North America

What’s in President-Elect Biden’s COVID-19 American Rescue Plan?

On January 14, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden released his $1.9 trillion emergency stimulus plan, designed primarily to guide the country through the next medical and economic stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The American Rescue Plan (“ARP”) also includes non-COVID-19 related proposals, such as a mandatory $15 per hour minimum wage and funding to improve cybersecurity.

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First Reported FCA CARES Act Settlement Announced

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on January 12, 2021, the first civil settlement to resolve allegations of fraud against the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.[1] SlideBelts Inc. and its president and CEO, Brigham Taylor, have agreed to pay the United States a combined $100,000 in damages and penalties for alleged violations of the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA).[2]

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Podcast: Forecast for Telehealth Fraud and Abuse Risk in 2021 – Diagnosing Health Care

This Diagnosing Health Care episode examines the fraud and abuse enforcement landscape in the telehealth space and considers ways telehealth providers can mitigate their enforcement risks as they move into the new year. Hear how the uptick in enforcement warrants close consideration by telehealth providers, especially those that are new to the space and have not yet built their compliance infrastructures.

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ONTARIO’S SECOND PROVINCIAL EMERGENCY AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE WORKPLACE

On January 12, 2021, the Ontario government declared a second provincial emergency under section 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, in response to the drastic rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in the province.

Stay-At-Home Order

As part of the provincial emergency, Ontario has issued a stay-at-home order that will come into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, January 14, 2021, and will last for at least 28 days. This stay-at-home order requires that Ontarians remain at home except for certain permitted purposes, including going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, exercising, or working, where permitted. The province has mandated that “all businesses must ensure that any employee who can work from home, does work from home” (emphasis added).

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How the Biden Administration Can Reverse Trump’s Medicaid Work Requirements

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether the federal government can approve state programs that force Medicaid participants to work, go to school, or volunteer to get benefits. Both Arkansas and the Justice Department sought review of the issue. Epstein Becker Green attorney Clifford Barnes provides potential paths for the Biden administration to best position itself in the case.

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HITECH Act Amendment Incentivizes Adoption of NIST and Other Recognized Cybersecurity Safeguards as a Defense or Mitigation to HIPAA Enforcement

On January 5, 2020, HR 7898, became law amending the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), 42 U.S.C. 17931, to require that “recognized cybersecurity practices” be considered by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in determining any Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) fines, audit results or mitigation remedies. The new law provides a strong incentive to covered entities and business associates to adopt “recognized cybersecurity practices” and risk reduction frameworks when complying with the HIPAA privacy and security standards to reduce risk associated with security threats and HHS enforcement determinations. Specifically, the earlier adoption of an established, formalized and recognized cybersecurity framework, may significantly insulate entities from regulatory enforcement in the wake of subsequent security incidents or data breaches.

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ATTENTION TORONTO EMPLOYERS

On January 4, 2021, Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health, announced new measures for all employers and persons responsible for a business or organization in the City of Toronto (“Toronto“) permitted to be open under the Reopening Ontario Act. All persons responsible for a business or organization in Toronto are instructed to follow the public health measures outlined below:

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The FFCRA: It’s goodbye for now, but maybe not forever

With 2020 coming to an end, speculation swirled among employers about whether the Families First Coronavirus Response Act’s December 31 expiration date would be extended. Well, employers have their answer in the stimulus bill signed by President Trump on December 27. It’s goodbye for now to the FFCRA, but it may not be goodbye forever. Read more…

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How employers should handle vaccination issues in relation to COVID-19 vaccination

Mandatory vaccination policies are typically legal, but in many cases implementing such policies may prove challenging. In a recent Gallup Poll, only 58% of those in the U.S. said they would willingly be vaccinated. That potentially leaves a significant percent of individuals unvaccinated creating a dilemma for employers about whether to mandate vaccines for employees. Read more…

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The Consolidated Appropriations Act and the impact on the Paycheck Protection Program:

Here we go again…

After months of negotiations, Congress finally passed the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act late Monday night. It is expected that the President will quickly sign the Act into law.

The act provides approximately $325 billion in business relief, including roughly $275 billion for another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding. The act also provides answers to questions regarding the first round of PPP loans that have so far gone unanswered.

While the act is extremely lengthy (5,593 pdf pages long), we have attempted to summarize the most important sections regarding the Paycheck Protection Program.

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