In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
Would You Forego Vacation to Get Student Loan Relief?
Starting in 2020, Tennessee-headquartered insurance company UNUM will be offering its U.S.-based employees a creative twist on an increasingly popular employee perk. The company will offer to pay money towards an employee’s student loans if the employee foregoes 5 paid vacation days. This equates to an average of about $1,200 per year. The benefit would also be paid to parents who share responsibility for their child(ren)’s loans.
UNUM, whose website states that it has approximately 10,000 employees, 85,000 of whom work in the U.S., estimates that 30% of its workforce is likely to take advantage of this benefit. UNUM’s internal research shows that its employees carry an average of $32,000 in debt and owe payments of $350 per month. UNUM employees get at least 28 days of paid time off, which is nearly double the 15 paid days off the average American worker receives according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With employees taking on more responsibility at work and foregoing vacation anyway, this unique benefit may be a win/win for employers and employees alike. On the other hand, it may pressure employees to skip much needed and deserved breaks from work to refresh and recharge to avoid burnout. Would you forego vacation to get student loan relief?
Buy American Revamp – President Issues New Executive Order
On January 31, 2019, the President issued an Executive Order intended to strengthen Buy-American principles in Federal financial assistance programs. The Order states that it is the policy of the executive branch to maximize the use of goods, products, and materials produced in the United States, in Federal procurements and through the terms and conditions of Federal financial assistance awards. The Order provides that within 90 days the head of each executive department and agency administering a “covered program” shall encourage recipients of new “Federal financial assistance” awards to use, to the greatest extent practicable, iron and aluminum as well as steel, cement, and “other manufactured products” produced in the United States in every contract, subcontract, purchase order, or sub award that is chargeable against such Federal financial assistance award. The executive departments and agencies must also provide a report with a detailed explanation of the strategy, plan, or program developed to satisfy the requirements of the Order.
As used in the Order a “covered program” means any program for which a focus of the statutory authorities under which it is administered is the award of Federal financial assistance for the alteration, construction, conversion, demolition, extension, improvement, maintenance, reconstruction, rehabilitation, or repair of an “infrastructure project” in the United States. “Federal financial assistance” is defined as assistance that non–Federal entities receive or administer in the form of: (1) Grants; (2) Cooperative agreements; (3) Non-cash contributions or donations of property (including donated surplus property); (4) Direct appropriations; (5) Food commodities; and (6) Other financial assistance, but does not include Loans; Loan Guarantees; Interest subsidies; or Insurance. In addition, the Order defines “manufactured products” as items and construction materials composed in whole or in part of non-ferrous metals such as aluminum; plastics and polymer-based products such as polyvinyl chloride pipe; aggregates such as concrete; glass, including optical fiber; and lumber.
As noted, the Order is intended to cover “infrastructure projects,” however, that term is provided a new expansive definition. Infrastructure projects in the Order includes surface transportation, including roadways, bridges, railroads, and transit; aviation; ports, including navigational channels; water resources projects; energy production, generation, and storage, including from fossil-fuels, renewable, nuclear, and hydroelectric sources; electricity transmission; gas, oil, and propane storage and transmission; electric, oil, natural gas, and propane distribution systems; pipelines; stormwater and sewer infrastructure; drinking water infrastructure; broadband internet and cybersecurity.
In addition to the 90 day report required, the Order also requires the executive departments and agencies within 120 days to identify any trade and manufacturing policy, any tools, techniques, terms, or conditions that have been used or could be used, in furtherance of the policy set forth in the Order, to maximize the use of iron and aluminum as well as steel, cement, and other manufactured products produced in the United States in contracts, sub-contracts, purchase orders, or sub-awards that are chargeable against Federal financial assistance awards for infrastructure projects.
If you are providing work, goods, services, supplies or equipment on federal or federal funded infrastructure projects, now is the time to review your supply chain and make sure that you are compliant with the new dictates of this Executive Order under the expanded definitions. In addition, such contractors need to monitor the reports being issued by the executive departments and agencies subject to this Order to see what new plans and policies will be proposed.
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