As a listing broker performing on Federal property, they would either need to have been vaccinated or provide proof that they had received a negative test within the last 3 days any time they are required to be on site at a HUD owned property.
And while Labor is generally unorganized, the Realtors are all members of the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Foreclosurepedia reached out to the NAR last week and have had no comment. It is rather surprising being that the NAR was the top spending lobbyist for 2020. Part of the NAR’s refusal to comment may be connected to the the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division filed a notice of withdrawal of consent to a proposed settlement with the NAR. The department has also filed to voluntarily dismiss its complaint without prejudice. The department determined that the settlement will not adequately protect the department’s rights to investigate other conduct by NAR that could impact competition in the real estate market and may harm home sellers and home buyers. The department is taking this action to permit a broader investigation of NAR’s rules and conduct to proceed without restriction.
Labor within the Mortgage Field Services Industry appears to be evenly split on COVID vaccination. The predominately blue collar sector looks at the latest round of regulatory compliance far differently than the white collar sector. Fact of the matter is that while Management continues to force down compliance, it does such as unfunded mandates. The last price increase in the Industry was years ago and, in fact, pricing has continued to plummet as we will discuss in future articles.
With respect to vaccinations, there are no costs associated with them. The compliance, though, is another story. The infrastructure is there which is one good thing. In fact, one Massachuttes based firm is offering verification of not only COVID vaccination and testing, but additionally includes verification of background checks, education, and insurance The cost? It’s under $40 per year and includes real time integration with any work order system. The larger question which presents is whether or not the National Association of Mortgage Field Services (NAMFS) will attempt to hijack it for personal gain as they did with the background checks and allowing Aspen Grove Solutions to monopolize. Millions of dollars are made off the backs of Labor having to submit to the background checks — which not a single financial institution or US government agency requires — while Management is not subject to them. There is valid concern that the same thing will apply with COVID vaccination.
As the Biden Administration continues to roll out a full court press against COVID and the Delta variant rages throughout the US, Foreclosurepedia had the opportunity to speak with Senior US government officials about how they were planning on implementing President Biden’s Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors. Signed 09 September 2021 and accompanied by an extremely pointed, nationally televised speech by the President, the Executive Order (EO) appears to compel COVID vaccination — without an option for those who prefer to be regularly tested instead — for all federal contractors and subcontractors alike. Most striking is the fact that the EO includes boots on the ground subcontractors — those subcontractors whom actually perform the services themselves.
The vaccine mandate is applicable to any contract or contract-like instrument that is entered into, extended, renewed, or has an option exercised on or after October 15, 2021. However, the Executive Order is effective immediately and agencies are “strongly encouraged, to the extent permitted by law” to extend the vaccine mandate to existing contracts not otherwise subject to the Executive Order.
According to the EO, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force will issue its guidance by 24 September 2021. When combined with the President’s COVID-19 Action Plan, Path Out of the Pandemic, we are looking at nearly 100 million US workers being impacted — roughly two thirds of the entire US workforce. These actions build upon the President’s 29 July 2021 directive that required employees and onsite contractors to disclose their vaccination status and, if they were not vaccinated, to mask, socially distance, and undergo regular testing. The new orders eliminate the testing option for those who are not vaccinated unless they receive an approved exemption. Thus, federal employees may no longer “test out” of vaccination.
As part of the Biden administration’s “Path Out of the Pandemic” plan released yesterday, President Biden issued an executive order adding COVID-19 vaccination requirements affecting nearly all federal contractors. The new mandates are significantly more aggressive than the federal employee COVID-19 safety protocols issued on July 29 that simply required vaccination certification or testing for “every federal government employee and onsite contractor.” Onsite contractors who cannot confirm they are fully vaccinated will still have to follow safety protocols (mask wearing, maintaining workplace social distancing, complying with weekly or twice weekly COVID-19 testing, and limiting official travel). But now most federal contractors – regardless of whether they have employees working on federal property – will soon be required to follow new vaccine mandate requirements, effective with contracts with pending solicitations or entered into on or after October 15.
