OSHA Releases COVID-19 National Emphasis Program

On March 12, 2021, OSHA released a much-anticipated response to protect workers from COVID-19 as directed by President Biden’s Executive Order on protecting worker health and safety. A COVID-19 National Emphasis Program (NEP) has been developed, focusing on companies with the largest percentage of workers exposed to serious risk, in addition to prioritizing employers that retaliate against workers who file complaints or exercise their rights as protected by federal law and regulations.
The new NEP, while highlighting many General Industry examples and exposures, provides guidance in inspection procedures that will be initiated immediately as of the effective date with targeted inspections beginning two weeks later. Construction is listed in the secondary targeted industries for this COVID-19 NEP under “Appendix B, Table 1 – Supplemental Industries for Non-Healthcare in Essential Infrastructure” of the document. View the program directive by clicking here.

IRS Provides Guidance for Employers

On March 1, 2021, the IRS issued guidance for employers claiming the employee retention credit under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), as modified by the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Relief Act), for calendar quarters in 2020. The guidance in Notice 2021-20 is similar to the information in the employee retention credit FAQs, but includes clarifications and describes retroactive changes under the new law applicable to 2020, primarily relating to expanded eligibility for the credit.
For 2020, the employee retention credit can be claimed by employers who paid qualified wages after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021, and who experienced a full or partial suspension of their operations or a significant decline in gross receipts. The credit is equal to 50 percent of qualified wages paid, including qualified health plan expenses, for up to $10,000 per employee in 2020. The maximum credit available for each employee is $5,000 in 2020.
A significant change for 2020 made by the Relief Act permits eligible employers that received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to claim the employee retention credit, although the same wages cannot be counted both for seeking forgiveness of the PPP loan and calculating the employee retention credit. Notice 2021-20 explains when and how employers that received a PPP loan can claim the employee retention credit for 2020.
Notice 2021-20 also provides answers to questions such as: who are eligible employers; what constitutes full or partial suspension of trade or business operations; what is a significant decline in gross receipts; how much is the maximum amount of an eligible employer’s employee retention credit; what are qualified wages; how does an eligible employer claim the employee retention credit; and how does an eligible employer substantiate the claim for the credit.
While the Relief Act also extended and modified the employee retention credit for the first two calendar quarters in 2021, Notice 2021-20 addresses only the rules applicable to 2020. The IRS plans to release additional guidance soon addressing the changes for 2021. A page on www.irs.gov is devoted to providing information to businesses on all aspects of the CARES Act.
Taken from IRS Newswire Dated March 1, 2021

New Guidance on Protecting Workers

On Friday, January 29, 2021, OSHA released a press notice on new guidance related to protecting workers and mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. This guidance is in response to the Presidential Executive Order issued by President Joe Biden to address worker health and safety related to the Coronavirus and COVID-19.

To answer this executive order, OSHA has reiterated that Face Coverings and Employer developed COVID-19 Prevention Programs are key in addressing the current pandemic facing the nation. The new guidance does include references to existing health and safety standards and how those regulations can provide guidance to employers.

Read the full NECA Legal Alert by clicking here.

ELECTRI International Releases New Research Report

Prefabrication is any activity or work moved away from the final point of installation to be performed in a controlled, hence safer, and more productive off-site environment. Pre-fab reduces the number of manipulations for final completion and installation on-site. Yet, today, fewer than 5% of electrical construction companies are using prefabrication.

Contractors need a practical way to track and quantify the benefits of prefabrication. Business owners, estimators and project managers need both confidence and knowledge about the cost-saving potentials of prefab so they can account for prefabrication when bidding potential work.

ELECTRI International commissioned MCA, Inc. to conduct a deep-dive study of prefabrication to help the EC Industry focus on risk mitigation, higher predictability of cost, quality of work, and profits. In addition to specific recommendations, the researchers produced an excel-based prefabrication calculator to help contractors translate the total savings into an equivalent composite rate as a practical method for “pricing” estimates with prefabrication. Click here to download a copy of the report.

2021 Project Excellence Award Program

The Northern California Chapter, NECA Member Services Committee is proud to announce its 14th Annual Project Excellence Awards competition. This program was developed to recognize excellence in electrical/technology installations and the NECA contractors responsible for their outstanding achievements.

