Local businesses look for clarity on Biden vaccine mandate

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Sep. 25—It was more than a week ago that President Joe Biden came out with his nationwide vaccination mandate. And, according to Biden's speech, businesses with more than 100 employees will now have to require workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine or receive weekly testing for the virus.

If a business refuses to comply, it would then be forced to pay a fine.

Despite the cut-and-dry nature of the speech, it is still unclear how exactly it will be implemented.

JSJ Corp. President Nelson Jacobson said there still isn't any sort of timeline for when the ruling is supposed to take effect and how its implementation might differ from state to state.

Once more of the details for the mandate are worked out, it will likely have to go to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Once OSHA has an opportunity to look at it, then it would go to the Michigan safety administration before the mandate could be passed on to local businesses. A timeline for when any of that occurs remains a mystery.

Jacobson said it is unlikely all of their employees will be required to be vaccinated as long as an alternative such as weekly testing exists. However, whatever is decided for one facility will likely be the same at all JSJ facilities, regardless of size, he said.

In terms of that testing, Jacobson said he doesn't think the financial burden would fall on the employees. It is more likely that JSJ would cover that cost.

Until more is known, Jacobson said JSJ will continue to take precautions, include regular temperature checks, having employees sign into work each day and practicing social distancing.

Shape Corp.'s Tony Verplank said he is vaccinated, but also said the company isn't likely to require vaccinations. He said a major fear is that employees might seek work with smaller companies or businesses that aren't covered under the umbrella of Biden's mandate.

Verplank said Shape is already facing challenges filling open positions. If weekly testing is required, that would add a significant expensive for the company, he said. Verplank estimates it would cost $400 a year to test a single employee.

Shape Corp. has fixed contracts with its customers, so it's not as simple as raising prices to cover testing costs. But he did say that if COVID-19 continues to be an issue, the cost may be something they will be forced to negotiate in future contracts.

Joy Gaasch, president of the Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven-Spring Lake-Ferrysburg, having spoken to a variety of businesses both big and small, said there is a lot of uncertainty in the community regarding the mandate. Most businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach, she said. Some businesses have already started to require their employees to be vaccinated, while others leave it up to them to decide, she said.

Gaasch said many business owners share Verplank's concern about the mandate becoming a hiring obstacle.

Many are wondering about how businesses and organizations that have received federal funding will be affected by the mandate, Gaasch said. Will they be forced to abide by the mandate if they don't have at least 100 employees?

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