Public Comments for 08/26/2020 Unknown Committee/Subcommittee
Last Name: Hasty Organization: Hampton Roads Chamber Locality: Norfolk

On behalf of the Hampton Roads Chamber and our 1,200 members I want to express our support for immunity protections from COVID-19 related civil claims for small businesses. Civil liability from COVID-19 exposure is a real threat to nearly every person, business and non-profit in Virginia. Left unaddressed, civil liability from COVID-19 exposure poses a serious hurdle to Virginia’s economic recovery. Legal experts estimate businesses will spend approximately $20,000 to $50,000 in just legal fees defending themselves from a lawsuit – this figure does not include the award amount. Small Businesses cannot afford these additional costs – in fact many small businesses would be forced to close and claim bankruptcy – all arising from a pandemic they had no control over and like everyone else was doing their best to keep their employees and customers safe. We support holding “bad actors” accountable. The immunity in this legislation is for those who in absence of gross negligence or willful misconduct – would receive immunity from COVID-19 related civil claims. And we support the immunity being offered for just a limited time (“claims arising no later than 180 days after the expiration or revocation of all states of emergency declared by the Governor related to the COVID-19 pandemic”) During these challenging times, small businesses have taken significant and unprecedented steps to protect workers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, small businesses must now comply the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) adopted by the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board which sets out very detailed and prescriptive workplace safety requirements. However, language in some of the proposals stating an entity that “has complied with applicable and the most recent federal, state, and local laws, policies, procedures, and guidance regarding COVID-19” sets an unattainable standard for businesses, non-profits, educational institutions. Rules and regulations at all levels of government are constantly changing, some are more strident than others and businesses would not know which ones are applicable until after they’ve been sued. This language should be removed from the bill. With the new emergency regulations, Virginia businesses must comply with specific state standards or face significant fines. We respectfully ask that you support legislation, similar to that adopted in North Carolina, to provide appropriate, limited civil immunity related to COVID-19. Thank you for your consideration. Emily Hasty, Executive Director of Governmental Affairs Hampton Roads Chamber

Last Name: Durkin Organization: Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and VA West Business and Legislative Coalition Locality: Roanoke

We are concerned with the additional cost to employers imposed by this bill, as well as the overall lack of flexibility it provides to employers to work within their existing paid leave programs. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) already covers paid sick leave due to COVID-19 and another added layer on the state level could confuse business owners already under stress from complying with ever changing regulation. Business owners are committed to taking care of their employees and getting through this pandemic to further strengthen our economy. The Roanoke Regional Chamber and the VA West Business and Legislative Coalition opposes HB 5116.

Last Name: Melvin Organization: Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association Locality: Richmond

Good Morning, On behalf of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association, I would like to take a moment to express our concerns and opposition to HB5116. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitality related businesses have been hit worse than any other sector of Virginia's economy. Even under the current Phase Three guidelines for reopening, these businesses are in the best case scenario breaking even. That being said, most restaurants and hotels are not generating revenues to keep continue their operations long term. Many have relied on federal relief programs like the PPP, EIDL, etc; however, the financial support these programs provided are quickly being depleted by these small businesses. While we continue to call on the federal, state, and local governments to provide additional relief we also realize with each passing day these struggling restaurants and lodging establishments face greater likelihood of permanent closure. At this point, VRLTA is projecting approximately 20-30% of restaurants in Virginia will permanently close absent any other mandates or relief efforts. According to the National Restaurant Association there are 15,507 in Virginia. That means Virginia will see roughly 3100 and 4650 restaurants close permanently. In addition, Virginia has about 1700 lodging establishments. According to a national report by Trepp, 1 in 4 hotels are delinquent in their bank payments. Additionally, adding another requirement to these businesses will only increase the number of lodging properties that face delinquency and foreclosure. Further mandates like HB5116 will cause further layoffs and closures, and place additional strain on Virginia's Unemployment Trust Fund. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to oppose HB5116 as it will only exacerbate the precarious financial situation facing hospitality businesses. Sincerely, Robert Melvin Director of Government Affairs Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association

Last Name: Harris Organization: Virginia Organizing Locality: Norfolk

My name is Barbara Harris, and I'm a member of Virginia Organizing State Governing Board. I am here to represent our thousands of members who need paid sick days and support Delegate Guzman's Paid Quarantine Bill. This bill is important for workers, families, businesses, and public health. We hope the committee will pass this legislation today, and we hope to work with you in the 2021 General Assembly to pass a permanent paid sick day bill. Thank you for your time.