Projects completed between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, in Alameda, Calaveras, Mariposa, Merced, Napa, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tuolumne Counties are eligible for entry.
If you would like to enter a project in the 2021 competition for projects completed in 2020, please click here and you will be directed to the Entry Form. Entries must be submitted to the Chapter office by 2:00 PM on Monday, March 1, 2021. Awards will be presented at the Chapter’s Fall General Member meeting in September 2021.
More information on each project, including photos can be found by clicking here.

2021 Construction Outlook: Hold Tight With an End in Sight

What a wild roller coaster ride we took in 2020. The year began amid a historic but softening US economic expansion. Then COVID-19 struck. The descent was brutal. An earlier-than-forecast recession took hold, hitting the construction industry hard. COVID-19 containment, vaccine roll-outs and therapeutics will hover over the coming months. Expect a slow heal extending into 2022. There will be dips, rises and a few turns in 2021. The ride is not over, but growth is returning. Click here to read more.

NECA Podcast Network Launches with “Innovation Overload”

On January 14, 2021, NECA launched the NECA Podcast Network (NPN), featuring regular content across a range of critical industry issues. The series of podcasts will cover the latest technology, labor relations and safety guidance, and the latest news and updates from the world of NECA.

The first podcast, available now, is “Innovation Overload,” created by NECA’s Technology Innovation team. This podcast helps contractors make sense of these tools and decide what is right for their business. Each week, the NECA Innovation Team and a weekly guest discuss and decide what is right for their business. Each week, the NECA Innovation Team and a weekly guest discuss and tackle problems contractors across the country are facing. New episodes are released every Thursday.

  • Episode #1 features Dan Shea, COO of Shea Electric in Oshkosh, WI, who shares his journey and passion as an electrical contractor. Listen to his thoughts on how to overcome fear culture in the midst of change.
  • Episode #2 features Sean Lazarian, CFO of ESSCO in Pasadena, CA, who shares his experience of embracing change while running a third-generation-owned business. Listen on how to pit fear against fear in order to overcome those who are risk adverse.

All NPN podcasts were created to engage and excite NECA members across the country, as well as provide an outlet for NECA experts to share their knowledge and experience with the industry. The NECA Podcast Network will continue to expand with new shows throughout 2021 and into the future, covering all aspects of the electrical contracting world.

NECA EARN Webinar

NorCal NECA’s Member Services Committee invites you to join us for a 30-minute Zoom webinar:

  • Date:  Tuesday, February 9, 2021
  • Time:  10:00 AM – 10:30 AM
  • Purpose:  Higher learning through Education Advancement Resource Network

National NECA is partnering with institutions of higher education on degree and certificate programs. Specifically curated for individuals in electrical construction firms, these programs will allow people across firms to grow in their roles. NECA EARN is working with seven world-class universities to offer a wide selection of programs – ranging from non-credit certificate programs to graduate degrees. You can view the full catalog of offerings by clicking here.

You can also access a teaser video of NECA EARN by clicking here. Please contact Juanita Mitchell at the Chapter office if you are interested in attending this valuable webinar.

State Minimum Wage Increases January 1, 2021

Please remember that in 2016, California passed legislation to increase the State minimum wage to $15.00 per hour over time. Under the provisions of that law, California’s minimum wage will increase on January 1, 2021 to $14.00/hour for employers with 26 employees or more, and to $13.00/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.

Please note that some cities and counties have a local minimum wage that is higher than the state rate. Those cities and counties can be found here.

Take Action on PPP Loan Forgiveness

NECA and a coalition of organizations have signed a letter urging Congress to enact legislation before the end of the year that includes a technical correction addressing the tax treatment of loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
The CARES Act clearly stated that any portion of a PPP loan that qualified for loan forgiveness “shall be excluded from gross income” for tax purposes. In contradiction to Congressional intent, the IRS issues Notice 2020-32, which specified that “no deduction is allowed under the Internal Revenue Code…if the payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a covered loan pursuant to section 1106(b) of the [CARES Act].”
NECA encourages you to Take Action and tell your representative to act before the end of the year to ensure PPP loan forgiveness is not considered taxable income.