These Frequently Asked Questions have been developed to help address the impact COVID-19 may have on the State's workforce and operations. They are designed to help leadership, management, Human Resources Directors, Procurement Directors, Department Controllers, and all state employees (both classified and non-classified) navigate topics related to human resources, including staffing, leave, benefits, and workers' compensation and procurement, including purchasing, contracting, and contract management.
If you have questions regarding these FAQs, please direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Updated: 08/15/2022
Statewide COVID-19 Vaccination & Serial Testing Requirements Universal Policy Repealed
Beginning Aug. 15, 2022, the Statewide COVID-19 Vaccination and Serial Testing Requirements Universal Policy for State employees is repealed. State agencies will determine whether to implement their own policies and requirements on this matter. Any policies and requirements adopted at the State agency-level must be in compliance with Public Health Order 20-38 and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance issued July 12, 2022.
State of Colorado employees should work with their agency human resources office if they have questions about their agency's policy.
Q: Do contractors, consultants, volunteers, and others reporting to work at a state facility need to adhere to the requirements?
A: For more information on contractor requirements, visit the COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements for State Contractors FAQ page.
Q: Is it a HIPAA violation to require someone to be vaccinated, or to disclose their vaccine status?
A: It is not a HIPAA violation. It is within an employer’s right to require a vaccination or ask whether or not an employee has received a vaccine as a matter of workplace safety. Furthermore, the ADA permits employers to ask for an employee’s reasoning if the employee refuses to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, assuming that an unvaccinated employee would pose a threat to the health and safety of others. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services: “In general, the HIPAA Rules do not apply to employers or employment records. HIPAA only applies to HIPAA covered entities – health care providers, health plans, and health care clearinghouses – and, to some extent, to their business associates. If an employer asks an employee to provide proof that they have been vaccinated, that is not a HIPAA violation, and employees may decide whether to provide that information to their employer.” However, an employer can issue corrective and/or disciplinary action, up to and including termination if an employee does not comply with the employer’s mandated vaccination or attestation policy and refuses to be vaccinated, absent an exemption or reasonable accommodation, or disclose their vaccination status whether vaccinated or not.
Q: Do State agencies have the legal authority to require COVID-19 vaccinations and testing?
A: Yes, an employer has the legal authority to require testing and vaccination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission laws do not prevent employers from inquiring about an employee's vaccination status or requiring all employees to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19, although religious and medical exemptions and reasonable accommodation requests shall be addressed as required by law.
Q: How will employee confidentiality be maintained?
A: All vaccination status information and testing data will continue to be under HR control.
Q: What is COWINS position on the repeal of the Statewide policy for State employees?
A: Please contact COWINS at 719-545-0677 or via email at email@example.com.
Q: Where can we find the latest updates on COVID-19 in general?
A: Please visit the State of Colorado's COVID-19 website or the Center for Disease Control website for general updates on the virus. This is where the most recent and accurate information on the virus can be found.
Q: What is the guidance around informing state employees, building residents, meeting participants, or the public if there has been a positive case in the workplace?
A: First and foremost, as with any medical condition, confidentiality around an employee's health should be maintained to comply with federal regulations (FMLA, ADA, HIPAA). You may not disclose the identity of the infected employee. You may, however, provide general information (e.g. affected building, floor, or dates of exposure) that an employee has been infected to allow employees to monitor themselves for signs of symptoms. Employees should then be informed of any mitigating strategies that will be employed to ensure the safety of the work area, as well as modifications to their schedule or workplace. You should also immediately inform your executive leadership, who will take the lead in both discussions with CDPHE and also communicate about any closures.
Q: What are the requirements for paying exempt (salary) employees if they are unable to complete a full day or week of work?
A: The exempt employee must receive a full day's pay for the partial day worked if they are ready, willing, able, and engaged to work. Should the employee need to take time off for personal reasons, leave is used for the hours not worked.
Q. What are the requirements for paying non-exempt (hourly) employees if they are unable to complete a full day of work?
A: Non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked. There is no requirement to pay non-exempt employees for hours not worked. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, non-exempt employees who are ready, willing, able and engaged to work, will be placed on paid administrative leave when state facilities are closed and/or because they do not have the ability to work from home. Should the employee need to take time off for personal reasons, leave is used for the hours not worked.
Q: What plans does the State have to ensure that all State buildings are being cleaned well enough to prevent the virus from spreading?
A: DPA is working with custodial crews for capitol complex facilities to ensure they are following CDC and CDPHE guidelines in cleaning offices and following up-to-date best practices. Crews will continue to wipe down flat surfaces with necessary cleansers. They will not wipe down your computer or move documents or items in your office to clean under them. Agencies outside of capitol complex are working with their leasing partners to ensure prevention in their locations.
