President Joe Biden signed more executive orders (EO) on his first day than the previous three presidents combined, the most ever by his third week. While 15 of 42 actions are aimed at fighting the coronavirus, the remaining orders, proclamations, and memos (see the difference here) affect labor, HR policy, employment, immigration, resources like power and water, and supply chains. Changing administrations use the power of the pen to swiftly fulfill campaign promises or align policy according to their vision. But small business owners often worry about the aggregate unquantified costs that can affect the macro and micro economic and business environment when it comes to regulatory policy. For example, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) put the average business’s compliance cost per employee at $9,991. Planning now for potential impacts like higher wages and energy costs or opportunities like affordable employee health care and education makes good sense. Here are a few EOs to watch:
- On February 22, the administration announced changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), making it less restrictive and more accessible to access financial relief. Previously, applicants behind on student loan payments or with past felony convictions could not access loans. Additionally, sole proprietorships and partnerships were often last in line behind larger companies. The new rules expand access, increase loan amounts, and place a two-week freeze on loans to companies with more than 20 employees. Contact your lender before March 9 to apply.
- Biden’s Modernizing Regulatory Review EO and memo is definitely one to keep an eye on. It changes the regulatory process, including regulatory oversight requirements and traditional cost analyses, and reverses Trump’s “one-in, two-out” rule. It revises OMB’s regulatory analysis guidelines to ensure that the regulatory review process “fully accounts for regulatory benefits that are difficult or impossible to quantify, [sic] and does not have harmful anti-regulatory or deregulatory effects.” Critics say this EO has the potential to make it easier to add regulations.
The order’s net effects could be increased labor, safety, environmental, and health regulations, further burdening small businesses and possibly increasing lay-offs or boosting consumer prices. De-regulation often spurs innovation and entrepreneurship (witness the speed of COVID-19 vaccine development and approval). Still, sound actions can protect workers and the environment and improve some economic sectors, so keep an eye on new regulations affecting your industry.
- By February 2nd, 15 EOs and orders addressed the pandemic, including worker safety rules and directing agencies to aid in the economic recovery. Biden directed the Secretary of Labor to use Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) to enhance guidance (Protecting Worker Health and Safety). Here are some highlights:
- Re-opened Obamacare marketplaces for uninsured employees until May 15.
- Business owners and employees working on Federal property or using public transportation must wear masks.
- Growing employee access to testing, tracing, vaccines, and treatments.
- Seven EOs deal with diversity, equity, and inclusion language and practice. Especially if you do business with the Federal government but also to be competitive in hiring, plan to review or update policies relating to hiring, wages, training, and diversity, including:
- Assessment of the fairness and impartiality of hiring, advancement, wages, and benefits.
- Ensuring handbook language is revised to include sexual orientation and gender identity alongside race, color, religion, sex, and national origin (Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation).
- Long-awaited by businesses, the President signed an EO designed to get children back to school within 100 days. The order emphasizes early child care and Head Start programs, but Biden also said he wants kids in grades K-8 to return to five days a week instruction, a significant relief to working parents.
- The President signed five environmental EOs, including rejoining the Paris Accord and setting up new emission reduction targets, reversing many Trump-era actions. Future impacts for small businesses could include a carbon tax, tighter fuel restrictions, and potentially higher energy costs. The upside is more significant capital expenditure on infrastructure projects, including a 10-year, $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan, posing an opportunity for some small-cap businesses.
The hotly contested $15 minimum wage increase. Now is the time to contact your elected officials at usa.gov and explain pro or con impacts. These links will help you stay informed on actions that could help or hurt your small business: Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Commerce, Occupational Safety and Health or use a website like Govtrack.com (includes alerts and analysis) or Congress.gov. Contact your representative today and make your voice heard.
Do not be blind-sided by government actions that could affect re-building your business. Of course, Partnership Employment is here to help. Our experts recruit, select, and help onboard only the best candidates in their extensive pool of talent to get you up to speed with minimal downtime, leaving you to do what you do best – make your business a success. Contact us today!
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute the full scope of recent governmental actions. Make sure you consult a professional about your unique business needs.