SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Labor Commission is looking to stop the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace.
An initiative called the "Small Business Quarantined Employee Grant Program" encourages workers to stay home if they test positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus.
Using $2 million in funds provided by the federal CARES Act, employers will be reimbursed if they pay the wages of sick or exposed employees who stay home.
This will allow employees to maintain their paychecks and stay home without the fear of a financial impact.
“What’s happening is they aren’t telling people. They are going to work,” said Eric Olsen of the Utah Labor Commission. “They are afraid of losing their income or losing their job. They don’t tell anybody. They keep it to themselves.”
Any business with less than 50 employees in Utah is eligible for this program.
Impacted employees must provide documentation of a positive COVID-19 test or a notice of exposure from a local health department to their employer.
The employer can use that proof of quarantine to apply with the Labor Commission to be reimbursed for paying up to two weeks (80 hours) of the employee’s salary.
The Labor Commission hopes this will stop the spread of the virus in work environments.
“This is a true grant. They will not be paying it back,” Olsen said. “It’s up to the employer that say, I am going to do this. I am going to keep paying you out. Then, I’m going to apply for this grant after.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Utah Department of Health reports 831 workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 which have led to 5,502 positive cases and 15 deaths.
The Labor Commission believes these cases are preventable if people who are sick stay home.
“Hopefully, help them make that choice to be able to stay home and to be able to talk to their employer and let them know. It gives the employer some options,” Olsen said.
The funds will be distributed on a first come, first served basis. The program will reimburse small businesses for COVID-related absences through December 30, 2020.