November 17, 2021 8:42am
From the Desk of the CEO: 11.17.21
As we head into the holidays, GLI is hard at work preparing for the upcoming 2022 General Assembly Session and tracking Louisville Metro’s plan for spending American Rescue Plan dollars which will provide a huge influx of dollars that could be transformative for our region. It has also been a very busy two weeks in Washington, and we continue advocating for several priorities at the federal level as Congress prepares to adjourn for the year.
Historic Infrastructure Bill Signed into Law
Earlier this week, President Biden signed a historic $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law after bipartisan work from both chambers of Congress over the last several months. GLI has been advocating for increased infrastructure investments at all levels of government for several years to ensure our region stays connected and maintains our competitive advantage in logistics. View my statement on the legislation here.
So, what will this large investment do for our region? Over the last few months, Amtrak has announced its plans to expand routes into Louisville if and when the infrastructure bill passed. While a timeline of when the routes to Indianapolis and Chicago will begin is still unclear, this is just one example of the exciting opportunities that will come from this investment that many are dubbing “once in a generation.”
Kentucky expects to receive upwards of $5 billion from the package which includes $438 million for bridge replacement and repairs, $391 million for improving public transportation, and additional funding for airport infrastructure development, electric vehicle charging stations, and broadband expansion. Of that funding, $100 million is expected to make its way to Louisville and more will flow into surrounding counties.
Latest Updates on Federal Vaccine and Testing Mandate
In addition to signing the historic infrastructure package, the Biden administration also recently released more details on the federal vaccine and testing mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees. While the new guidance offers specific deadlines and compliance criteria, the enforcement remains uncertain as legal challenges mount. A federal court quickly blocked the mandate and the 5th Circuit extended the stay. The mandate now heads to the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati to modify, revoke, or extend the stay. While the timeline remains uncertain, it is unlikely a final decision will be reached before the initial December 5 deadline. That means employers will likely have additional time to comply if the court determines the mandate will remain in place.
Here are the key takeaways you need to know:
- Initially, the ETS stated that employers had to take the following actions by December 5: assess the vaccination status of all employees, begin allowing up to four hours of paid leave for employees to get vaccinated, provide “reasonable” time off to recover from any side effects, and communicate the corporate vaccine/testing policy to all employees.
- Note that employers have the right to mandate vaccines without a testing option, but under the ETS regular weekly testing is an option employers can provide in lieu of vaccination.
- By January 4th workers must be fully vaccinated, or employers will need to begin tracking weekly testing for unvaccinated employees. Unvaccinated employees will also be required to wear masks.
Since the mandate was first announced, GLI advocated that it be as least burdensome as possible on businesses. We were pleased that the ETS clarified that employers are not responsible for paying for testing for those employees who opt not to get vaccinated. You can get more details about the mandate here.
If you want the latest information about this changing guidance and other legislative updates as we prepare for the 2022 General Assembly, follow @GLIAdvocacy on twitter and subscribe to our Policy Distilled newsletters.
As always, GLI is your voice in Washington, Frankfort, and City Hall. We look forward to continuing to represent and advocate for the best interests of your business in the year ahead.