On July 16, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced the availability of $50 million in grant funding to help employers provide hazard pay to employees in life-sustaining occupations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Hazard Pay Grant Program is intended to keep front-line employees working in vital sectors by helping employers pay “hazard pay”—pay for performing hazardous duty or work involving physical hardship related to COVID-19—to employees working within eligible industries.
Businesses, healthcare nonprofits, public transportation agencies, and certified economic development organizations may apply for funding for employers located and operating in Pennsylvania within one of the following eligible industries:
- Health care and social assistance
- Food manufacturing
- Food retail facilities
- Transit and ground passenger transportation
- Security services for these eligible industries and commercial industries that were not closed as a result of the Governor’s Business Closure Order
- Janitorial services to buildings and dwellings
Grant funds may be used over a 10-week period between August 10, 2020, and October 24, 2020, as a $3/hour hazard pay increase to the regular rate of direct, full-time and part-time employees that earn less than $20/hour, excluding fringe benefits and overtime. The hazard pay earned must be paid to the employee according to their regular pay schedule and may not be withheld and paid in a later lump sum. The hazard pay cannot be used for any hours over 40 in a week.
Employers may apply for up to $1,200 per eligible full-time equivalent employee (FTE) through July 31, 2020, through the Electronic Single Application. Applicants may apply for a grant to provide hazard pay for up to 500 eligible FTEs per location ($600,000 maximum per location). Grant funding is capped at $3,000,000 per employer.
To determine the maximum grant request, employers should calculate their number of FTEs over the 10-week period by dividing the total number of hours for which employees are projected to be compensated during the 10 weeks by 400. The number of FTEs should then be multiplied by $1,200 to determine the maximum grant request. The online application has a downloadable form to help employers calculate the maximum grant request.
Applicants are evaluated based on 1) risk of exposure by industry, 2) location and prevalence of COVID-19, and 3) hourly wage paid by the employer. Applications will be prioritized by industry in accordance with the Worker Exposure Risk to COVID-19 released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which defines exposure to COVID-19 in four categories ranging from very high to low.
Applicants receiving grant funds must make the following certifications:
- Employers pay their employees at least federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour.
- Employers are paying the employer share of the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) for the hazard pay.
- Employers follow Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, Department of Health regulations, and guidance for reopening under the Governor’s Phased Reopening Plan to protect front-line employees from contracting COVID-19.
- Employers are in compliance with all relevant laws, orders, and regulations during the period of the COVID-19 disaster emergency under the Governor’s proclamation dated March 6, 2020, and any and all subsequent renewals
Applicants must also covenant and agree that they will continue to remain in compliance with these requirements during the grant period. Participating employers must maintain full and accurate records with respect to the program and make such records available to inspection upon request.
Ballard Spahr lawyers have been helping clients assess the impact of COVID-19 on their employees and operations, and are available to discuss Pennsylvania’s Hazard Pay Grant Program.
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