The Professional Services Council says making permanent the COVID-19 relief provision for contractors to recoup some labor costs will come in handy the next time another emergency happens.
Ever since the coronavirus pandemic became such in March 2020, the federal contracting industry has looked to one section in the initial economic relief law as a means to keep employees on their payrolls.
But Section 3610 of the CARES Act was not written to last forever and is set to expire on Sept. 30 unless Congress extends it again amid the acceleration of COVID-19’s delta variant.
The Professional Services Council wants that to change and is calling for Section 3610 to be made permanent so agencies can continue reimbursing contractors for labor costs of employees that cannot access federal facilities.
In a statement Monday, PSC Executive Vice President David Broome highlighted a July 28 report from the Government Accountability Office that looked at how four agencies in particular have leaned on Section 3610 during the pandemic.
GAO tabulated a combined $882.8 million in reimbursements from across the departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security along with NASA. DOD alone could need to reimburse up to $4 billion under the CARES Act, according to that report.
Twelve out of 15 contractors interviewed by GAO staff said the reimbursements “had a great or moderate effect on their ability to retain employees, in particular those with specialized skills or clearances.”
“GAO makes the case for establishing a permanent stand-by authority that would be available when needed and in place when the next emergency happens — be it a pandemic, a cyberattack or natural disaster,” Broome said.
“Establishing this authority now would be a prudent step to implement one lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that the government and contractors are prepared for the next one.”
Section 3610 has already been extended three times, most recently in March, and often included in funding bills.
PSC and other trade associations representing companies that work in the government market have repeatedly called for the provision’s extension since it was originally signed into law.