On April 27th, the Senate confirmed the nomination of R. Alexander Acosta as the new labor secretary, making him the first Hispanic member of Trump’s cabinet. In his confirmation hearings, Acosta spoke of reinforcing the broader theme of Trump’s conservative agenda. Acosta was confirmed by a vote of 60-to-38, with strong Republican support along with eight Democrats and one independent in his favor.
Acosta’s previous experience may suggest how he will lead the Labor Department going forward. His first job after graduating Harvard law school, Acosta was a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Justice Alito is considered a conservative with a libertarian streak.
Acosta later served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights and then as a member of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In his role as labor secretary, Acosta will help nominate others to lead the department’s sub-agencies responsible for enforcement and policy.
This spring the Nevada legislature is looking to revise the State’s prevailing wage law. Two years ago, a Republican-backed bill amended the law, and now with Democratic support, it is likely to be modified once again.
Under the existing law, contractors doing any university or public school work exceeding $250,000 are required to pay prevailing wages. It also requires a 90 percent prevailing wage rate though there is an exemption for charter schools.
The proposed revisions would lower the threshold down to $100,000. It also would remove the 90 percent prevailing wage rate and require full pay for school and higher education projects, and eliminate the exemption for charter schools.
The legislature has been divided regarding prevailing wages, but these changes appear likely to pass the Assembly and Senate.
President Trump has nominated attorney Alexander Acosta to head the Labor Department. With over two decades of public service, Acosta has a reputation for having a competent management style and a distinct respect for justice which may provide some insight into how he may lead the Labor Department.
Currently, Acosta is the Chairman of U.S. Century Bank and dean of the Florida International University College of Law. But perhaps influencing his character and career direction most may have been his first job after graduating Harvard law school, where Acosta clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Justice Alito has been described as a conservative jurist with a libertarian streak; words also used at times to describe Acosta.
Later Acosta was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and then served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.
While at the NLRB it was reported that Acosta usually demonstrated an independent and nonpartisan approach when evaluating cases, often voting alongside fellow Republicans in favor of employers in the major cases while also not shying from occasionally siding with unions. However, during his time in the CRD, Acosta and those working under him were deemed as having a tendency to hire more like-minded conservatives.
Looking at Acosta’s previous work experiences may suggest that he is someone who could competently execute and reinforce the broader theme of Trump’s conservative agenda. At this time, Acosta has had several major unions endorse him, and surprisingly this has not discouraged his support within the business community. As it stands now, Republicans are looking to move him through the confirmation process as swiftly as possible.
Health insurance professionals have definitely felt the effects of changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act, as has the insurance industry as a whole. With some companies cutting commissions in response to medical loss ratio requirements, many brokers have seen substantial reductions in income. And while the new president has promised to make dramatic changes to the ACA, much remains to be seen about how and when those changes may take effect.
The $300 billion government-contractor market represents a huge opportunity for brokers who want to continue working in the health insurance industry. Federal contractors are required to spend a certain amount of money to provide benefits–including health insurance–to workers on contracts that fall under either the Davis- Bacon Act or the Service Contract Act. Many states and municipalities have similar laws and requirements as well.
Here are some of the advantages of working with government contractors:
Government contractors are required to pay workers what’s called a “prevailing wage,” which is determined by the Department of Labor and varies for each job classification on a contract. The wage determination includes both a base wage and a set amount to be spent on fringe benefits, including health insurance.
Help is available. There are third-party administrators that specialize in working with brokers and their government contractor customers. These TPAs can provide guidance when it comes to working with this niche market, and they can be a valuable resource when it comes to prospecting for new clients. Some providers that specialize in benefits for contractors working on Davis-Bacon Act projects handle the administration of the program for their contractor clients and offer a unique program called hour banking.
Administering health benefits for hourly employees can be very challenging. Hourly employees may not work a full week or full work year and it becomes very expensive to pay full monthly premiums for hourly employees. It is also very difficult to monitor eligibility and seasonal layoffs. One approach that many contractors will use is an hour bank, which is designed to manage the seasonality of the hourly work force and manage the true cost of employer-paid health benefits by tracking the health premiums by the hour instead of per month.
Hour banking is a way for employees to put extra hours worked (or the equivalent hourly premium) during peak construction periods into a “bank.” If there’s a slowdown in work due to weather or a lag between contracts, the employees can then draw from these banked hours and premium to extend coverage for themselves and their families. This is especially beneficial for contractors that work on projects in several states and across multiple job sites, as well as for those with employees who perform work in different job classifications. Hour banking breaks the monthly premium into an hourly rate, which makes tracking and accounting much easier for the employer. This significantly simplifies the accounting process and reduces the chance of overpayment of benefits. Having a per-hour cost for benefits is also a great strength when contractors are preparing bids.
