Coronavirus Resource Center for Building Trades Unions

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information & Resources below:

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News & Updates

Unemployment Information/Updates/Legislation

Best Practices for Workers and Employers

Special Changes from Healthcare Insurance Carriers

FAQs for Returning to Work

News & Updates

(Updated 8/3/20)

Click to watch the MBTC “Safe Return to Work” video:

MA Building Trades Council– COVID Safety Protocol Video

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Please check this map to find a nearby COVID-19 testing site. Allows search filters by Insurance, Referral Requirements and for Drive-Thru Sites.

MA Interactive COVID-19 Test Site Map

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Massachusetts enters Phase 3 of Reopening during COVID 19 (Phase 3 set to begin in city of Boston on July 13th)
Read at MA.Gov
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MA Legislators Send Letter of Support for MBTC Legislation: “An Act to Provide Liability Protections for Contractors, Sub-Contractors and Unions During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Read the Letter of Support from MA Legislators

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Massachusetts Building Trades Council Calls for Changes to Gov. Baker’s Reopening Plan:

  • To require the same strong “zero tolerance” tenets of the report for employers, not just workers.
  • To clarify the report and Baker’s order to require face coverings while on the job.
  • To “fill in the gaps” of the state’s reporting and tracking policy.
  • To allow workers to refuse unsafe work conditions without losing pay.
  • To provide stronger whistleblower protections.

Read the Letter

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MASSCOSH Report Card for MA Baker-Polito Reopening Plan
Report the Report Card

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MA AFL-CIO Response to Reopening Plan
Read the Letter

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Official MA Reopening Plan (as of 5/18/20)
https://www.mass.gov/info-details/reopening-massachusetts

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Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston announces New Guidelines, Safety Protocols and Review Process for Reopening of Essential Construction in Boston for May 18th

(Links to Announcement, Safety Protocols and more within)

https://www.boston.gov/news/temporary-guidance-construction-city-boston

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MA Division of Unemployment Assistance (applications, information and etc.) in Spanish.

Información de desempleo de Massachusetts sobre el virus COVID-19

https://www.mass.gov/service-details/dua-espanol-spanish

 

 

Unemployment Updates and Information

(Updated 8/3/20)

Massachusetts Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

https://ui-cares-act.mass.gov/PUA/_/#1

Above is the link for our members who have exhausted their unemployment benefits to apply for the extended 13 weeks of benefits.

Members will need to link onto this website – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance – and fill out the application.

Members need to do this even if they have an open claim with DUA. They will get 13 weeks of extended benefits plus the addition $600 CARES Act funding retroactive to March 28, 2020.

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Important Information on Unemployment Insurance re: 13-Week Extension and Additional $600 In Benefits

Unemployment Insurance Update (4-7-20)

The US Department of Labor (USDOL) has released its regulations regarding the 13-week extension of UI benefits and the additional $600 in weekly benefit payments passed under the federal CARES Act.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts signed an agreement with USDOL and the Act is retroactive to March 29, 2020.

The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is moving to add an additional $600 to the weekly benefits received by traditional unemployment claimants, retroactive to March 29, 2020. DUA is also implementing the 13-week extension of benefits.

 

Key Points:  

Beginning and Ending Dates of the FPUC Program in a State:

·      Under Section 2104(e) of the CARES Act, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is payable in a state for weeks of unemployment beginning after the date on which the state enters into an agreement with the Department and ending with weeks of unemployment ending on or before July 31, 2020.  The beginning date for Massachusetts is March 29, 2020.

·      States that are unable to immediately pay benefits the week following the execution of the agreement with the USDOL to operate the program must provide retroactive payments to individuals eligible for (FPUC) for the weeks they would have been entitled.

Notification to Claimants:

·      The state must notify a potentially eligible individual of his or her entitlement to FPUC.  Such notification should include both the beginning and ending dates for the FPUC program.

Allowable Methods of Payment:

·      States must issue payments of FPUC as soon as administratively feasible.  States have some flexibility in how they issue FPUC payments; states may pay the additional $600 either:

a)   as an amount which is paid at the same time and in the same manner as any regular UC otherwise payable for the week involved; or

b)   at the option of the state, by payments which are made separately from, but on the same weekly basis as, any regular UC otherwise payable

c)    This means you may receive the additional $600 in either your regular benefit check or as a separate check.

