Do the recent federal vaccine mandates affect grant awardees?

Detailing the implications of the Executive Orders on fire departments that have received AFG, SAFER and FP&S funding

On Sept. 9, 2021, President Joe Biden issued two Executive Orders that mandate COVID-19 vaccinations. One order applies to federal government employees. The other applies to employees of federal government contractors. Although specific guidelines for either of these vaccine mandates have yet to be issued, the new measures appear to build on the administration’s recent mandate for vaccination or testing of contractor employees who work on-site at federal locations. 

Biden’s second executive order – the one applicable to federal government contractors – provides that new government contracts and contract-like instruments must include a clause requiring the contractor and “any subcontractors (at any tier)” to comply with “all guidance” issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. Pursuant to the terms of the contractor Executive Order, the clause’s requirements are applicable to “any workplace location in which an individual is working on or in connection with a Federal Government contract or contract-like instrument.”

So, does that mean that grant awards trigger compliance?

Some agencies are concerned about whether agreeing to accept grant funding essentially makes them a “federal contractor.”
Some agencies are concerned about whether agreeing to accept grant funding essentially makes them a “federal contractor.” (Photo/Getty)

After the release of these recent Executive Orders, agencies that recently received grant awards from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grant awards began to question whether the new orders applied to them.

Their concerns grew from the fact that a grant award from a federal agency, such as FEMA, requires the fire department or EMS agency to sign a contract before receiving their funding. If you have ever stopped to read your award contract, you agree to abide by line after line of federal laws and regulations. Most people breezing through their award contract have no idea what these laws are or how they might pertain to their project. All the grantee knows is they must agree to the document to get the money. Now agencies are concerned if agreeing to this essentially makes them a “federal contractor.”

The answer, at least for now, is this: If you have been awarded a 2020 FEMA AFG, SAFER or FP&S grant, you are considered to be a recipient and not a contractor under the two most recent Executive Orders. This means that your department does not fall under these two orders under these categories. Of course, as is the case with all things federal, you should check to see if your department or agency is required to comply with vaccination orders under other categories or other Executive Orders, or if there are state or local orders that pertain to your department. Also, the exemption for recipients of grant awards could change in the future.

Please stay safe and check for updates on this issue.

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