|Subsidized COBRA Eligible to Laid Off Employees Through September 30
As you know, the COVID relief legislation (the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) that was signed into law in March included language providing COBRA premium health insurance coverage for laid off employees and their beneficiaries.
EMA, IFRA and FUELIowa Urge Midwest Senators for Small Business Safeguards in Potential Upcoming Surface Transportation Bill
COBRA provides certain employees and their beneficiaries with the right to retain coverage under an employer’s group health plan for a set period following certain triggering events including when the employee is laid off. Typically, the cost of the COBRA premium is born exclusively by the individual. However, the new law provides subsidies to cover 100 percent of the premiums for eligible individuals who qualify for COBRA coverage for the period from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021. During this period, the qualifying individual does not have to remit COBRA premiums and instead the premium will be reimbursed directly to the employer, plan administrator or insurance company (depending on the nature of the plan) in the form of a tax credit.
Recently the Department of Labor (DOL) issued two new sets of FAQs to help employees and employers understand the new COBRA premium subsidies and COBRA in general. The DOL also issued new model notices that employers and plan administrators may use to satisfy their obligation to alert COBRA qualifying individuals of the COBRA premium subsidies. DOL COBRA information can be found by clicking here.
In the event of a termination/lay off or other action (such as a reduction in hours) that would end an employee’s regular coverage under the group health plan and cause them to be eligible for COBRA – employers should make sure that they and their agents consult the new materials from the DOL and comply with the new requirements related to the premium subsidies.
This week, EMA, FUELIowa and the Illinois Fuel & Retail Association (IFRA) sent a letter to Midwest Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) urging them to include small business protection should Congress enact the Alternative Energy Grant Program in a future transportation package. Last year, Congress proposed the creation of a grant program for states to deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging stations along designated alternative fuel corridors which EMA is concerned that grant funds may be consumed by large corporations before small businesses have an opportunity to apply.
The letter stated, “Should this provision be included in future legislation, we request that the program reserve at least one-third of total funding for independent fuel marketing businesses, with fewer than 500 hundred employees, located along designated alternative fuel corridors. Importantly, we ask that the program be fuel neutral to ensure that all types of energy infrastructure including underground storage tank systems be included in the program in order to safely and legally sell higher biofuel blends (E10 plus and B20 plus blends).” Click here to read the letter.
EMA Urges Congress to Include the DRIVE-Safe Act in Infrastructure Bill
“We believe this is a win-win for the fuel marketing industry and renewable fuel interests to ensure small business fuel marketers have the funds necessary to make upgrades to underground storage tank system infrastructure in order to sell higher biofuel blends as well as sell electricity/hydrogen under the Alternative Energy Grant Program,” said EMA President Rob Underwood.
Recently, EMA sent a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as a letter to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee outlining energy marketers transportation and infrastructure priorities. EMA emphasized the importance of creating safeguards to ensure small business marketers can access vital federal funds to advance alternative energy goals. EMA also voiced concerns over rest area commercialization and utilities using ratepayers to unfairly build out EV infrastructure. In addition, EMA voiced support for the Drive-Safe Act which would establish an apprenticeship program for the legal operation of a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce by CDL holders under the age of 21.
This week, the Energy Marketers of America (EMA) along with more than 100 organizations sent a letter to the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Committees requesting that the DRIVE-Safe Act (S. 659/H.R. 1745) be included in any infrastructure legislation. Though 49 states and the District of Columbia allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at the age 18, federal law currently prohibits those operators from moving goods from state to state until they are 21.