If the individual is eligible to receive at least one dollar ($1) of underlying benefits for the claimed week, the claimant will receive the full $600 FPUC

Taxable Income:

·      The $600 FPUC is taxable.  Therefore, states must include FPUC when preparing 1099Gs, and must, consistent with Section 3304(a)(l8), FUTA (26 U.S.C. §3304(a)(18)), withhold taxes from the weekly benefit amount and from the $600 FPUC, when an individual elects to have taxes withheld

 

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Today, [3-18-20] the Massachusetts Legislature enacted and the Governor signed a law waiving the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits related the COVID-19 outbreak.  It is retroactive to March 10th and expires 90 days after termination of the state of emergency.

 

Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance:

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) and the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA), in coordination with the US Department of Labor (USDOL), are taking a series of actions to assist workers and employers.

For current unemployment claims:

  • All requirements regarding attending seminars at the MassHire career centers have been suspended.
  • Missing deadlines due to effects of COVID-19 will be excused under DUA’s good cause provision.
  • All appeal hearings will be held by telephone only.

The Department of Labor issued guidance to the states instructing state agencies to apply existing law flexibly. Under the DOL guidance, DUA may now pay unemployment benefits if a worker is quarantined due to an order by a civil authority or medical professional or leaves employment due to reasonable risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member and does not intend to or is not allowed to return to work. The worker need not provide medical documentation and need only be available for work when and as able.

To assist individuals who cannot work due to the impact of COVID-19, the administration is filing emergency legislation that will allow new claims to be paid more quickly by waiving the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

EOLWD and DUA are also filing emergency regulations that will allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment if their workplace is shut down and expects to reopen in four or fewer weeks. The following conditions apply:

  • Workers must remain in contact with their employer during the shutdown.
  • Workers must be available for any work their employer may have for them that they are able to do.
  • An employer may request to extend the period of the covered shut-down to eight weeks, and workers will remain eligible for the longer period under the same conditions described above.
  • If necessary, DUA may extend these time periods for workers and employers.

Employers who are impacted by COVID-19 may request up to a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and pay contributions.

The pending federal legislation proposes further relief including additional money for unemployment benefits, and relief to employers for charges related to unemployment benefits paid due to COVID-19.

 

Families First Bill- Passed 3/13/20. Please read for important federal changes for workers during the Coronavirus crisis:

“The legislation guarantees free coronavirus testing, establishes paid leave, enhances Unemployment Insurance, expands food security initiatives, and increases federal Medicaid funding.”

Families First Act Summary

Best Practices For Workers and Employers (Updated 6/12/20)

 

OSHA Standards re: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/standards.html

 

 

AFL-CIO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Page

https://aflcio.org/covid-19

 

Center For Construction Research and Training

https://www.cpwr.com/covid-19

 

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fspecific-groups%2Fguidance-business-response.html

 

 

National Law Review:

For Employers: Coronavirus and US Safety and Health Law

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/employers-coronavirus-and-us-safety-and-health-law

The Coronavirus: Best Practices to Mitigate Risks in the Workplace

https://www.natlawreview.com/article/coronavirus-best-practices-to-mitigate-risks-workplace

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information & resources from Health Insurance Carriers

Health Care: The Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued guidance today that includes the following:

  • All commercial insurers and the Group Insurance Commission are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services. The full order is available here.
  • Insurers must cover COVID-19 related treatment and testing without requiring cost-sharing of any kind – such as co-pays and coinsurance – for testing and treatment.
  • Additionally, insurers cannot require prior authorization for these services.
  • All assisted living residences are to ban visitors to protect the health of residents and staff. This is in addition to the federal guidance issued on Friday that bans visitors to nursing homes and rest homes.

 

Items addressed: coverage for tests, waiving co-payments for COVID-19 treatment, removal of prior authorizations & referrals, lifting limits on early prescription refills, telehealth options and help lines for questions.

 

Information and links to Health Insurance Carriers:

 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

https://home.bluecrossma.com/coronavirus

 

Cigna

https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/health-wellness/topic-disaster-resource-center/coronavirus-public-resources

 

Tufts Health Plan

https://tuftshealthplan.com/employer/employer-news/2020/preparing-for-coronavirus

 

UnitedHealthcare

https://www.uhc.com/health-and-wellness/health-topics/covid-19

 

AllWays Health Partners

https://allwayshealthpartners.org/meet-us/Newsroom/Coronavirus-Notice

FAQs for Returning to Work

The following information reflects Massachusetts statewide construction safety standards. The Massachusetts Building Trades Council is currently advocating for a higher uniform set of safety standard more in align with the City of Boston’s guidance.