Q: Are we implementing the temporary suspension of payments on federal student loan garnishment?
A: At this time, federal student loan garnishments are not suspended under the CARES Act. Changes to garnishments cannot be made without direct orders to do so from the receiver.
Q: What are Exposure Notifications?
A: CO Exposure Notifications is a free and voluntary cell phone service developed in partnership with Google and Apple that can notify users of possible exposure to COVID-19. By opting in, your Android or iPhone device will share anonymous tokens with other CO Exposure Notifications users using your phone's Bluetooth. If another user you've been near tests positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, the service will notify you. If you test positive, you can easily and anonymously notify others to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Tokens contain no personal information or location data and everything is completely anonymous.
Knowing about a potential exposure allows you to self-quarantine immediately, get tested, and reduce the risk to your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers and community.
Android users can download CO Exposure Notifications on the Google Play store.
iPhone users can enable CO Exposure Notifications in their phone settings by finding Settings > Exposure Notifications > United States > Colorado.
Q: What responsibilities do employers have as it relates to the Americans with Disabilities Act?
A: The ADA and Rehabilitation Act rules continue to apply, but they do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the CDC or state/local public health authorities about steps employers should take regarding COVID-19.
Q: How much information may I request from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: During a pandemic, ADA-covered employers may ask such employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. Employers may ask an employee's plans to be tested and/or the results of their test. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with the ADA.
Q: What is Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)?
A: The Healthy Families Workplaces Act (HFWA) is a law that requires the State to provide employees with Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) for specified reasons related to a declared public health emergency (currently, COVID-19) effective January 1, 2021. The State will provide employees up to eighty (80) hours of paid leave (prorated for a part-time employee) during the entirety of a public health emergency even if such public health emergency is amended, extended, restated, or prolonged, and until four (4) weeks after the public health emergency leave ends. PHEL provisions replace the required emergency paid sick leave and public health emergency leave provisions of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which expired on December 31, 2020.
Q: What are the specific reasons for PHEL?
A: Eligible employees may take PHEL for the following reasons:
- Needing to self-isolate because the employee is diagnosed or experiencing symptoms of the communicable illness
- Seeking or obtaining medical diagnosis, care or treatment, preventative care, or care of such illness;
- Being exposed to, or experiencing symptoms of, such illness;
- Being unable to work due to a health condition that may increase susceptibility or risk of such illness;
- Caring for a child or other family member for reasons 1, 2, or 3 above, or whose school, child care provider, or other care provider is either unavailable, closed, or providing remote instruction due to the public health emergency; or
- Closure of the temporary employee's work location, and work cannot be performed remotely.
Q: Which employees are eligible for PHEL?
A: Regardless of tenure, all state employees are eligible including full-time and part-time employees, classified and non-classified, and temporary employees who are paid by the state.
Q: Can an employee take 80 hours of PHEL for self-quarantine and then another amount of PHEL for another reason provided under the Act?
A: Employees are limited to eighty (80) hours for a full-time employee (prorated for a part-time employee) of PHEL for any combination of the qualifying reasons. The total number of hours for which an employee receives PHEL is capped at eighty (80) hours during the entirety of a public health emergency even if such public health emergency is amended, extended, restated, or prolonged. Employees should work with their supervisor and agency human resources office if they have additional needs for leave.
Q: If an employee is home with a child because his or her school or place of care is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable, does the employee get PHEL?
A: If an employee is unable to work remotely, they may take PHEL to care for the child whose school or place of care is closed, or their child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons. PHEL provides for eighty (80) hours of paid leave, prorated for part-time employees.
Employees may use PHEL intermittently, up to eighty (80) hours, if they are able to work remotely or work on-site with an adjusted schedule. Employees are encouraged to work with their supervisors to see how flexible scheduling may allow them to use PHEL intermittently and continue to work on-site or remotely.
Q: Can an agency deny PHEL if an employee was given administrative leave and/or FFCRA related leave for a reason identified prior to the Act going into effect?
A: HFWA imposes a new leave requirement, PHEL, that the State must provide to employees beginning January 1, 2021 so agencies cannot deny the use of PHEL for eligible reasons. FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020 and should not be utilized.
Q: Does an employee qualify for leave for a COVID-19 related reason even if they have already used some or all of their leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
A: If an employee is an eligible employee, they are entitled to PHEL regardless of how much leave they have taken under the FMLA.
Q: Are the PHEL requirements retroactive?
A: The requirements take effect January 1, 2021 and cannot be applied retroactively.
Q: What documents do employees need to provide to their agency for PHEL?
A: Documentation is not required for PHEL. However, employees shall notify their supervisors or managers of their need for leave as soon as practicable if (1) the need for leave is foreseeable and (2) the employer's place of business is not closed.
