Contractors' COVID cost relief provision extended through September

Government contractors are poised to get an extension of a rule that lets them seek reimbursements of paid leave costs from agencies if contract work is disrupted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Government contractors now have until Sept. 30 to work under a rule that lets them seek reimbursements of paid leave costs from agencies if contract work is disrupted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That provision covers workers who cannot access their designated federal facilities if that agency puts in place restrictions on building occupancy and particularly has applied to the defense and intelligence space.

Section 3610 of the original CARES Act economic relief law was enacted last year in the wake of the pandemic’s start over concerns regarding contractor workforces being locked out of government buildings.

This latest extension was included in the new $1.9 trillion stimulus law and was cosponsored by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida).

The amendment passed 93-6 on Saturday, while the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 passed the chamber in a 50-49 vote that same day. House lawmakers should vote on the Senate version of that legislation Tuesday.

Section 3610 has been given three extensions since it was originally signed into law, including through the fiscal year 2021 appropriations package enacted in December. The provision was slated to expire on March 31.

Companies have leaned on the section to keep employees on the payroll for the pandemic’s duration and avoid the choice of either laying off cleared, technical talent or continue paying them without being able to perform the work on-site.

Many of those covered costs essentially are revenue without earnings as some agencies are not reimbursing the fees normally included in a contract. Building occupancy restrictions remain in effect at many agency facilities contractors work at and supporting customers for whom telework is either not covered under the contract or impossible.

But some contractors have stood up their own classified workspaces during the pandemic in order to get as many people back to a normal work cadence as possible.

Industry associations representing GovCon companies have spoken up over the need for the provision numerous times since the pandemic’s start around this time last year and have applauded this latest extension in statements.

“Federal agencies need flexibility to continue to use this authority when necessary. With so much uncertainty around safe access to workplaces, now is not the time to let up on COVID-19 protections,” said David Berteau, president and CEO of the professional Services Council. “This extension will help the federal government continue to access the highly skilled, cleared and trusted contractor workforce needed to meet mission needs.”

“Extending 3610 and safeguarding the defense industrial base workforce is critical to our national security today and, more importantly, into the future,” added Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association. “NDIA is thankful to lawmakers for understanding the criticality of this authorization to government contractors and the skilled, cleared workforce that delivers for our warfighters.”

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