North Texas Employers, Congressional Delegation React to Vaccine Mandate

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There’s praise and criticism following President Joe Biden’s executive orders requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for approximately 100-million American workers.

Large employers in North Texas are considering their next steps and how they’re going to implement the mandates for those workers unwilling to get the shot.

At El Rancho Supermarket in Garland, safety comes with sacrifice.

They’ve been offering employees $200 incentives to get vaccinated against the virus.

“We’re doing it because we care about the community. We want the community to be open and we want them to be safe and we want to work in a safe environment,” said vice president of operations Guillermo Washington.

The large North Texas employer with several locations welcomes President Biden’s directive.

Private employers with 100 or more workers must soon require employees get a COVID-19 vaccine or be tested weekly.

The mandate led the discussion during a Congressional panel hosted by the Dallas Regional Chamber on Friday.

Members of the North Texas Congressional delegation discussed several topics including budget, infrastructure, health, and workforce issues.

Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson, Marc Veasey, Colin Allred, and Beth Van Duyne were in attendance.

“I don’t think the president wanted to do this,” said Rep. Allred regarding the sweeping mandates. “I think it’s something that was forced upon him.”

The delegation was asked to weigh in on the fact that the American Hospital Association says the president’s policy may ‘may result in exacerbating the severe workforce shortage problems that currently exist.’

“I don’t see that being a problem because you don’t have to get the vaccine with this order,” said Allred. “You can also do weekly testing. This is about public health.”

The Texas Restaurant Association is also expressing concerns, releasing a statement saying:

‘Texas restaurants share President Biden’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who are fully vaccinated to combat the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, we must acknowledge the burden the new mandate places on an industry that is already seeing its hard-fought recovery reverse because of a critical labor shortage, food costs that are rising at their fastest rate in seven years, and declining revenue. To make matters worse, this announcement comes during the same month when a tax credit that helps restaurants and other small businesses provide paid leave to employees obtaining a COVID-19 vaccine is currently set to expire.’

“To add additional taxes and regulations right now at a time when you’re already struggling to hire people to keep your doors open, I think is the exact opposite direction we need to go,” said Rep. Van Duyne.

Healthcare consulting firm PCS Advisors helps mid-size and large employers across the country navigate healthcare costs.

“You’ve got 28% of American employees who say they are willing to lose their job before getting vaccinated. I don’t think that changed as a result of the president’s speech yesterday,” said Paul Seegert, managing partner at PCS Advisors.

Seegert tells NBC 5 their North Texas clients are ‘not thrilled’ about the mandates.

There are still many unresolved issues as to the implementation of the policy, including the added costs like weekly testing.

“Who pays for that,” asks Seegert.

PCS is cautioning its clients about their added liability, should they defy the executive order.

“The penalties that have been announced $14,000 per violation are so significant that I think most [employers] will grudgingly go along if they’re not in favor of this for fear of this massive penalty,” he said. “It is something employers should take seriously. We have seen companies that have not taken the Affordable Care Act seriously and the reporting requirements associated with it. They thought ‘they’ll never get to me’ and they’re getting notices today. The government is collecting billions of dollars in ACA fines.”

It is a risk some are not willing to take.

“When it’s required by the law, we’re going to follow the law,” said Washington.

The President issued vaccination mandates for other workers as well. It includes most federal government workers like the 17 million workers at nursing home facilities and hospitals that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds. Staff of federal Head Start and Early Head Start programs are also included in the mandate.

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