Treasury expands tax credits to spark vaccinations

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced July 29 that it will allow certain eligible employers to claim tax credits equivalent to the wages paid for providing paid time for employees taking family, a household member or other people to Covid-19 vaccination appointments or caring for those people after they are vaccinated.

The announcement, which covers employers with fewer than 500 employees, comes as the U.S. continues trying to put more shots into arms with the delta variant spreading, particularly among the unvaccinated. Inoculation rates have climbed only slightly after a steep fall from their April peak. According to the Associated Press, federal health officials have shipped an additional 8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson shot to states that have not yet been used. Governors are pleading with the public to get vaccinated, and some are offering cash incentives — $100 payments in Minnesota, New Mexico and New York City, among other places. Some states have set up marketplaces for shot providers or dedicated staff to redistributing about to-expire vaccines in places that need them. Such efforts are underway in New Jersey, Washington and Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, the Treasury announced a tax credit under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that allows small and midsize employers with fewer than 500 employees to claim refundable tax credits that reimburse them for the cost of providing paid sick leave and family leave to their employees due to Covid-19, including leave taken to receive or recover from Covid-19 vaccinations.

Western Bankers Association CEO Stephen G. Andrews said banks, as “a forward-looking essential service,” have generally carried the cost as their employees get vaccinated. He expects continued federal government incentives to be unveiled as U.S. vaccination rates linger at around 50 percent, a figure Andrews said is not enough to dampen the spread of delta. The need to flatten the curve is especially felt in Hawaii, a state with a heavy emphasis on the hospitality industry. 

 The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis announced July 7 that its 1,100 colleagues would need to be fully vaccinated by the end of August to remain employed, with accommodations only for those who cannot be vaccinated due to medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs. Already, more than 82 percent of Minneapolis Fed employees are fully vaccinated, including all senior leadership. Most of the remaining 18 percent have not told Minneapolis Fed of their vaccination plans, “and a small percentage have indicated they do not plan to get vaccinated.” 

“Even with our current high level of vaccinations, bringing everyone back into the office could put our staff at unnecessary risk,” said Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari. “First, unvaccinated employees could infect other unvaccinated employees while at work; outbreaks continue to happen worldwide, largely among those who are unvaccinated.”