April 1, 2020

Growing Public Commitments to Avoid Layoffs

As the unemployment rate skyrockets, a growing number of companies are looking to counter the broader trend with a commitment to avoid layoffs, perhaps sometimes to get ahead of any government push to force the issue. GPG is tracking those announcements here, showing at least temporary commitments not to cut jobs across financial, technology and delivery services. The job pledges are a way of publicly demonstrating care for employees and can help win support fromAmericans who want to see companies take action to help. To be sure, many employers aren’t seeing a choice as the economic impact of the outbreak has dried up revenue for payroll. While many restaurants have been forced to slash jobs amid stay at home orders, Starbucks is pledging to pay employees for at least 30 days. Even in hard-hit Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city has ruled out city government layoffs at this point. On a side note, don’t miss the mayor’s lighthearted stay home videos, proving humor can sometimes be an effective communications tool even amid a crisis.

Congress Working on Pandemic Insurance Backstop

Even before work was complete on the coronavirus relief package President Trump signed into law last week, there was talk on Capitol Hill about a federal Pandemic Risk Insurance program. The idea would be to provide a government backstop to cap the total insurance losses an insurer would face in a future pandemic, similar to the Terrorism Risk Insurance program created in the wake of 9/11. Right now, most business interruption insurance and commercial property insurance plans do not cover losses due to a pandemic. However, when the U.S. economy eventually restarts there will undoubtedly be a demand from all industries and capital markets for pandemic insurance coverage. The House Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee are currently working on how to structure a federal Pandemic Risk Insurance program to address this need. It is likely to be considered for inclusion in the next round of coronavirus relief legislation.

Is Telehealth Here to Stay?

Many of our health care clients are adapting and implementing new telehealth technology faster than they ever thought they could. See how one health system is adapting here. With legislative and regulatory barriers no longer standing in the way, telehealth is on the rise to help lessen the burden on emergency rooms and prevent the spread of COVID-19. We’re watching if this is will lead to permanent widespread use of telehealth or if the status quo will return after the COVID-19 crisis is under control. Recently passed legislation only allows for Medicare coverage and payment for telehealth services on a temporary and emergency basis, blunting its continued growth. Beyond COVID-19 telehealth services, telehealth provides increased access to services for many Americans, like older adults and those who live in rural locations or areas with physician shortages. Taking away services that benefit millions of Americans is not typically a popular option for politicians. As more Americans experience the benefits of telehealth, will we ever be able to go back to the way things were? Time will tell.

Choose Your News on The Future of Work

The coronavirus outbreak has increased focus on the importance of gig workers and “essential” jobs that previously were thought of as low-skill. Protests across these sectors erupted this week and social media has Increased attention on these types of jobs and the importance of unions, especially during the pandemic. But their standing is still being debated, as demonstrated by differing media coverage Wednesday. Axios reported on a rising new labor movement fueled by concerns that workers deemed essential during the crisis are putting their lives at risk to ensure the well-being of others, especially those who do not earn a living wage such as some grocery and delivery jobs. Meanwhile, Vox sees a future with increased automation replacing some of these jobs, such as robots in factories and kiosks instead of cashiers retail and restaurants.

New Cases Shift to the South

Southern states are beginning to see the highest percentage growth of new cases, according to a GPG analysis Wednesday of data compiled by the New York Times. The analysis showed Georgia, Louisiana, Missouri and Virginia emerging as the four top states in terms of percentage growth in new cases. Politico reported more rural areas are beginning to feel the impact of the outbreak, with Texas Gov. Greg Abbot initially resisting social distancing measures since urban areas seemed to be the hot spot. But now that half of Texas counties have cases, Abbot is strengthening guidance. New York is still getting the largest number of new cases by day with another 8,658 Tuesday, but the Empire State has already identified so many infections that their rate of growth is lower. As testing becomes more prevalent in a state, it makes sense their rates will spike and then flatten as the rate of growth is stunted. Politico reported some good news – the virus spread is slowing on the West Coast, where the crisis first hit and strict social distancing measures were quickly put in place.