Q: When are employees able to work remotely under the HFWA?
A: Employees may work remotely when their supervisor allows them to perform work while at home or at a location other than their normal workplace. Remote work is work for which normal wages must be paid and is not compensated under the paid leave provisions of the HFWA.
Q: What does it mean to be unable to work, including working remotely for COVID-19 related reasons?
A: Employees are unable to work if their agency has work for an employee and one of the COVID-19 qualifying reasons prevents an employee from being able to perform that work, either under normal circumstances at their normal worksite or by means of remote work.
If an employee and their supervisor agree that they will work their normal number of hours, but outside of the normally scheduled hours (for instance early in the morning or late at night), then the employee is able to work and leave is not necessary unless a COVID-19 qualifying reason prevents them from working that schedule.
Q: If an employee is or becomes unable to work remotely, are they entitled to PHEL?
A: If the supervisor permits remote work. For example, allows the employee to perform certain tasks or work a certain number of hours from home or at a location other than the normal workplace and the employee is unable to perform those tasks or work the required hours because of one of the qualifying reasons for PHEL, then they are entitled to take PHEL.
Q: Can an employee take PHEL intermittently while working remotely?
A: Yes, if the supervisor allows remote work and the employee is unable to work remotely within normal schedule of hours due to one of the qualifying reasons. In that situation, the employee and the supervisor may agree that PHEL can be taken intermittently while working remotely. Similarly, if an employee is prevented from working remotely within normal schedule of hours because they need to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, because of COVID-19 related reasons, the employee and the supervisor may agree that PHEL can be taken intermittently while working remotely.
Intermittent leave can be taken in any increment, provided that the employee and supervisor agree. For example, if a 90-minute increment is agreed upon, the employee could work remotely from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM, take leave from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM, and then return to remote work.
Agencies and supervisors are highly encouraged to collaborate with employees to achieve flexibility and meet mutual needs including voluntary arrangements that combine remote work and/or intermittent leave.
Q: Can an employee take PHEL intermittently while working at their usual worksite (as opposed to working remotely)?
A: It depends on why the PHEL is being taken and whether the supervisor agrees. Unless an employee is working remotely, PHEL must be taken in full-day increments and cannot be taken intermittently if it is taken for the qualifying reasons related to COVID-19.
Unless the employee is working remotely, once they begin taking PHEL for one or more of these qualifying reasons listed above, they must continue to take PHEL each day until they either (1) use the full amount of the PHEL or (2) no longer have a qualifying reason for taking PHEL. This limit is imposed because if an employee is sick or possibly sick with COVID-19, or caring for an individual who is sick or possibly sick with COVID-19, the intent of HFWA is to provide such PHEL as necessary to keep from spreading the virus to others.
Q: Can an employee take PHEL intermittently while a child's school or place of care is closed, or the child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons, if they are unable to work remotely and must report to work?
A: Yes, but only with the supervisor's permission. Intermittent PHEL is permitted only when an employee and their supervisor agree upon such a schedule. For example, if agreed upon, an employee may take PHEL on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but work Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Supervisor and employees should collaborate to achieve flexibility. Therefore, if supervisors and employees agree to intermittent leave on a day-by-day basis, such voluntary arrangements are encouraged.
Q: If an employee elects to take PHEL, must the State continue their healthcare coverage? If an employee remains on leave beyond the maximum period of PHEL, do they have a right to keep my healthcare coverage?
A: Employees are entitled to continued group healthcare coverage during your PHEL on the same terms as if they continued to work. The employee generally must continue to make any normal contributions to the cost of their health coverage.
Q: Do high-risk individuals qualify for the PHEL?
A: Yes, under the State of Colorado Public Health Order, individuals who are deemed high-risk by CDPHE are urged to remain home, and thus would be covered under HFWA. An employee shall notify their supervisor or manager of their need for leave as soon as practicable if (1) the need for leave is foreseeable and (2) the employer's place of business is not closed.
Q: Are employees who have been sent home by their agency due to possible exposure to COVID-19, but are asymptomatic, eligible for PHEL?
A: First, the option of remote work should be considered. Because the employee is now "high-risk" due to their exposure to COVID-19, they would be eligible for PHEL. An employee may take paid sick leave only if being subject to a public health order prevents them from working or working remotely. If they are not able to work remotely, they may be placed on PHEL to isolate them from other employees. If the employee exhausts the 80 hours of PHEL but subsequently becomes ill with COVID-19 and needs more time to recover, they should work with their supervisor and agency human resources office to determine additional leave options.
Q: Can parents who both work for the State each take PHEL to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons?
A: In the case that both caretakers work for the State, they may take PHEL at separate times to care for a child when necessary, as long as they are actually caring for a child and unable to work or telework as a result of providing that care. Generally, employees do not need to take such leave if a co-parent, co-guardian, or their usual child care provider is available to provide the care their child needs.
