Health Fund Update, Unemployment Guidelines, Training Center Update, and More

Updated: Friday, March 20, 2020 at 7:45 p.m.

Please view the following member communications in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. Please check back frequently as we will continue to update this page and like us on Facebook for immediate updates.

Training Center Suspension

  • The International Training Center in Crosby, Texas, is closed until April 20, 2020. All scheduled classes and registration are suspended until further notice.
  • The Training Center in Hinckley has suspended the training schedule/operations. Members scheduled for classes will be notified, and as of now, the training schedule is set to resume on March 30, but please pay attention to our e-mails and check back to this page for updates as that could change.

Union Meetings/Activities

  • On March 16, 2020, we announced all Local 49 area union meetings in our jurisdiction would be suspended in March. We will send out another communication toward the end of this month about our decision for April union meetings.
  • On March 16, 2020, we announced that all Local 49 Union Halls would be closed to in-person traffic, but we are open for business via telephone and e-mail. Dues can be paid by phone or mail only right now.
  • On March 18, 2020, we held a business only union meeting in Minneapolis – members were advised to stay away, and we thank them for listening. We were able to pass the executive board business to pay the bills and adjourned within 15 minutes – meeting minutes will be posted next week in the members-only section of the website so members can see what occurred.
  • Lobby day is canceled this year. Please contact Kipp Hanson at 612-391-7176 for any questions.
  • Business agents will not be stopping on job sites randomly, but they are available via telephone and e-mail and will stop out if there are specific issues to address. Business agents are in contact with employers and members daily to try to help deal with this situation and resolve any problems.
  • On March 20, 2020, a letter was sent to all shop and public employers regarding work rule changes related to the coronavirus. We will continue to work with employers to ensure our contracts are followed and any changes related to coronavirus are worked on jointly.
  • We have been in constant communication with construction contractors and owners at all levels about working conditions in construction, and we will update all members with any new information. We are in touch with government officials and strongly advocating keeping construction projects going as we feel that our work can continue while adhering to federal safety guidelines.

Health Fund

The Board of Trustees met via conference call on March 20, 2020 to discuss the developing COVID-19 crisis. The Trustees recognize that this is a time of uncertainty and that providing strong health care coverage to those covered by the Operating Engineers Local 49 Health Plan is more crucial than ever. Therefore, the Board is pleased to announce the following changes:

Continued Eligibility for All Participants Covered in March 2020

The Trustees have acted for the benefit of all individuals who have current coverage. If you are working, your employer will continue to make contributions to the Plan on your behalf, and you may maintain eligibility because of those contributions. However, whether you are working or laid off if contributions are insufficient to provide coverage and your hour bank has been exhausted, the Plan will provide coverage to you in April and May 2020 at no cost.

COVID-19 Testing Charges Covered at 100%

Charges related to testing for the COVID-19 virus incurred on or after March 1, 2020, will be covered at 100%, meaning that they will not be subject to any deductibles or co-payment requirements of the Plan.

Telephone Consultations with Physicians and Other Medical Providers Covered from March 1, 2020, through September 30, 2020

The Plan normally does not cover telephone consultations with your doctor, except if the call is made through the Doctor on Demand program. Because of the current health care crisis, many clinics and other health care providers prefer that those seeking treatment call in rather than visit in person. The Plan has been amended, temporarily, to provide that charges for telephone consultations will be covered through September 30, 2020, so long as the charges would otherwise be covered if made as part of an office visit to a clinic or physician. We urge you to visit www.DoctoronDemand.com for convenient access to Board-certified physicians where visits are available 24/7, and with a $0 co-payment. Doctor on Demand even has a free COVID-19 self-assessment tool you can use if you or a family member is concerned. Visit www.doctorondemand.com/coronavirus or download the Doctor on Demand app today.

The Trustees hope that these changes made life a little less worrisome for you and your families. Watch your mail in the coming days for more details on these changes to your Plan, and visit www.health49.org for the latest updates on the Plan.

The Health Fund has also released guidance regarding COVID-19 and your Pharmacy Benefits for Active and Pre-Medicare Retiree Participants. Click here to read more.

Unemployment

Minnesota

The Governor signed executive order 20-05 related to unemployment insurance, which will make it easier to access unemployment to benefits for workers. The order waives the week-long waiting requirement as well as the requirement to search for work. The impacts take effect if the worker:

  • Has COVID-19
  • Is in risk of getting COVID-19
  • An employer tells them not to come to work because someone else has COVID-19,
  • Workers cannot get childcare or other accommodation to take care of school-aged children
  • A health professional says they cannot work because of COVID-19.

The executive order doesn’t extend the length of time a person can collect benefits, and it doesn’t apply if workers choose not to go to work. It’s important to know that you do not have to be unemployed to collect UI. If you have had your hours dramatically reduced because of COVID-19, you should apply for UI, and state that the reason is due to COVID-19.

Be advised that the UI system is taking calls and online applications at an incredible volume and that it may take some time for applications to be processed. Please file your claim online, only resort to applying over the phone if you do not have access to the internet.

