COVID

Industry renews effort to extend reimbursement of paid leave under COVID relief

Major trade associations representing government contractors are renewing their push to extend a key piece of legislation they see as vital to keeping the sector’s workforce intact during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those groups are calling for an extension of the CARES Act's Section 3610 to Sept. 30 in the wake of a letter sent Thursday to Senate leaders by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) and Marco Rubio (R-Florida), respectively chairman and ranking member for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Section 3610 allows federal agencies to cover sick or paid leave costs of contractors during the pandemic if telework is not an option for those workers or they cannot get to the designated government worksite, particularly if it is for sensitive or classified work. That provision was signed into law in March as part of the initial $2.2 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

That provision is slated to expire on March 31, a date set by another extension enacted in December through the fiscal year 2021 appropriations and COVID-19 relief package. Warner and Rubio introduced standalone legislation for another extension on Thursday.

“Section 3610 has proven to be an important means of providing necessary relief during the pandemic to critical intelligence community industry partners -- and particularly to small businesses that provide highly specialized capabilities -- to retain key national security capabilities,” Warner and Rubio wrote in their letter.

A total of 10 trade groups sent a letter of their own to congressional leaders Thursday calling for another extension of Section 3610, which has been followed by additional statements both Thursday and Friday from two GovCon trade groups.

“It is crucial that the Congress act to extend this vital provision without a lapse to ensure that federal agencies have the flexibility to retain the contractor workforce necessary to meet their mission needs,” said David Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. “The expiration date is fast approaching, and now is not the time to let up on COVID-19 protections while there is still much uncertainty around safe access to workplaces.”

“The severity and length of the COVID-19 crisis are dual challenges that continue to affect our employees and operations,” said Tim McClees, vice president of legislative affairs for the Aerospace Industries Association. “Section 3610 of the CARES Act has served as an important source of relief for our industrial base as we manage these obstacles. It enables aerospace and defense workers to continue to safely support vital NASA and national security programs.

PSC, AIA and the National Defense Industrial Association were among the 10 groups that signed the letter to top lawmakers.

Other signors included the American Council of Engineering Companies, Associated General Contractors of America, Center for Procurement Advocacy, Computing Technology Industry Association, Information Technology Industry Council, Intelligence and National Security Alliance, Security Industry Association and Shipbuilders Council of America.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at rwilkers@washingtontechnology.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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