Watch the City of Boston’s COVID-19 Construction Safety Updates Video

The state’s guidelines leave significant room for interpretation, which means that individual cities and towns may have variations on these requirements for your job site. In addition to reviewing the below questions, we encourage you to check your local safety guidance prior to going on the job.

If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please contact your Union Steward or your local public health department.

What are my rights when I'm going back to work?

Though state guidelines make some common-sense recommendations to employers, not all Massachusetts job sites adhere to the same safety practices.

If you see something that seems unsafe or against common sense, report to your Union Steward Safety Officer or contact the public health department in the city or town you’re working in.

  • Your employer is instructed to provide you with a face mask, eye protection, and gloves when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.
  • It’s important to wear your mask on all job sites to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Protect yourself by wearing a mask or respirator rated N95 or higher.
  • Wear cut-proof gloves and safety goggles at all times. Make sure you sterilize your gloves and goggles before and after each shift.
  • If you’re feeling sick, stay home.
  • You are required to self-certify your own good health each day upon arriving on the job site. If you feel sick at all, do not self-certify. You cannot be forced to sign a waiver stating that you are not sick.

What does my employer have to do to ensure my safety?

Each city has their own unique safety protocols. Check with your local city and town public health department to see what the rules are before entering the job site.

  • Each employee has to sign in and fill out a COVID-related self-certification questionnaire before beginning work each day.
  • Employers must post COVID-19 symptoms, social distancing guidelines, and a phone number to call before entering the job site.
  • All site-specific projects with outside construction sites without ready access to an indoor bathroom must install Wash Stations.
  • Employers must provide a designated break area that requires social distancing while workers are having meetings, eating lunch, making a phone call, and so forth.
  • Employers must provide adequate bathrooms or portable toilets that must be cleaned and sanitized regularly throughout the day.
  • Multi-person activities will be limited where feasible, such as two-person lifting activities. In instances where it is not feasible, additional precautions must be taken.

Each site has unique protocols based on the nature of the work. If you see something that seems unsafe or against common sense, report to your Union Steward or your Union’s designated COVID-19 Safety Officer or contact the public health department in the city or town you’re working in.

My employer or supervisor has told me that I will need to self-certify before each shift. What does that mean?

The self-certification process is part of new safety guidelines in place to protect workers. This means that you’ll need to affirm the following before entering any job site.

  • You are not sick.
  • You are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (i.e., temperature exceeding 100.3 degrees, cough or difficulty breathing).
  • You have not been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  • You have not been ordered or encouraged to self-quarantine.

Remember, your employer cannot force you to self-certify. If this occurs, report to your Union’s designated COVID-19 Safety Officer or contact the public health department in the city or town you’re working in.

How do I clean my tools?

Good workplace and tool cleaning practices are critical. Avoid sharing of tools whenever possible.

If no blood is present on the tool, it can be cleaned with mild soap and a damp cloth to remove any dirt or fluids or left to rest for 3 days. This is based on a CDC advisement noting that COVID-19 may live on plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours. This is recommended for batteries.

A mild soap and diluted bleach can be used as an additional decontamination measure. This is not recommended for batteries. Review the process below.

A properly diluted bleach solution can be made by mixing:

  • 5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water

or

  • 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water

**No other cleaning material should be used. The diluted bleach solution should never be mixed with ammonia or any other cleanser.

**The cleaner should avoid touching their face with unwashed hands and should immediately wash their hands after this process.

  1. Clean the product surface with mild soap and water to remove dirt and grease
  2. Dip a clean cloth into the diluted bleach solution
  3. Wring out the cloth so it is not dripping wet
  4. Gently wipe each handle, grasping surface, or outer surfaces with the cloth, using care to ensure liquids do not flow onto tools
  5. Allow the surface to dry naturally.

Workers are advised to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds throughout the day. Even longer hand washing is good practice after contact with wastewater.

Here’s how to properly wash your hands: https://bit.ly/2AIvd6I

What should I bring to work with me?

