[UPDATE: November 13, 2020]

The lack of message or policy from the Executive Branch about the pandemic continues even in the face of an intense surge in COVID-19 cases all around the United States.

The incoming administration is taking whatever aggressive steps it can during the transition but – of course – has no power until January 20, 2021, to put any policies into effect.


[UPDATE: August 31, 2020]

The Executive Branch continues to  lack a coherent or consistent message or policy concerning the COVID-19 crisis. There is no national plan to combat the pandemic except to shift responsibility to the state and local governments; from time to time, though, the White House attempts to pressure the sub-federal levels to follow one favored policy or another, and to punish others for failing to push those themes. 

Particularly troublesome, though, is the Administration’s meddling in deliberations and decisions of the premiere health agencies including the CDC and the FDA. These formerly nonpartisan parts of the Executive Branch, along with safety agency OSHA, are now center stage during this pandemic. Nevertheless, other agencies including Treasury and Labor also have important roles in interpreting and implementing COVID-19-related laws. 


[UPDATE: May 3, 2020]

The Executive Branch lacks a coherent or consistent message or policy concerning the COVID-19 crisis. The White House’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America: 30 Days To Stop the Spread (March 31, 2020) has expired; they were not mandatory in any event. In addition, much of the decision-making has been taken up by the states.

The emergency federal legislation enacted over a series of weeks since March leaves a great deal of interpretation and operational discretion to the federal administrative agencies including the Treasury Department, the Small Business Administration, and others. There were difficult roll-outs for many of the programs including most notably the Payroll Protection Program (PPP); funds were distributed unevenly and they ran out quickly.


[April 1, 2020]

The President and the federal executive departments and agencies issue regulations, rules, and guidelines either to carry out the Administration’s policies or to implement laws enacted by Congress.

In Coronavirus Guidelines for America (March 31, 2020), the White House issued its most recent “guidelines”: – 30 Days to Stop the Spread. These are not mandatory; the states and local governments have the authority to determine restrictions and limitations on activities. “Listen to and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.” They are also less restrictive than the stay-at-home orders of the California governor and of many other states. For instance, the White House guideline advises: “Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.”

There are almost 100 executive departments and agencies that have some responsibility for aspects of the effort to combat the coronavirus. See Federal Agencies Responding to Coronavirus (COVID-19). The references listed here are just a few of the staggering number: already in existence, updated recently to cover COVID-19, or what will be a deluge of regulations, rules, and guidance on the major legislation just passed by Congress.

In some cases, they also overlap rules and guidance from state or local health agencies, labor departments, or other regulatory bodies.

[We’ll include some of these and other references in specific topic areas at other parts of this micro-site.]

Contact FPLG (619) 780.3839

The best way for employers to protect workers and stay ahead of OSHA enforcement (as well as potential civil and criminal liability for failure to protect workers) is to pay careful attention to OSHA and the CDC’s COVID-19-related guidance, understanding that the guidance may soon be revised to place more obligations on employers and that it may soon become mandatory

— David Dubberly, Esq., Nexen Pruett, (11/11/20)

The nation’s coronavirus response must be ‘locally executed, state managed, federally supported,’ White House officials have said repeatedly. In fact, much of their public health advice has been secret, segmented and inconsistent. Federal guidance isn’t always reaching the local official it’s meant to support.

— Liz Essley White, Center for Public Integrity (8/27/20)


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly modified its coronavirus testing guidelines this week to exclude people who do not have symptoms of Covid-19 – even if they have been recently exposed to the virus. Experts questioned the revision, pointing to the importance of identifying infections in the small window immediately before the onset of symptoms when many individuals appear to be the most contagious.

— Dr. Katherine T. Wu (8/25/20)


The Labor Department issued late-night guidance to the states (UIPL 18-20) that can only be described as breathtakingly cruel in its impact on charitable nonprofits, their current employees, and the communities they serve. DOL guidance issued late on April 27 instructs states to bill certain tax-exempt employers immediately for 100 percent of the costs of unemployment benefits paid to employees laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

— National Council of Nonprofits  (4/28/20)

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 



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[April 24, 2020] By the third week of March 2020, governments at all levels had begun to respond to the many questions and issues raised by the COVID-19 emergency, including - most notably - the curtailment or suspension of operations and activities by individuals and entities on account of new stay-at-home orders  and recommendations.  The necessary federal emergency declaration under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Act was made in mid-March. The [...]

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Funders Must Step Up – Right Now!

“Funders,” writes nonprofit blogger Vu Le, “this is the rainy day you have been saving up for.”  Recently, we wrote about Mr. Le’s earlier plea for America’s foundations to step up their payouts beyond the “five percent rule” in the federal tax code. In an article last summer, he characterized it as a moral imperative: The ethical argument for foundations to increase their annual payout rate beyond 5% (August 4, 2019). This morning, it’s a [...]

Small Business Association Disaster Loan Guidance and Resources

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has an existing program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, that extends disaster relief loans to small businesses, including nonprofits, to help alleviate economic injury caused by disasters.  On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the SBA announced that the program will be available to claims arising from COVID-19.  The SBA will work with state officials to offer loans of up to $2 million.  “These loans may be used to pay [...]

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