Click here for more information

North Dakota

On March 20, 2020, Gov. Doug Burgum signed three executive orders to reduce regulatory burdens and improve services for North Dakota citizens to help them through the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

Among the actions taken on March 20:

  • One executive order issued today requires immediate changes to the unemployment insurance process – expanding eligibility, making it easier for workers to file claims and allowing payments to be issued more quickly. Burgum noted the state saw a sharp increase in unemployment claims this week, with 600 claims filed Wednesday and 1,600 claims filed Thursday, compared with 418 claims filed during all of last week. More information will be available on the Department of Commerce’s new webpage for COVID-19 business and employer resources.
  • Burgum also ordered state agencies to identify by 5 p.m. Tuesday any state laws, rules or regulations that hinder or delay their ability to render maximum assistance or continue to deliver essential services to citizens during the COVID-19 crisis. State elected officials and other executive branch offices were invited to do the same.

The same executive order requires law enforcement agencies and private sector businesses to recognize any North Dakota driver’s license or motor vehicle registration that expired on or after March 1, 2020, as valid and current as long as the executive order is in effect.

  • An executive order issued Thursday was amended today to allow for expanded tele-health services in North Dakota as residents practice social distancing and medical facilities try to limit in-person visits to slow the spread of COVID-19. Burgum thanked Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread for his work to expand which telehealth services can be reimbursed.

The order also adds medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals to the list of health care and behavioral health workers who can work in North Dakota if they’re appropriately licensed in another state, to ensure North Dakota has enough health care workers if the COVID-19 crisis escalates.

The order will remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency declared by the governor on March 13 in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Burgum also highlighted that North Dakota has been approved for businesses to begin submitting applications for disaster assistance loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA). More information is available on the Commerce website or by going directly to the SBA website at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/

South Dakota

The only moratorium on shut-offs that’s been announced is Mid Continent Communications, which is a statewide internet and phone provider, and Xcel Energy, which is primarily based in southeast South Dakota. Governor Noem has been holding press conferences almost daily and using social media to give updates. If there are other unemployment benefits, utilities, or government-related changes due to COVID-19, we will pass them along immediately.

Click here for more information

If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Kipp Hanson at 612-391-7176.

Work stoppages

  • As of March 20, 2020, there has been no government order to halt construction projects in our jurisdiction. We will keep you posted if that changes. We are advocating every day to keep work going.
  • Shops and public sector employers are mostly remaining open, with only a few closings reported. Check with your business agent on specific workplace policies related to coronavirus control. We are in constant contact with all the employers working through any work policy changes.
  • We will let you know as soon as we hear more – things are moving rapidly at the federal level on legislation to help workers impacted, and we will keep you posted.

Care for Children of Families of Emergency Workers

Under the Governor’s Executive Order 20-02, free school age care for the children of emergency workers (including providers of healthcare, emergency medical services, long-term and post-acute care; law enforcement personnel; personnel providing correctional services; public health employees; firefighters and other first responders; and court personnel) was outlined. The orders directed schools to provide care to, at a minimum, district-enrolled students aged 12 and under.

Essential Tier 2 Workers

Beyond the emergency workers listed in the Governor’s Executive Order, there are other critical workers that are absolutely necessary for districts to consider. Care for children of educators, gas and electric utility workers, food distribution personnel, water treatment staff, and others outlined below is essential to ensuring the public continues to receive these vital services.

Districts should make every effort to provide care for school-age children of workers in the areas below, if they are able to do so while adhering to the Minnesota Department of Health’s social distancing guidelines.

Water Treatment/Wastewater

  • Water Treatment Plant Operators
  • Drinking water distribution system maintenance workers
  • Safe drinking water delivery personnel
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant Operators
  • Storm and sanitary sewer system maintenance workers

Day-to-Day Operations for Gas and Electric Utilities

  • Electric utility lineworkers, substation technicians, meter technicians, dispatchers, power plant operators
  • Operations managers and supervisors
  • Fleet and maintenance technicians
  • Transmission and distribution engineers and operators
  • Construction coordinators and technicians
  • Fuel technicians
  • Relay coordinators
  • Control room/center operators
  • Cybersecurity related information technology personnel
  • Gas safety personnel
  • Gas utility operations personnel
  • Water system operators, water treatment plant operators
  • Wastewater system operators, wastewater treatment plant operators
  • Managers with key responsibility for customer and community communications and response

Emergency Response for Gas and Electric Utilities

  • Damage assessment personnel
  • Engineers
  • Safety personnel
  • Communications personnel
  • Mutual aid crews from other utilities

Public Works

  • City fleet (emergency equipment, fire trucks, police vehicles, etc.) maintenance workers
  • Traffic signal system maintenance workers
  • Emergency repair workers for bridges, water and sewer main breaks, and other emergent issues
  • Administrative support personnel that ensure OSHA safety requirements and field support for operations
  • Snowplow drivers

Solid Waste Management (waste, recyclable/organics)

  • Collection, transfer trailer truck drivers and their fleet maintenance crews
  • Transfer stations, landfills, resource recovery, recycling and organics facility operations staff
  • Heavy equipment operators, facility operators (e.g. scale house operator, loader operator, line operators, boiler operator)
  • Environmental systems (e.g. gas and leachate management, pollution control equipment)

Additional Resources

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