Morning Briefing - April 16, 2020
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April 16, 2020

DOE Issues Guidance on Billing Paid Leave for Employees Who Can’t Work During Pandemic

By ExchangeMonitor

The Department of Energy published guidance Wednesday for contractors that need to bill the government for paid time off given to employees unable to report for work due to COVID-19.

The new guidance attempts to steer contracting officers through the process of modifying existing deals so that contractors can claim reimbursement under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which became law on March 27 to provide economic relief during the pandemic.

Contractors may seek reimbursement for paid time off granted between Jan. 1 and the end of the 2020 federal fiscal year on Sept. 30 of this year. The may not bill the government for more than 40 hours a week of paid leave, including sick leave, according to the CARES Act. The law lets DOE tap into bailout funds in the CARES Act, any subsequent bailout funds, or any other appropriation, until the end of this fiscal year.

Nearly all of DOE’s nuclear weapons and nuclear cleanup facilities have drawn down to mission-essential operations on-site, with teleworking for other personnel. But that leaves a certain percentage of workers who for now can’t do either.

According to the new guidance, contractors seeking reimbursement, including for subcontractors, must represent that they are not double-dipping into other CARES Act provisions. 

The guidance also acknowledges that, in order to keep mission-essential facilities such as National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) production plants online, contractors may place “certain prohibitions on the availability of paid leave.”

Separately, DOE formed a team to take stock of how much peronnal protective equipment its sites, national laboratories, and plants have on hand, according to an April 3 memo from Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette that was published Wednesday. 

Jim McConnell, NNSA associate administrator for safety, infrastructure, and operations, is leading that team. Brouillette urged any DOE sites that need additional personnel protective equipment to procure through the government, rather than from industry, “due to industry’s inability to reliably secure these items at this time.”

In places where maintaining 6 feet of distance is impractical or impossible, such as at NNSA nuclear weapons production sites, construction sites, and labs, the agency will have to rely on some combination of personnal protective equipment and added sanitary procedure to protect workers. 

The NNSA weapons production sites are all still online, and the nuclear weapons laboratories are all making plans to gradually ramp up operations after spending much of March andApril keeping most of their workforces off-site.