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Senators join industry groups asking for extension of contractor pay provision

Maryland and Virginia Senators are going to bat for government contractors. They want industry to receive reimbursements under contracts that were delayed or halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.), along with Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), asked Senate leadership to extend Section 3610 provisions that provide paid leave, including sick leave, to employees and subcontractors until Dec. 31, 2021 in the next stimulus bill.

Mark Warner
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) led an effort with three other Senators asking for an extension of the 3610 provision. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

The current provisions detailed in the March Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to reimburse vendors expire on Sept. 30.

“Maintaining industry’s ready state ensures its resilience during this crisis and averts the costs and disruption of certain capabilities going dormant and needing to be reconstituted later,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter obtained by Federal News Network. “When Congress drafted the CARES Act, we had anticipated the pandemic would soon abate. That has not borne out, and we must prepare for a longer term struggle. Given the uncertainty of another legislative opportunity to amend the Section 3610 authority, we recommend providing maximal flexibility for its use and extending it until Dec. 31, 2021. Congress can separately consider an appropriate amount to provide in appropriations to meet the demonstrated need to maintain critical government capabilities in a ready state.”

The departments of Defense, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services are among the biggest supporters of the provision

DoD told House lawmakers in June it would need billions of dollars in extra funding to help make contractors whole.

The Senate’s version of the fourth stimulus bill released last week includes more than $11 billion for the Defense Industrial Base Resiliency Fund. DoD would give the money to vendors who requested an equitable adjustment as part of staying in a ready state to fulfill contract requirements.

Warner and his Senate Democrat colleagues say the failure to provide for the extension would hurt agency missions and operational needs.

“An extension of Section 3610 authorities would provide continued support for federal contractors, many of whom have security clearances, their families, and their employers, who would undoubtedly face the real threat of furloughs and layoffs,” the lawmakers wrote. “To that end, we believe it is necessary to provide certainty to members of the contractor community who are working to support and maintain agency operations and, in some cases, critical national security missions during this unprecedented public health crisis.”

The Professional Services Council urged Congress in July to extend Section 3610 through the end of calendar year 2020 or until the end of the coronavirus pandemic emergency.

“When the CARES Act was enacted, there was no clear estimation or understanding of the duration or magnitude of the impact of COVID-19. Today, it is apparent that COVID-19’s impact will clearly extend beyond September 30, 2020, and it is not possible to predict how long such authority will be needed,” said David Berteau, the president and CEO of PSC, an industry association.

In a survey, PSC said it identified more than 30,000 key personnel whose costs have been at least partially offset by reimbursements under Section 3610.

Additionally, the National Defense Industrial Association and seven other industry groups also sent a letter on July 31 to lawmakers asking for the 3610 provision extension.

“Private sector firms supporting critical government agency missions continue to face the same ‘ready state’ workforce sustainment challenges that justified the enactment of Section 3610 and the provision of funding in the current Senate proposed legislation,” the associations wrote. “It is for this reason that we ask you to add an extension of the authority established under Section 3610 of the CARES Act through 2021. Such an extension would support the continuity of government operations through the COVID-19 national emergency while preserving the ability of the private sector to maintain its capability to fully support agency missions into the future.”

Roger Waldron, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, said the provision is especially important to support small businesses.

“In this regard, with the changes in pandemic numbers and uncertainty into the fall, as we await the vaccine, continuing this authority beyond its current statutory deadline and into the new fiscal year will support continuity of government operations,” he said.