In their final hearing before the summer recess, Albuquerque’s City Council acted on two controversial proposals placing further requirements on business owners already struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, while withdrawing (for now) yet another paid leave proposal for possible future action.
Most significantly, the Council rejected an ordinance that would have required many employers to pay premiums on top of regular salaries for every shift worked by employees, adding thousands or more in weekly payroll costs for businesses still working to comply with COVID-19 safety requirements and recover from full or partial shutdowns this year. This proposal would have been particularly problematic for employers who participated in the federal Paycheck Protection Program and other financing support that requires maintaining payroll levels, potentially threatening the ability of these businesses to receive loan forgiveness.
The Council withdrew an ordinance that would have imposed a version of the paid sick leave plan that has already been rejected by both the Council and Albuquerque voters in recent years, though it may be brought back for further consideration later this year. The paid leave program would have imposed even more onerous requirements for employee leave above and beyond what is already provided for in federal CARES Act legislation passed in response to the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Council approved a modified version of an ordinance requiring that employers provide masks and other safety measures for employees during the pandemic, reducing the fines for non-compliance and also approving funding from the city to help provide supplies for small businesses.
“The recent several-month economic shutdown due to the spread of the coronavirus imposed an extraordinary burden on businesses in our community,” said Chamber Board Chair and Bank of Albuquerque Senior Vice President Kyle Beasley. “Now is not the time to further weaken our already strained economy by adding more costs, administrative burdens, and regulatory concerns onto the backs of businesses in our city.”
The Chamber urged the Council in written comment to reject the premium pay and and paid leave ordinances, and to include the business community in future discussions about how best to keep our community safe, healthy, and thriving for all our residents.