To the extent possible, agencies should consider developing alternative shifts to allow essential and critical employees to care for children and/or to maintain social distancing by minimizing the number of employees in the workplace.
The Colorado Office of Early Childhood provides resources to families in need. 2-1-1 Colorado can also help interested families. Families who need help in identifying child care and aren't in need of financial assistance can also reach out to Colorado Shines Child Care Referral for assistance, through any of the below methods:
Phone (toll free): 1-877-338-CARE (2273)
Text "child care referrals" to 898-211
Complete the child care online intake form
Q: When is an employee eligible for PHEL to care for someone who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order?
A: Employees may take PHEL to care for a family member who is, as a result of being subject to a quarantine or isolation order, unable to care for themselves and depends on the employee for care and if providing care prevents the employee from working either in person or remotely.
Furthermore, employees may only take PHEL to care for a family member who genuinely needs care. Qualifying "family" members are immediate family (related by blood, adoption, marriage, or civil union), a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis or a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor or anyone else for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health- or safety-related care.
Q: When is an employee eligible for PHEL to care for someone who is self-quarantining?
A: Employees may take PEHL to care for a self-quarantining individual who is an immediate family member or someone who regularly resides in their home if a health care provider has advised that individual to stay home or otherwise quarantine because they may have COVID-19 or is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and provision of care to that individual prevents them from working (or working remotely).
Q: Is the stay at home order considered an isolation order that the employee can claim 100% paid leave under the 80 hours of PHEL?
A: The stay-at-home order allows for employees of essential businesses (like the State) to report to work (or work remotely), so they would not be automatically eligible for PHEL under the order. If an employee is ill or at high risk for infection and cannot work remotely, the order urges those individuals to stay home and they would be eligible for PHEL. If the employee is choosing to self-isolate, without any orders from a medical professional, they would need to use accrued time.
Q: Would an employee who has a disabled adult child whose day facility has shut down due to COVID-19 be eligible for PHEL to care for the child?
A: In general, an employee may only take PHEL to care for a family member who genuinely needs care. Qualifying "family" members are immediate family (related by blood, adoption, marriage, or civil union), a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis or a person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a minor or anyone else for whom the employee is responsible for providing or arranging health- or safety-related care.
Q: If an employee is assisting in taking care of a grandchild due to a school or daycare closure during COVID-19, what leave would they be able to take?
A: Employees may use any accrued leave (annual, sick or compensatory) pursuant to rule 5-40 to help out with childcare.
Q: If a child's school is operating on a hybrid attendance schedule (e.g. alternate day in person with remote learning), can an employee take PHEL?
A: Yes, an employee may take PHEL on days when a child is not permitted to attend school in person and must instead engage in remote learning. For purposes of the HFWA, the school is effectively "closed" to a child on days that they cannot attend in person. An employee may take PHEL on each remote-learning day if their child requires care on those days and they are unable to work remotely.
Q: If a school gave a choice between having students attend in person or participate in a remote learning program and an employee chose the remote learning option due to concerns about COVID-19, can the employee take PHEL?
A: No, even if an employee chooses to keep a child at home, PHEL is not available to take care of a child whose school is open for in-person attendance. For the purposes of the PHEL, employees are not eligible to take paid leave because the child's school is not "closed." However, if a child is under a quarantine order or has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-isolate or self-quarantine due to COVID-19, employees may be eligible to take PHEL to care for the child.
Q: Can employees take paid leave under the HFWA if a child's school is beginning the school year under a remote learning program out of concern for COVID-19, but will continue to evaluate local circumstances and make a decision about reopening for in-person attendance later in the school year?
A: Yes, employees are eligible to take paid leave under the HFWA while a child's school remains closed. If a school reopens, the availability of paid leave under the HFWA will be available only on days when remote learning is required.
Q: If an employee has symptoms, can we force them to get tested?
A: If an employee has symptoms, they should be sent home immediately. You should encourage, but cannot require, them to call a healthcare provider, clinic, or hospital as the provider can give them instructions on whether they need to be tested and on where to go for care and testing. If instructed to seek care, they should follow the precautionary advice of the medical provider before going into any health facility. See CDPHE's guidance on testing. You may require an employee to be tested as a condition of returning to work.
Q: When can employees return to work following COVID-19-like symptoms?
A: Use the CDC Discontinuation of Home Isolation guidelines to determine if it's safe for an employee who has been out ill to return to work.
Q: What is the guidance around the use of leave sharing programs?
A: Employees who have leave available to donate may continue to utilize their agency's leave sharing program to support their colleagues during this period. Agencies should review their current program in conjunction with rules 5-8 and 5-9.