Last Name: SNARE Organization: Prince William Chamber of Commerce Locality: Prince William County

On behalf of the Prince William Chamber of Commerce, I am letting you know that we ask that you pass by this legislation. The Commonwealth is enduring unprecedented times, especially financially, and Virginia just does not have the money to pay for these and other projects.

Last Name: Sked Locality: Richmond City

I support HB 5116 - that requires employers provide quarantine leave to their employees. Before the pandemic many of us were forced to go to work when we were sick because we didn’t have sick leave. We just pushed through the day - resulting in making our co-workers sick. With COVID it is dangerous and irresponsible to be around other people when the possibility of infection is so high. It’s deadly and the *only* way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to keep your distance and wear a mask. This bill is essential to decreasing the spread of this deadly virus.

Last Name: Horejsi Organization: Social Action Linking Together (SALT) Locality: Vienna

Chairman Ward and Committee Members: Social Action Linking Together (SALT), is a grassroots organization of over 1,200 members advocating for social justice and economic security, and is a long-time supporter of work sharing in Virginia. .In 2014 in the the SALT sponsored bill that passed a situation arose in the Virginia law that our temporary work sharing program expired in 2016, without special federal funding. History should not repeat itself in allowing the work sharing program to lapse. It is our understanding that section 2110 of the CARES Act (Public Law 116-136) offers federal incentive grants to states with permanent short-time compensation to help them implement and promote the programs. If the temporary Virginia law is not made permanent it will disqualify the Commonwealth from receiving the special federal assistance, which the U.S. Department of Labor indicates is $2,674,255 (Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 22-20). SALT supports a much needed permanent work sharing law to save 1,000s of jobs. Let know your questions. Please support making the work sharing a permanent program. Thank you for the opportunity to comment and thank you for your public service. John Horejsi, Coordinator Social Action Linking Together (SALT) 99610 Counsellor Dr., NW Vienna, VA 22181

Last Name: Balducchi Organization: Social Action Linking Together Locality: Arlington County, Arlington

I am David E. Balducchi, retired from the U.S. Department of Labor, a member of Social Action Linking Together (SALT), a grassroots organization of over 1,200 members in Virginia advocating for social justice and economic security. On behalf of SALT Coordinator John Horejsi and other members, we support passage of HB 5087 that repeals two sunset provisions in the recently enacted short-time compensation (STC) law and makes other changes. The federal CARES Act offers federal incentive grants to states with permanent STC laws to help them implement and promote the programs. If the temporary Virginia STC law is not made permanent it will disqualify the Commonwealth from receiving special federal assistance to build its program, which the U.S. Department of Labor indicates is $2,674,255. Research sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, conducted after the Great Recession found that employers who used STC were delighted with how the STC program helped them survive declines in production. Workers benefited from staying connected to employers and retaining fringe benefits while on reduced work hours. Employers benefited because they kept skilled workers and were able to swiftly return to full operations once the economy improved, saving them hiring and training costs. As well, employer outreach has been shown to increase the voluntary use of STC rather than shedding workers. It is time that Virginia join other states that operate STC programs and take advantage of federal incentive funds to implement and promote STC and better serve employers and their workers. Thank you.

Last Name: Boardman Organization: Virginia chapter American Academy od Pediatrics Locality: McLean

I am speaking for the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics for HB 5047 concerning price gouging on Personal Protective equipment for physicians and health care staff during the COVID pandemic.

Last Name: Smith Organization: Virginia Assocation of School Superintendents Locality: Palmyra

The Virginia Association of School Superintendents(VASS) has serious concerns regarding the inclusion of school board employees in HB 5028. Generally workers’ compensation does not cover community-spread illnesses like a cold or the flu because they usually cannot be directly tied to the workplace. This especially true of school board employees. While this bill is well meaning, expansion of workers’ compensation presumptions for COVID-19 to school board employees could result in substantial fiscal impacts on school divisions that are struggling to provide instructional services to students.

End of Comments