By: Jason Miller, Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget
On September 9, President Biden announced his Path Out of the Pandemic: COVID-19 Action Plan. The President’s plan is science-based, and one of its main goals is to get more people vaccinated. The vaccination requirements in the plan cover an estimated 100 million Americans – two-thirds of all workers in the United States. By using regulatory and other actions to substantially increase the number of Americans covered by vaccination requirements, the President’s plan will reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans.
In addition to the President signing an Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees that requires Federal executive branch employees to be vaccinated, he also signed an Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors that will require Federal contractors to apply the same rules. Put simply, if you want to work for the Federal Government, you need to be vaccinated. And if you want to do business with the Federal Government, you must vaccinate your workforce.
The actions directed by the order will ensure that parties who contract with the Federal Government provide adequate COVID-19 safeguards in locations with individuals working on or in connection with a Federal Government contract or contract-like instrument. The required safety protocols will apply to any employees working in those workplace locations. These safeguards will decrease the spread of COVID-19, which will decrease worker absence, reduce labor costs, and improve the efficiency of contractors and subcontractors at sites where they are performing work for the Federal Government.
By September 24, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (“Task Force”) will issue guidance on workplace safety protocols that will be required of contractors and subcontractors. Federal contractors will be required to conform to the following protocols:
- Vaccination of covered Federal contractor employees;
- Compliance by covered contractor employees with the Task Force’s requirements related to masking and physical distancing while in covered worksites; and
- Designation by contractors of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered worksites.
By October 8, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will take initial steps to provide appropriate policy direction to agency acquisition offices, through a deviation process as laid out in FAR Subpart 1.4.
The order applies to:
- New contracts and new contract-like instruments for services, construction, leasehold interest in real property, or concessions;
- New solicitations for such contracts or contract-like instruments;
- Extensions or renewals of existing such contracts or contract-like instruments; and
- Exercises of options on existing such contracts or contract-like instruments.
On or after October 15, agencies will begin to include a clause incorporating the COVID-19 workplace safety protocol in these contracts, contract-like instruments, solicitations, extensions, renewals, or exercises of options.
The order does not apply to:
- Contracts under the Simplified Acquisition Threshold (at or less than $250K in total contract value);
- Contracts, contract-like instruments, or agreements with Indian Tribes under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (P.L. 93-638), as amended;
- Contractor employees who perform work outside the United States or its outlying areas; or
- Contracts, contract-like instruments, or contracts, contract-like instruments, or subcontracts solely for the provision of products.
The order also sets out a process for OMB, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, and the FAR Council to update the COVID-19 workplace safety protocols and guidance for Federal contractors, which the Task Force will consider based on future changes to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance and as warranted by the circumstances of the pandemic and public health conditions.
The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force and the FAR Council look forward to working with the Federal acquisition community and Federal contractors on these important steps to protect the health and safety of millions of workers across the country.