  • A change of clothes
  • Hand sanitizer if you have it
  • A mask rated N95 or higher
  • Safety glasses
  • Cut-proof gloves or the equivalent
  • It is recommended that you bring your own food/drinks for lunch & breaks

COVID-19 has been found in sanitary drainage and vents, so a change of clothes is highly recommended for anyone working in these systems. “Therefore, for as long as the pandemic is still active, it should be assumed by anyone working on a sanitary drainage system that the virus is present.” (IAPMO, 3/11/2020)

Can I still carpool to work?

No. We do not recommend commuting with anyone. Your employer may also turn you away from work for carpooling during the pandemic.

It is not possible to be in a vehicle and remain at least 6 feet apart. Remember, COVID-19 is often carried by people with no symptoms. Social distancing is crucial for your coworkers’ and family’s safety.

I need PPE. Will my employer provide it for me?

The state instructs employers to provide PPE to workers when social distancing is not possible. However, depending on the location of your job site and the nature of your work, your employer may not be required to provide you with any PPE.

However, it’s very important to wear a mask, safety glasses, and gloves to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Protect yourself and others by wearing your PPE at all times when on the job site.

What if my employer isn't providing PPE? Or isn't providing enough?

Not all employers are required to provide PPE under Massachusetts guidelines. If your employer should be providing PPE and is not, contact your Union Steward or your Union’s designated COVID-19 Safety Officer or contact the public health department in the city or town you’re working in.

My employer asked me to sign a waiver. Should I sign it?

The only piece of paper that you should sign is the COVID-19-related questionnaire before beginning work each day.

If your employer asks you to sign a safety waiver of any kind, DO NOT SIGN IT, and call your Union’s designated COVID-19 Safety Officer immediately.

I feel sick today. What should I do?

Stay home, alert your employer, and call your healthcare provider. Do not report to work if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. COVID-19 symptoms do vary, but often include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Diarrhea or abdominal distress

If you exhibit any one of these symptoms, do not report to work.

Unemployment has changed a lot recently. What do I need to know?

If you are applying for unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, follow these key tips to receive quick and reliable benefits:

  • Submit your application on or after the Monday following your layoff. Your application may be disqualified if you apply for unemployment assistance prior to the Monday after your layoff.
  • Apply online. State-run call centers and offices are closed or operating with limited staffing. The fastest way is to apply online by following these instructions: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-unemployment-benefits
  • Do NOT enter a “return to work” or “recall” date. Although some public officials have identified plans to re-evaluate suspensions of construction work, this is not a guarantee that your work will resume at that time.
  • If you need to reset your password or have trouble accessing your account, use this link: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/reset-your-ui-online-password-as-a-claimant

I received a “monetary determination.” What does this mean?

  • Determining monetary eligibility is the first step in determining if you are eligible for unemployment. The monetary determination alone is not an indication that you will receive benefits. You will receive a separate notice of approval when you are fully approved.

Do I need to file a new claim if I have filed in the past year and returned to work?

  • If you have filed a UI claim with in the past 52 weeks, you do not have to file a new claim. You will be able to reopen your prior claim. When you log onto UI Online using the account information from your prior claim, click on the Reopen Claim link. You will need to validate your contact and payment information and provide employment information for the new employment you had since you filed your prior claim.

My employer has shut down or reduced my hours because of the coronavirus. Should I apply for unemployment?

  • Yes. Apply as soon as possible. Please apply online. If your employer has reduced your hours of work or your wages, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits.

I am concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 and plan to quit my job. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

  • It depends. Under current law, employees that demonstrate that they left work due to “urgent, compelling, and necessitous circumstances” are eligible for benefits. Such determinations are driven by the facts of the individual case. An employee who leaves work because of a fear of being exposed to COVID-19 will need to demonstrate, among other things, that such fear was reasonable in the circumstances.

My employer laid me off temporarily but offered part-time work. Can I work and collect benefits?

  • Yes, but you must report any earnings. Once the earnings reach a certain amount, your unemployment benefits will be reduced on a dollar for dollar basis until you reach the amount of your weekly benefit, in which case, you will be ineligible for that week. This calculation is done on a weekly basis, so you need to accurately report your earnings to the Department of Unemployment Assistance each week.

For additional information on updated unemployment protocols, click here.

Sources

Contact Us

Contact the Massachusetts Building Trades Council

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