FMCSA Warns Motor Carriers of Fraudulent Vendors Posing as Government Agencies
The DRIVE-Safe Act reintroduced by Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), as well as Sens. John Tester (D-MT) and Todd Young (R-IN), would allow drivers 18 and older to operate across state lines if they meet rigorous training requirements — at least 400 hours of on-duty time with 240 hours of driving time, with an experienced driver training them. Training would also be restricted to trucks equipped with active braking systems, video monitoring systems and speed limiters set to 65 mph or slower. Although EMA drivers transporting fuel would not be covered under the DRIVE-Safe Act since drivers must be 21 to qualify for a hazardous materials endorsement (HME), EMA supports the bill because it would expand the number of CDL drivers overall, some of whom may choose to obtain an HME in the future.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is warning motor carriers of predatory companies posing as government agencies seeking to collect $149 filing fees for U.S. DOT number renewal. One company sent past-due notices to motor carriers under the name “FMCSA Compliance Processing Group.” The letters warn motor carriers to “contact us immediately” or risk fines of $1,000 a day and out of service orders, “per the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”
U.S. Appeals Court Considers Legality of EPA’s Extension of One Pound RVP Waiver to E15 Blends
The company’s letter takes advantage of a requirement for U.S. DOT number holders to update their company information every two years by filing a new MCS-150 form with the FMCSA. In its warning, FMCSA said it is aware motor carrier officials and new entrant applicants often receive “confusing or misleading solicitations” from service providers or third-party administrators via telephone, email, text and U.S. Mail. These businesses obtain publicly available company information provided when submitting applications and renewals required in to comply with FMCSA regulations. The FMCSA says it never contacts motor carriers via telemarketers or robocall solicitations, nor requests credit card numbers by telephone or charge a fee for downloadable forms that can be found for free atfmcsa.dot.gov/mission/forms. FMCSA said aggressive or fraudulent marketing complaints include motor carriers being pressured to immediately enroll in drug and alcohol supervisor training, offer general agency regulatory and compliance support, Unified Carrier Registration compliance or biennial updates, FMCSA said. The agency said motor carriers should report all fraudulent requests for information to the Office of Inspector General Hotline viaoig.dot.gov/hotline or by calling (800) 424-9071.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard a challenge to the EPA’s one pound RVP Waiver for E15 brought issued in a 2019 final rulemaking. The EPA rulemaking extended the one-pound Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) waiver to E15 blends, thus allowing its sale year-round. E15 was previously limited to the winter driving season only when evaporative emissions are low due to cold weather.
Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Highway Trust Fund Solvency
Extending E15 sales to the summer driving season has been the goal of the ethanol industry since the inception of ethanol as the primary oxygenate for gasoline blend stocks. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) filed the legal challenge arguing, that the RVP language under the Clean Air Act prohibits use of the waiver for ethanol blends greater than 10 percent. Much of Tuesday’s dialogue between judges and attorneys centered around how EPA should interpret statutory language. The biofuel industry argues that if the rule is overturned, both volatile emissions and greenhouse gas emissions would increase, which is inconsistent with Congressional intent and the goals of the Clean Air Act.
Countering that argument, AFPM said that no Administration is empowered to reinterpret the Clean Air Act to mean something Congress expressly rejected. Moreover, if there is any doubt over Congress’s intent on this matter, a proposed 1990 Clean Air Act amendment that would have explicitly set an RVP waiver floor of 'at least' 10 percent ethanol was rejected in favor of the statute as written. A decision on the case is expected later this year.
This week, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing titled “Long-term Solvency of the Highway Trust Fund: Lessons Learned from the Surface Transportation System Funding Alternatives Program and Other User-based Revenue Solutions, and How Funding Uncertainty Affects the Highway Programs.”
Changes in Hurricane Forecasting and Early 2021 Predictions
The Committee heard from Joseph Kile Ph.D., Director of Microeconomic Analysis, Congressional Budget Office; Jack Basso, Chair, Mileage Based User Fee Alliance; Patricia G. Hendren Ph.D., Executive Director, The Eastern Transportation Coalition; Robert Poole, Director of Transportation Policy, Reason Foundation and Douglas Shinkle, Transportation Program Director, National Conference of State Legislatures.
Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) spoke about the need to reach a compromise on surface transportation legislation but noted three principles that should be incorporated:
(1) investment is needed in infrastructure; (2) resiliency and climate change should be addressed in the bill; and (3) those who use infrastructure should help pay for it. Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) stated that passing a bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization bill is a “top priority” for her as Ranking Member who emphasized the traditional bipartisan nature of the committee’s approach to surface transportation and laid out her priorities for the bill, including: (1) fiscally responsible long-term investment in roads and bridges; (2) flexibility for states and communities; (3) safety; (4) surface transportation system resiliency; and (5) innovation. Ranking Member Capito noted the need for a bipartisan, long-term solution for the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) shortfall and expressed concern about President Biden’s proposed tax increase.
Broadly, the hearing focused on the HTF shortfall and possible solutions. Both parties agreed that there is both a need for infrastructure investment and a predictable funding source. Similarly, both parties agreed to the concept of a user-pays system and the value of vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) programs, although they differed on some of the specific policy elements. While most Members agreed that electric vehicles needed to pay their fair share for road usage, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) expressed concern that electric vehicles would be forced to pay a higher user fee rate. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) asked about the impact of COVID-19 on fuel tax collections and whether HTF projections consider a potential shift to more telework while Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) asked about congestion pricing.
Meanwhile, Republicans are expected to introduce their own infrastructure bill to counteroffer President Biden’s proposal. The plan is expected to be in the range of $600 to $800 billion, more targeted in scope and funded by unspecified user fees. Republicans have also lamented Biden’s infrastructure package for spending more on EVs than roads and bridges. EMA will have more details in next week’s Weekly Review.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season produced 30 named storms, the most on record, and the U.S. had 12 direct strikes, busting the previous record of nine from 1916. Forecasters had to turn to the rarely used Greek alphabet for only the second time in history to name tropical systems (it is worth noting that using the Greek alphabet caused too much confusion last year and forecasters have eliminated use of the Greek alphabet for future storms).
Due to the increase in storm intensity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updated its hurricane baseline for the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1 – November 30) this year. NOAA will now use data from 1991 through 2020 (NOAA previously used the 1981 to 2010 timeframe), which represents an upward revision in the number of hurricanes for an "average" season. NOAA will release its’ forecast for hurricane season next month.
Meanwhile, Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science estimates that 2021 will have about 8 hurricanes (average is 6.4), 17 named storms (average is 12.1), 80 named storm days (average is 59.4), 35 hurricane days (average is 24.2), 4 major (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.7) and 9 major hurricane days (average is 6.2). The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall is estimated to be about 130 percent of the long-period average.
Securing Public Gatherings Website is Available
Meanwhile, North Carolina State University (NCSU) researchers predict a higher than average season, and have elaborated on the discussion that the season should start May 15 as there have been early starts to the season in recent years. The move will not happen in time for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, however, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) will start issuing tropical weather outlooks on May 15 this year, which is when routine tropical weather outlooks also begin for the eastern Pacific basin.
Although it is only April, based on current weather data as well as long-range climate clues, AccuWeather meteorological forecasters are urging residents in traditional hurricane-prone areas to make their preparations now.
The Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has released the CISA Securing Public Gatherings website, www.cisa.gov/securing-public-gatherings. The site features security resources related to public gatherings and crowded places for all stakeholders.
Silent Auction Update: Yahoo for Collegiate Yeti!
Public gatherings and crowded places are increasingly vulnerable to terrorist attacks and other extremist actors because of their relative accessibility and large number of potential targets. Organizations of all types of sizes, businesses, critical infrastructure owners and operators, the public, schools, and houses of worship face a variety of security risks. To help organizations mitigate potential risks in today’s rapidly evolving threat environment, CISA provides a compendium of resources for securing public gatherings. These resources cover unauthorized access to facilities, cybersecurity, election security, active shooters, bombings, and small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS).
Angels Versus Detroit Tigers Tickets Also Contributed for Auction!
EMA SBC PAC Co-Chairs Brad Bell and Tim Keigher would like to thank John Hill and the Utah Petroleum Marketers and Retailers Association (UPMRA) for their donation of a collegiate Yeti 24 Hard Cooler which can keep ice for days, is 100 percent leakproof, tough-as-nails, has a Neverfail hinge system, quick latch, plus it is built tall enough to accommodate critical bottles of wine but slim enough to squeeze behind the driver’s or passenger’s seat of a car. Most importantly, the winning bidder of this Yeti will be able to have their collegiate or MLB logo on the cooler!
As reported last week, due to their extreme popularity, Jon Medo and Federated Insurance also donated a Yeti! The Federated Yeti is a Flip 12 carry-the-day soft cooler, with a handle on the top for easy carrying. The hydrolok zipper keeps cold in and the heat out. Its wide mouth opening makes for easy loading and access to your food and drinks. Plus, its compact, cubed body allows for ultimate portability, never slowing you down.
Thanks also to Mike Downs of Downs Energy who contributed four tickets to Los Angeles Angels vs. Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, on Saturday, June 19, 2021. The seats are about 13 rows behind the end visitor dugout. Parking passes are also included.
EMA Corporate Platinum Partner Spotlight Featuring: Federated Insurance
We want to remind you about our format for the Annual Silent Auction and Raffle. This will be our third year with C2Auctions. They will organize the EMA SBC PAC Silent Auction during our EMA Day on the Hill Virtual Conference. All EMA members will be eligible to participate from anywhere in the United States if they download the C2Auction App on their mobile phone. We will provide a mobile link to all EMA Association Executives prior to the event.
The purpose of mobile bidding is to make the EMA SBC PAC Silent Auction more competitive and fun by notifying bidders the instant they are outbid. A notification informs the bidder that they are no longer winning, and to increase their bid or begin bidding on a new item. The ability to react in real-time means more bids. If you would like to support the EMA SBC PAC and have items that you would like to contribute for the Silent Auction, please contact Sabrina Pitcher at 703-351-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take Seven Minutes to Save a Life During April Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Increases in speeding, cell phone use, and hard braking caused over 43,000 deaths in 2020 — almost 3,000 more deaths than in 20191 — so refocusing company drivers on safety is truly a life-saving endeavor. During Distracted Driving Awareness Month this April, Federated Mutual Insurance Company is encouraging clients to “Take Seven Minutes to Save a Life.”
In April, Federated clients will receive complimentary risk management resources designed to help them have a meaningful, seven-minute conversation about the dangers of distracted driving with employees at their business. These resources include:
Federated clients who are registered users of mySHIELD® can also access additional risk management materials designed to support their safe driving efforts during Distracted Driving Awareness Month and year-round via the mySHIELD client portal. If you are interested in learning more about how your business can benefit from Federated Insurance resources, contact EMA’s National Account Executive Jon Medo at 800.533.0472. Federated is an EMA Corporate Platinum Partner.
EMA Member Services Spotlight Featuring: National Purchasing Partners (NPP)
Are you making the most of your member benefits?
As a member of Energy Marketers of America, you can access great discounts through National Purchasing Partners (NPP). NPP offers a substantial Verizon business discount for eligible companies of all sizes. Eligible businesses can receive 22 percent off Verizon monthly access fees* and up to 35 percent off smartphones, tablets, and accessories. Enroll your business with NPP to start saving with the nation’s largest, most reliable 4G LTE network.
Sound Payments’ Partner Freedom Electronics Announces Availability of Kits to Enable EMV at the Pump
NPP membership is free and there is no obligation to purchase. Simply enroll your business here and explore their catalog of useful savings. Be sure to activate the Verizon offer, if approved.
NPP also features discounts from other major brands such as Office Depot, Staples, Airgas, Sherwin-Williams and more. Enroll with NPP and learn more about how Verizon and other NPP brands are dedicated to helping businesses across the country.
*All Verizon Wireless offers are for a limited time only and are subject to equipment availability. Verizon Wireless reserves the right to change or modify all offers at any time without notice. All terms and conditions are subject to and governed by Verizon Wireless' Agreement with Customer, including, but not limited to, Customer eligibility requirements. Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of the Verizon Wireless offers; however, Verizon Wireless is not responsible for any errors or omissions. Restrictions may apply. Visit for details.
Sound Payments Petro Solutions partner Freedom Electronics is now providing Easy Pump kits utilizing the Sound Easy Pump™ technology, making EMV at the pump even more simple to achieve.
The Freedom Easy Pump kits, powered by Sound Payments, has UL1238 approved retrofit kits for Advantage, Encore 300, Encore 500, Encore 500S, Encore 700S, Vista, and Ovation-1 models. All systems include contactless payment as a standard feature. Sound Payments was recognized in 2020 for providing an optimal tap to pay experience through the Visa Ready Tap to Pay Program for the IM20 and Aries 8 contactless payment solutions.
The devices are preconfigured and ready to go. Kits can come with or without a printer. Freedom helps locate the nearest service company to provide a quote, work with stations on financing, and then installs the kit. Call (800) 761-9369.
Sound Easy Pump™ is a semi-integrated secure solution that can easily and cost-effectively enable EMV at the pump in a couple of hours or less. It supports contactless via card tap or NFC, QR code scanning, PIN-on-glass, remote key injection, MSR, and EMV chip and PIN. Sound Easy Pump is Visa Ready certified for providing an optimal tap to pay experience.
For more information, please visit. Sound Payments is an EMA Corporate Bronze Partner.