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Lawmakers and Professional Association Call for Extension of COVID Leave Reimbursement Provision for Contractors

CARES Act section allowing flexibility for agencies to reimburse contractors for sick or paid leave is set to expire next month.

A bipartisan pair of senators and a large contracting association are urging congressional leadership to extend leave reimbursement flexibilities for federal contractors impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Section 3610 of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act allows federal agencies to use their funds to give contractors sick or paid leave during the pandemic if they are not able to access their worksites or telework. Although the Trump administration first issued guidance last March advising agencies to “maximize telework” for contractors, that is not possible for many, including some involved in sensitive or classified work. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and ranking member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sent a letter to the Senate majority and minority leaders asking them to extend Section 3610 until September 30, 2021, through either free-standing legislation or “as a provision on the next appropriate legislative vehicle.” It is currently set to expire on March 31, after the most recent extension from the fiscal 2021 appropriations and COVID package enacted in late-December. 

“We believe extending this authority given the prolongation of the global pandemic is crucially important to the resilience of our national security industrial base,” the senators wrote. “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.” 

The letter was first reported by Federal News Network.

Rubio and Warner introduced standalone legislation for the extension on Thursday as well.

The Professional Services Council, which represents over 400 companies that contract with the federal government, is also calling for an extension. It sent a letter to House and Senate leadership on February 16 with its request and was one of 11 groups, including the National Defense Industrial Association, to send another similar letter on Thursday.

“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 PSC, in a statement on Thursday. “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.”

PSC Executive Vice President for Government Relations David Broome said, “the contracting community would face significant disruption,” if the section expires. “Adding an extension of the Section 3610 authority to the appropriate legislative vehicle is the right thing to do and would not require additional funding.” 

The letters didn't mentioned President Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package specifically. Congress is in the middle of hammering out the details of that measure.

The most recent version upon which the House Rules Committee is expected to vote Friday afternoon does not include the extension. After the full House takes up the relief bill, which is expected to happen later on Friday, it will go to the Senate, where there could be additional proposed changes. Therefore, it is unclear yet if the final package will include the extension.

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