuance of RFPs/RFQs or awards; 24% have experienced delays in issuance of RFPs/RFQs.

     

    When asked to describe any other business issues that you are experiencing related to COVID-19 respondents answers fell into several main categories:

    • Significant interest in what will pass Congress and how it will affect their business-particularly small firms

    • Many not experiencing major project delays as of now but expecting that to change

    • Worry that work will slow- starting to see it happening

    • Worry that clients will pay more slowly (particularly public clients)- starting to see it happening

    • Office going remote resulting in uncertainty of workflow

    • General employee distraction due to depth of crisis and rate of change

    • Economic uncertainty

     

    WEEK 2 SURVEY

     

    Below we’ve highlighted key changes in the ACEC Survey responses from last week to this week. A full report can be found here.

     

    Top Line Summary:

    • More firms have implemented some type of domestic travel restrictions (79% up from 71%). This has led to an increase in restrictions of all types of travel.

    • Significant increase in the percentage of firms that have implemented some type of telework policy (93% up from 80% in week 1).

    • To ensure work continuation, more firms implemented various methods to work with clients. Social distancing (84% up from 77%) and allowing virtual work (84% up from 73%) still top the list.

    • Large increase in the percentage of firms (24% up to 40%) reporting delays in RFPs/RFQs or Awards due to COVID-19.

    • Large increase in the percentage of firms (44% up to 58%) reporting project delays or cancellations due to COVID-19.

     

    Results from new questions asked March 24, 2020

    • Nearly 9 out of 10 firms (87%) report receiving no assistance from creditors at this time, or at least are not aware of any.

    • Nearly half (47%) of firms believe congress should delay payment of the firm’s share of Social Security payroll taxes, while nearly as many favor increasing interest deductibility for businesses (44%).

      • Suggested “other” steps congress can take to mitigate cash flow challenges include: no interest loans, grants to cover payroll, tax credits and deductions, and Direct Payments / Unemployment to Employees.

     

    Top Worries:

    • Cash Flow

    • Timing of government assistance

    • Project delays and future work cancellations

    • Loss of productivity/efficiency due to work from home

    • Slowed bank responses to many urgent requests

    • Anxiety over the economy

     

    WEEK 4 SURVEY

     

    Here are the ACEC Business Impact Survey (Week 4) results.  The report includes an executive summary that highlights not only important significant results but also calls out differences in these results by firm size. 

     

    A few summary bullets from the survey are below- the attached executive summary and full report provide more detail.

     

    • Firms feel the federal stimulus package will have a positive impact (74% up from 51%) 
    • 72% of firms have already applied for the Small Business Administration (SBA) Payroll Protection Program (PPP). Another 14% plan to apply.
    • 65% feel the U.S. economy will be worse in 30 days compared to today, but this represents a decline from 81% from week 3.
    • Looking out 6 months, nearly 50% of firms feel the economy will improve while more than one-third think it will be worse. Sentiment about the firms’ finances and cash flow follows the same trend.
    • Firms report they have taken various actions to shore up their finances (68% up from 58%.) Freezing non-essential purchases and implementing hiring freezes top the list.
    • Firms are increasingly providing emergency paid leave (44% up from 34%.) 
    • Increase in the percentage of firms (63% up from 45% in Week 3) reporting delays in RFPs/RFQs or Awards due to COVID-19.
    • Increase in the percentage of firms (76% up from 70% in Week 3) reporting project delays or cancellations due to COVID-19.

     

    WEEK 5 SURVEY

     

    Here are the ACEC Business Impact Survey (Wave 5) results. The report includes an executive summary that highlights not only important significant results but also calls out differences in these results by firm size. A few summary bullets are below- the linked executive summary and full report provide more detail.

     

    • 84% applied for the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); 74% were approved.
    • Of those that applied and were approved, 70% have received the funds in their bank account
    • More than one-third (37%) of firms think business will return to normal within six months, another 35% think it will take one or two years. One-fifth (21%) are either not sure or don’t think things will ever be the same.
    • To shore up their finances firms are freezing non-essential purchases (50%), speeding up collections (38%) and freezing salary/pay increases (30%).
    • 8% report working on new projects directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic response
    • 12% report having business areas that are overperforming.
    • 36% say they will re-open their office(s) when they feel it is safe to do so, regardless of what their governor says.
    • 41% say they are working on a plan to ensure worker safety.
    • Nearly half of firms (49%) say they will restrict or prohibit domestic travel for training/events/conferences after stay-at-home orders are lifted.

    RESOURCES FOR REOPENING YOUR OFFICE RESOURCES FOR REOPENING YOUR OFFICE

    ACEC Guide to Returning to the Office and the Job Site

     

    Member Firms across the country are facing the challenge of returning to the workplace and the job site during the COVID-19 pandemic. The purpose of this resource is to help your firm respond to this challenge safely while managing legal risks.

     

    The Guide is divided into five sections: (1) Planning the Return; (2) Health Policy and Procedures; (3) Returning to the Office; (4) Returning to the Job Site; and (5) links to additional COVID-19 resources. It incorporates information from a number of sources, including the CDC, OSHA, FDA, private sector organizations both in and outside the engineering industry, and legal counsel. We hope the Guide will help your firm to navigate the “new normal” of working in the midst of an ongoing public health emergency.

     

    Click HERE for the entire guide,

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    We will do our best to keep this page updated with useful and timely information. If you have any questions about any of these legislative initiatives or how this impacts your business, or have any thoughts on what we can be working on to help you firm, please contact ACEC Georgia's President & CEO, Michael "Sully" Sullivan, at sully@acecga.org.