Q: What is the guidance around the use of overtime and/or comp time for employees called in to cover work for an infected employee?
A: Agencies are encouraged to evaluate their current policies to ensure they are able to allow payout of overtime if budgets allow. Overtime/Compensatory time must be granted only to non-exempt employees who are working more than 40 hours in their FLSA workweek. Exempt employees who are covering for absences may be granted incentive pay or paid administrative leave as recognition of their efforts based on an agency's existing compensation policies.
Q: Emergency rule 5-4 allows the roll over of up to 80 hours annual leave due to employees not having a reasonable opportunity to use their annual leave based on business necessity during the COVID-19 crisis. If the State of Disaster Emergency ends prior to June 30, is the rule no longer effective and leave would not be rolled over?
A: If an employee was precluded from taking leave as a result of business need during the State of Disaster Emergency, the employee would have the option to roll over 80 hours of that leave or have the leave paid out. Once the State of Disaster Emergency ends, employees who are precluded from taking annual leave because of business need will only be permitted to have the leave paid out.
Q: With emergency rules being effective April 1, can agencies retroactively apply emergency rule 5-7 back to the date of the declared state of emergency so employees can be allowed to go negative 40 hours in their sick leave bank and reassign sick hours that were unpaid (leave without pay) in March to a negative leave balance?
A: Emergency rule 5-7 cannot be applied retroactively before April 1. The emergency rule is effective the day it is signed by the State Personnel Director and expires in 120 days. The rule may be applied on the effective date and any date thereafter until it expires.
Q: Due to safety and health concerns related to COVID-19, many healthcare providers are treating patients for a variety of conditions, including those unrelated to COVID-19, via telemedicine. Telemedicine involves face-to-face examinations or treatment of patients by remote video conference via computers or mobile devices. Under these circumstances, will a telemedicine visit count as an in-person visit to establish a serious health condition under the FMLA?
A: The Wage and Hour Division will consider telemedicine visits to be in-person visits, and will consider electronic signatures to be signatures, for purposes of establishing a serious health condition under the FMLA. To be considered an in-person visit, the telemedicine visit must include an examination, evaluation, or treatment by a health care provider; be performed by video conference; and be permitted and accepted by state licensing authorities. This approach serves the public's interest because health care facilities and clinicians around the nation are under advisories to prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures and to preserve staff personal protective equipment and patient-care supplies.
Q: Where can state employees learn more about the vaccine and vaccine safety, etc.?
A: The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) website at covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine provides information and resources about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Frequently asked questions are available at covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine-faq.
Q: As an employer, can the State or State agencies mandate State employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine?
A: Yes. The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has more information regarding this on the EEOC website.
Q: What should an employee do if they receive the vaccine and exhibit side effects or symptoms?
A: An employee should notify their supervisor and be allowed to take Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) until their symptoms subside which generally should be no more than 48 hours. PHEL is limited to up to 80 hours (prorated for part-time).
Q: Should employees who have had COVID get vaccinated?
A: Information pertaining to this question is located under the topic Getting the COVID-19 vaccine of FAQs provided by CDPHE.
Q: What should the employer do if an employee has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and the employee's supervisor has reason to believe that the employee may have acquired the illness through exposure at work?
A: While determining whether an employee's contraction of COVID-19 is work-related can be difficult, it is important to follow normal protocols when an employee reports an alleged workers' compensation claim or occupational disease including:
- Completing one IOJ or incident investigation and paperwork.
- Providing the employee with a Designated Provider List.
- Reporting the claim to the State’s workers’ compensation TPA immediately
- The TPA will report the claim to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) Division of Workers’ Compensation (DOWC) within 10 days as required by law).
- If the employee missed work for more than 3 days or sustained permanent impairment, the TPA must file a First Report of Injury with the DOWC and either admit or deny the workers' compensation claim.
IMPORTANT: Agencies must report employee COVID-19 claims to Risk Management and the State’s workers’ compensation TPA if the employee, agency, or a supervisor knows or has reason to believe the employee contracted COVID-19 from work or could be fined by the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DOWC) up to $1,000 per day.
For example, if the employee tells a supervisor he believes he contracted the disease while working or there is a known outbreak at a particular employer location, that potential workers’ compensation claim must be reported to the State Office of Risk Management and the State’s workers’ compensation TPA within four days. The laws that require the State, through its TPA, to report claims to the DOWC are meant to ensure employees are being informed of their rights and the DOWC can properly supervise the enforcement of workplace health and safety laws.
An agency's failure to report these potential workers' compensation claims can result in stiff penalties being assessed against the State up to $1,000 per day. In most circumstances, SORM will require agencies to pay the penalties directly, instead of through the pool, including situations where an agency intentionally failed to report known or suspected work-related COVID claims to SORM or the State’s TPA.