For brokers interested in working with government contractors, the first step is learning about the Davis-Bacon Act and the Service Contract Act, as well as any state and local prevailing wage laws in your area. Partners can help you understand the basics of prevailing wage and how to develop business in the $300 billion government contractor market. The Prevailing Wage Resource Book is available on the U.S. DOL website at www.dol.gov/whd/recovery/ pwrb/toc.htm. The DOL also holds several free prevailing wage workshops throughout the country each year. The schedule can be found at www.dol.gov/whd/govcontracts/ PrevailingWageConferences.htm.
Working with government contractors provides brokers with a real opportunity to become a valued partner and resource for companies in a highly regulated environment. It’s a stable market sector with hundreds of billions of dollars of opportunity each year. And it opens up a whole new area of business with commissioned sales of health insurance, as well as opportunities to sell supplemental benefits and retirement plans.
John Allen is a regional vice president for Fringe Benefit Group, which has been helping brokers and government contractors design and administer fringe benefit programs since 1983. John joined Fringe Benefits in 2004 and has won numerous sales awards there. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1983 and has been in sales ever since. He can be reached at 800-635-6912 or email@example.com. For more information on government contractor opportunities, visit www.thecontractorsplan.com.
America’s Benefit Specialist – Jan/Feb 2017
Finding Opportunity in a Changing Landscape
John G. Allen, CRPS
Regional Vice President
Fringe Benefit Group
While a federal infrastructure plan has been a topic of discussion of the new administration, no clear plan has yet to emerge. Despite this, many states are pressing forward with their infrastructure investment plans.
Here is a list of several states and what their efforts are focusing on:
A consistent theme among the various states appears to be the question of how to fund the projects and programs that are in need. For now, it appears that states will continue to have a central role in planning and funding the nation’s road and bridge projects.
There has been much discussion about an infrastructure spending bill getting traction once president-elect Trump takes office. During his campaign, Trump often spoke about rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, though an exact plan is not clear.
One major feature of Trump’s plan appears to be involving the private sector. Trump has spoken about unleashing $1 trillion worth of infrastructure investment over ten years by engaging the private sector with offers of $137 billion in federal tax credits to those private investors who want to back transportation projects.
The tax credits are intended to help finance a significant share of the nation’s infrastructure needs and would serve as a critical supplement to existing financing programs, public-private partnerships, America bonds, and other funding opportunities. However, this may only work on some projects, specifically those that generate revenue.
Trump has also discussed a desire to explore new policy ideas. Establishing a national infrastructure bank is one consideration, which has been favored by Democrats. Also under consideration is the idea of taxing corporate earnings that are stored abroad when the money returns to the US and using that revenue to pay for infrastructure spending. This second option is more favored by Republicans, but regardless there appears to be a willingness to examine a variety of policy opinions.
A new rule from the Department of Labor, which would have made millions of Americans eligible for overtime pay, was blocked by a federal judge yesterday. The decision indefinitely pushes back the December 1 effective date while the judge weighs a challenge to the requirement. An estimated 4.2 million workers were to be newly eligible for time-and-a-half wages for each hour they put in beyond 40 a week under the new rule.
What does it mean for you?
This is a nationwide preliminary injunction which means no one needs to immediately comply with the changes. The Court believes rule challengers are likely to prevail on merits. The challenge will also give the new Trump administration an easy path to withdraw new rules if it wants to.
The IRS has extended the due dates for furnishing 2016 Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to covered individuals and full-time employees, respectively, from January 31, 2017, to March 2, 2017.
In addition, the IRS is also extending good faith penalty relief to reporting entities who can show they made good faith efforts to comply with the calendar year 2016 information reporting requirements.
To read the entire IRS release, Click Here.
A webinar was hosted by FBG on Tuesday, November 15th, covering the recent Fair Pay Final Rule. The webinar was presented by our partner Leslie Stout-Tabackman, who is a Principal at Jackson Lewis P.C.
She discussed what you need to know about the new regulations, how it could impact your organization, and what contractors should be doing now, including:
If you were unable to attend, you can view a recording of the webinar by clicking here.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued its final rule that requires federal contractors to provide paid sick leave. The sick leave final rule implements Executive Order 13706, signed by President Obama back in Sept. 2015, to require contractors to provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave annually to their employees beginning in 2017. A covered employee can earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
The final rule allows employees to use paid leave in cases of illness or injury of the employee or a family member; the need to obtain a diagnosis or receive medical care; or the need for leave results from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
The final rule will apply to all covered contracts solicited and awarded on or after Jan. 1, 2017. Federal contracts covered by final rule include: