Municipalities and their private sector partners will experience high costs, especially in residential collections to cover all of the costs incurred as workers transition to working from home. FEMA can help protect public health and safety by committing to cover the costs of essential services provided that aren’t paid by the service recipients.
The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) have both sent letters to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor requesting that the agency establish a system to compensate the waste and recycling industry for providing services to protect public health and safety that otherwise would go unpaid during the COVID-19 outbreak.
NWRA says it also shared copies of the letter with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the nation’s COVID-19 response task force, and the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery, which has oversight of FEMA.
Solid waste management is identified as an essential critical infrastructure workforce in the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency’s (CISA) March 19, 2020 memo, and has been listed as essential in every emergency order issued at the state level in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in city and county responses as well.
“Providing these essential services to those unable to pay as a result of economic hardships caused by COVID-19 while continuing to employ the workforce needed to support such an effort will require assistance,” NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith writes in the NWRA letter.
“Since both the public and private sectors collect and manage solid waste and recyclables, SWANA’s letter asserts that all sanitation departments, haulers, and post-collection companies providing services during the COVID-19 pandemic without being paid for them should be eligible for reimbursement,” said SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman.
Darrell Smith points out that FEMA can establish a vehicle under disaster debris management plans or by other alternative direct compensation means as selected by the agency to compensate the waste and recycling industry for providing uncompensated services to protect public health and safety during this time of national emergency.
Both NWRA and SWANA specifically ask for funding to cover services provided in the U.S. related to customer bad debt and other uncompensated costs incurred for services being provided to the public during the national emergency.
Both associations are providing guidance, as many waste management activities must continue. SCS is following association advice, state protocols, and our clients’ recommendations in our own procedures as we continue to perform essential work. We share the SWANA resources and recommendations here and thank them for their dedication. SCS employees should use SCS resources available on the SCS intranet and through our Health & Safety protocol, which reflect the safety precautions advised here.
Reprinted Letter to SWANA Members dated March 23, 2020
As communities and companies throughout the United States and Canada respond to the Coronavirus pandemic, SWANA will continue to provide assistance to its members and the waste industry.
A growing number of states and localities are issuing orders identifying certain industries as “essential” during the pandemic, and these orders typically include the solid waste industry and other categories of employees who may be SWANA members. In those locations, employees and contractors may need to demonstrate proof to law enforcement personnel or others that they work in an essential industry. See this template letter that employers can customize to their needs and provide to employees and contractors. The letter should be on agency/company letterhead and include a contact person and a telephone number to call. The contact person should be familiar with the applicable emergency declarations.
Employees and contractors should carry the customized letter with them at all times, and particularly when they are going to or from work. Several waste industry employees in California in their personal vehicles were stopped on their way to work by law enforcement personnel late last week, but fortunately, their employer had created a letter similar to the attached and the employees were able to show that letter and proceed to their places of employment.
This letter is intended to allow workers to demonstrate that they work in a job category identified as an essential service, including solid waste and recycling operations. It should not be used for any other purpose or by employees that are not actively supporting these operations.
In addition, attached is a notification document for solid waste employers and others to place in their work vehicles to demonstrate they are covered by recent emergency order guidance. It cites the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, March 19, 2020 memo that identifies workers engaged in the removal, storage, and disposal of residential and commercial solid waste and hazardous waste as essential infrastructure workers.
NWRA resources are plentiful and include these:
COVID-19 WORK PRACTICES At this time CDC and OSHA are not issuing waste and recycling specific guidelines for the handling of waste and recycling materials related to COVID 19. If this changes, NWRA will alert its members. Use this industry guidance.
COVID-19 RESOURCES Resources and information provided by agencies and organizations.