Q: What if an employee who tests positive for COVID doesn't want to pursue a workers' compensation claim?
A: Some employees may not be interested in pursuing a claim for workers' compensation for a potentially work-related contraction of COVID-19. They may have been made whole by other benefits, including emergency sick leave under federal law. They may have been given administrative leave. They may want to avoid the additional paperwork and administrative burdens that come with filing a claim. They may also believe they contracted COVID outside of work. However, agencies are still under a legal obligation to report any employee with COVID-19 who the employer knows or believes contracted COVID at work and provide the designated provider list to the employee. In the event there are three days or more of lost time (off work) or permanent impairment, the State’s TPA for workers’ compensation is required to file a General Admission of Liability or a Notice of Contest.
In determining whether to file an Admission or a Notice of Contest, the State’s TPA will assist in gathering facts and speaking with the employee. If an employee reports that they do not want to pursue a workers' compensation claim, a Notice of Contest may be filed based on their written statement that they do not want to pursue the claim. No further action will be necessary on the employee's part.
Q: If COVID-19 is detected at a State facility or building, how will workers' compensation handle this?
A: Generally speaking, workers’ compensation does not cover communicable diseases, however it would depend on whether a causal relationship can be established. The exposure to COVID-19 has to be determined to be something that is unique to employment; the investigation would have to determine that the virus was transmitted via contact while at work or performing essential functions of the job. All claims of contracting the virus at work would need to be proven through an investigation. Any employees that believe they contracted the virus through work should file a claim as soon as possible.
Q. How can my commercial card limit be adjusted?
A. Agencies/IHEs can adjust limits of commercial cards as needed and appropriate. An agency/IHE chief fiscal officer (the top financial position in the State agency or Institution of Higher Education) can give approval to increase commercial card limits over $5,000. This approval does not waive the encumbrance requirement unless this is tied to a specific emergency purchase approved by the procurement official.
Q. My agency is not set up for electronic signatures. What alternatives do I have for expediting the signing of contracts?
A. OIT has offered to assist with contract signing for those agencies not yet using eSignature. Contact Noah Kaplan at OIT firstname.lastname@example.org for information on getting help with urgent or high priority contracts.
Q. Can our agency use fax signatures for contract approval?
A. Yes, fax signatures are acceptable for contract approval. Hard copies of the signatures should be sent subsequently to the agency/IHE. Also, agencies and vendors/grantees can use counterpart signatures which means parties can sign separately; they all do not need to sign the same signature page.
Q. Can an agency use an electronic signature from a vendor not approved by OIT, such as Adobe?
A. Adobe digital signatures do not meet OIT's security standards. OIT Procurement has offered to route other agencies' contracts through DocuSign. Contact Noah Kaplan email@example.com. Agencies can also use fax and counterpart signatures.
Q. Does the State have a force majeure or acts of God clauses in its contract templates so that vendor performance could be excused during this pandemic?
A. The State does not have such clauses in its templates because of the need for vendors to continue to provide services during an emergency such as this pandemic.
Q. What are the guidelines for design and construction contracts?
A. Please see the Office of the State Architect's (OSA) website under "State Buildings" and "Project Management Policies/Guidelines."
Q. An agency has a fixed price contract for services, such as armored car service. With the reduction in activity at the agency, should the department reduce its payment to the vendor for these services?
A. In accordance with the Governor's direction during the disaster declaration, an agency should continue to pay the amount in the fixed price contract.
Q. What flexibility does a State agency have with its vendors and grantees in meeting deliverables?
A. Agencies can provide vendors and grantees with some flexibility by not fully enforcing the terms of the contract without waiving any of the State's remedies as provided by the waiver section of the general terms and conditions. Agencies could extend deadlines and waive certain obligations at the discretion of the agency.
Q. What if a contractor does not meet milestones and still wants to be paid?
A. The State cannot pay for milestones that were not delivered by the contractor. The agency can pay a fair amount for the work performed.
Q. What if the contractor cannot meet future milestones because of the pandemic?
A. The agency should amend the contract to provide for a milestone delivery schedule that is consistent with current conditions.
Q. What if an agency is not able to meet its performance obligations due to staff being pulled from normal work to assist with this emergency?
A. In this case, the agency should amend the contract. The agency should decide how to proceed on a case-by-case basis, with alternatives of extending the contract with the same deliverables, modifying the deliverables, or stopping work and cancelling the contract.
Q. How does an agency handle a situation where a vendor or grantee is experiencing cash flow shortages?
A. In this case, the agency should prepare an evaluation of the benefits and risks of making an advance payment including non-performance. If the agency concludes that the benefits outweigh the risks, then the agency should request an advance payment waiver from the OSC. Contact Nate Weatherford at CCU firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Does the State have guidance available for terminating or reducing POs/contracts due to lack of funds?
A: Yes, see Contract Termination Due to Lack of Funds.
Q. What are the executive orders issued during the disaster emergency and which ones apply to procurement?
A. The Governor's Executive Order, D 2020 032, authorizes the temporary suspension of the following statutory requirements related to the State's procurement of goods and services that are reasonably necessary to save lives, mitigate the effects of the pandemic, prevent further spread of COVID-19, and protect against overwhelming our health care system. For more information, view the full Executive Order here.
Q. Is there guidance for State Agencies regarding personnel cost tracking on projects related to COVID-19?
A. Yes. Please see the PDF: Revised Guidance for State Agencies on Personnel Cost Tracking - COVID-19.
Q. What is the process for departments to submit COVID-19 costs for reimbursement?
A. This depends on whether the department received Disaster Emergency Fund allocations based on Executive Order for COVID-19 or not.
Expenditures Under Governor's Executive Order:
Departments receiving specific Disaster Emergency Fund allocations based on the Executive Order for COVID-19 are CDPHE, DOLA, CDLE, and DPA. For all other State agencies, skip to #2 below.
Sub-recipient activity for these departments will be recorded in the Disaster Emergency Fund, Fund 2600. Departments need to identify a primary point of contact (POC) for this activity and communicate that to the CDPS Controller (email@example.com). These departments will work with DHSEM in the manner identified in the distributed one-pager for sub-recipient departments, unless otherwise directed through exchange with CDPS leadership.
Expenditures Outside Governor's Executive Order:
Other state departments incurring COVID-related expenditures will record those expenditures in their own operating budgets, using their department coding strings, and ensuring unique identification of the costs as COVID-19 response. Full supporting documentation is required for all expenditures and must be thorough with detailed explanations of the work performed and why it was necessary. DHSEM recommends recording expenditures using the COVID-19 expenditure reporting template (provided as an Excel spreadsheet). Please also refer to the document, "Public Assistance Supporting Documentation Required" for a summary of documentation requirements by expense type.
The department may submit weekly expenditures with supporting documentation to DHSEM for review to determine if the expenditures would meet FEMA eligibility requirements for reimbursement. Send weekly submissions to DHSEM via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Submissions may later be expanded to monthly if the spending patterns make this feasible.
Based upon DHSEM review and availability of FEMA funds, the department may be able to enter into an interagency agreement (IAA) with DHSEM for submission of these costs to FEMA through a grant-style arrangement. Any expenditures submitted for FEMA reimbursement in this IAA scenario will be managed in the State's EMGrants Pro system (CO.EMGrants.com). EMGrants is the State's official system for managing Public Assistance grants and providing reimbursement to sub-recipients. Instruction and training on the use and functionality of CO.EMGrants.com will be provided to agencies as needed. This scenario continues to evolve and is subject to change.
The guidance provided in this document is in addition to the official Federal guidelines for FEMA Public Assistance reimbursement. For more information on this grant program, refer to the FEMA Public Assistance Program and Policy Guide (PAPPG) and FEMA's website: https://www.fema.gov/coronavirus.
Q. What is the process to send weekly expenditures to DHSEM?
A. In accordance with guidance included in this Q&A, if you believe your agency has incurred costs that may be eligible for FEMA Public Assistance, please submit weekly expenditures with supporting documentation to email@example.com.
Lauren Leavitt firstname.lastname@example.org will be reviewing these weekly submissions to determine if they meet FEMA Public Assistance eligibility requirements, and to provide feedback on additional documentation that will be required for reimbursement. It's important that agencies identify Public Assistance-eligible expenses as soon as possible so DHSEM can discuss FEMA's documentation requirements. Lauren Leavitt may raise many questions during her reviews and some expenses will not be Public Assistance-eligible. The State's goal is to maximize FEMA reimbursement for State agencies.
- Coronavirus Pandemic: Eligible Emergency Protective Measures
- Coronavirus Pandemic: Purchase and Distribution of Food Eligible for Public Assistance
- FEMA Region VIII Policy Guidance: Purchase and Distribution of Food Eligibility
- Job Aid: Public Assistance-Reasonable Cost Evaluation
- Frequently Asked Questions: Procurement Standards for States Under FEMA Public Assistance Awards
- Contract Provisions Template
- Fact Sheet: Procurement Under Grants Conducted Under Exigent or Emergency Circumstances
- Memo: Procurement Under Grants Conducted Under Exigent or Emergency Circumstances
- Required Contract Clauses
- Required Contract Clauses Appendix A
- Procurements Under Grants Training
- Public Assistance Program Policy Guide
Q. How will the current situation affect the printing of warrants for vendors and employees and the delivery of mail?
A. Integrated Document Solutions (IDS) is committed to continue printing warrants and delivering mail per the existing schedules. At this time, printing and mailing will continue as usual. It is recommended that each agency reach out to their employees who have manual checks and have those employees verify their home addresses and update CPPS in the event that we need to send payroll check directly to employees.
Q. Is there a resource to help purchasing staff quickly buy the goods and services most needed during the COVID-19 emergency?
A. 3/30/2020: In an additional effort to expedite the process, the Chief Procurement Officer has granted blanket approval for agencies/IHEs to purchase off of certain cooperatives. See this SPCO COVID-19 Procurement Resources document for more information. The SPCO has compiled information from existing state price agreements, national cooperative procurement organizations, and various other COVID-19 related procurement resources. This document will be updated regularly.
Q. What if I need to complete an emergency purchase?
A. Emergency purchases require approval by the agency/IHE procurement official as per CRS §24-103-206. Justification can be tied to the Governor's declaration of emergency or executive order as appropriate. Emergency procurements shall be limited to supplies, services, or construction items in such quantities as are necessary to meet the emergency. Per Fiscal Rule 3-1, section 11, Purchasing Emergencies also require the agency to contact the State Purchasing and Contracts office in writing as soon as possible after the emergency to provide information regarding the circumstances, goods/services purchased and dollar amount.
Q. How can our agency conduct public bid openings in the event that we are working from home?
A. During this pandemic, where employees are working from home, bid openings may be conducted over conference call or live video.
Q. If my agency is working remotely and a hard copy of a formal bid/proposal is due, what are my options; is electronic submission of proposals an alternative?
A. If your agency is working remotely and a hard copy of a formal bid/proposal is due, you should consider using an electronic submission system. Electronic submission systems must meet sealed bid requirements in the Procurement Code and Rules. Email is allowable for an informal solicitation (documented quote) response submittal because there is no sealed bid requirement. Current approved options for electronic submission of formal solicitations include Box.com and Rocky Mountain BidNet. These options do not waive the requirement to post solicitations on Vendor Self Service. Contact Chris Frenz at CDHS email@example.com or Noah Kaplan at OIT firstname.lastname@example.org with questions regarding Box.com. Contact Brian Swift at SPCO email@example.com with questions regarding Rocky Mountain BidNet. Contact Sherri Maxwell Sherri.Maxwell@state.co.us at SPCO if you would like to discuss other possible methods of electronic proposal submission.
Q. How would my agency conduct solicitation evaluations if my agency is working remotely?
A. For formal solicitation evaluation committee meetings, consider using Google Hangouts or your agency-specific webinar tools (e.g., Zoom, video conferencing, etc). For documented quotes, formal evaluation is not required or recommended; therefore phone/email is recommended to share information.
Q. Will an employee be reimbursed for non-refundable travel costs, changes in reservations, late charges, and related fees?
A. Yes, the State will reimburse the employee for these charges provided the employee paid for these expenses and the expenses were incurred in furtherance of State business.
Q. An employee is working from home and needs to come into the office. Is the mileage from the employee's home to the office reimbursable?
A. The employee's mileage from the employee's home to the office is considered commuting and is not reimbursable. In this situation, an employee's home is considered a temporary work location because the working from home is expected to last for one year or less. The employee's tax home (office) does not change. IRS Publication 463 Travel, Gift, and Car Expenses.
Q. An employee has been assigned a state vehicle to accomplish their job responsibilities. The employee normally drives the employee's personal vehicle to the employee's work location and drives to various locations to accomplish the employee's job responsibilities. With working from home, the employee brings the State assigned vehicle to the employee's home and then drives that vehicle to various locations to accomplish the employee's job responsibilities. In this situation, the employee has the vehicle at home for more than one day a month. Will this situation result in imputed income to the employee?
A. The employee's transportation from home to various work locations is required to accomplish the employee's job responsibilities and is not considered commuting because the employee does not have a main or regular place of work. The IRS maximum of commuting use of an employer's vehicle for no more than one day per month does not apply in this situation. The employee will not have imputed income for use of the State assigned vehicle. IRS Publication 463 Travel, Gift, and Car Expenses, and IRS Publication 5137 Fringe Benefit Guide, Office of Federal State, and Local Governments.
Q. An employee provides mission critical services for the State's response to COVID-19. The employee stays in a hotel and does not return home due to possible infection. The State pays for the hotel. Does this result in imputed income to the employee?
A. No, there would not be imputed income to the employee provided that the State requires the employee to stay at the hotel. Lodging is required as a condition of employment if the employer requires the employee to live in the hotel to be able to perform the job duties. The employee must be required to accept lodging. In this situation. If the employer provides meals as a condition of employment, the cost of the meals also would not be imputed income. IRS Publication 5137 Fringe Benefit Guide, Office of Federal State, and Local Governments.