Not surprisingly, the Mortgage Field Services Industry has remained deafeningly silent. Part of the difficulty in obtaining guidance or information in the Industry has dealt with the fact that National Association of Mortgage Field Services (NAMFS) members — generally the top tier whom are Prime Vendors to the US government — have been loathe to speak to Labor directly when it comes to COVID. Granted, NAMFS has promulgated a handful of documents which simply regurgitate that which the White House or the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) have to say, the problem is that no one has encouraged any input from Labor whom actually perform the services. For example, there is no reporting or backtracking of COVID infections in the Industry — it is Clinton’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell à la NAMFS. The scandal ridden association has seen a dramatic decline in membership YOY and is currently in free fall after failing to file federally required non profit tax returns for the previous two years according to IRS records. The combination of lack of funding and staff have provided a fertile landscape for disinformation — and at many times simply no information — when it comes to COVID in the Industry.
To determine what provisions of President Biden’s EO pertained to our Industry, Foreclosurepedia spoke directly with a Senior HUD Official whom stated, referencing the the HUD Management and Marketing (M&M) Asset Manager (AM) and Field Service Management (FSM) contract,
The short answer is “Yes” that once developed the clause will apply to the M&M contracts. The “when” may vary depending on whether it’s a new award or an extension/option. However, eventually all active contracts will be covered. The flowdown provisions would apply to all tiers of subcontractors, so it would impact those performing services at the properties, regardless of at what level.
The above statement is the first time, in over a decade, that HUD has chosen to directly implicate boots on the ground by and through the term flowdown provisions. A flowdown provision, generally in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), provides that subcontractors will be bound to the Prime Vendor in the same fashion as the Prime Vendor is bound under its contract with the US government. COVID ironically appears to be the true equalizer. What I mean is that HUD has always side stepped authority outside the scope of the Prime Vendor shielding the agency behind an argument that there is no Doctrine of Privity between HUD and the subcontractors. It is the primary reason why HUD refused to ever engage in the tens of millions of dollars in fraud committed by firms like National Field Network whom had to file for bankruptcy protection.
Even more precarious is the simple and salient fact that on the HUD M&M AM side, this EO potentially will require the mandatory vaccination of Realtors. And while many may believe that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) is a lobby to contend with, the reality is they have their hands full with recent Department of Justice litigation and can hardly deal with another proverbial black eye.
The Industry’s largest Prime Vendor performing on the HUD M&M FSM contract, Guardian Asset Management, had this to say with respect to HUD implementing the President’s EO,
We are having it reviewed now by Legal and will be addressing it as it is a very important issue. The health and safety of subcontracting partners is critical as they are the cornerstone of our business. — Guardian Asset Management
Well, at least someone is at the helm. Truth be told, when I made the rounds of the Cabinet level agencies whom are involved with either distressed assets or disaster related activities, getting an answer was akin to pulling teeth without anesthesia. I am not sure if I was more concerned over the press secretaries being oblivious or whether they were simply afraid to speak. The reality is that the implementation of this EO will most assuredly do two things: 1) it will cause a mass exodus of Labor; and 2) it will increase the administrative and financial burden upon the shoulders of what Labor remains as pushing regulations downward has always been the modus operandi of NAMFS members.
There are two components to President Biden’s EO. One is compliance and the other is enforcement. The former is quite simple and has already been implemented and the latter opens up a Wild West of audits triggered by the disgruntled.
Many are asking about how the Biden Administration’s newly enacted policies will be enforced? It is a good question. And while we are waiting for the Task Force’s final guidance to be issued this month, Foreclosurepedia had the opportunity to view OMB Form 3209-0277 which is currently being implemented by the Task Force for use at multiple US government agencies. It reads, in pertinent part,
I understand that if I decline to respond or am not fully vaccinated, I must comply with the following safety protocols […]:
• Wear a mask regardless of the level of community transmission;
• Physically distance; and
• Provide proof of having received a negative COVID-19 test from within the previous 3 days if I am a visitor or I am an onsite contractor who is not enrolled in an agency’s testing program.
I sign this document under penalty of perjury that the above is true and correct, and that I am the person named below. I understand that a knowing and willful false statement on this form can be punished by fine or imprisonment or both (18 U.S.C. 1001).
I understand that if I am a Federal employee or contractor making a false statement on this form could result in additional administrative action, including an adverse personnel action up to and including removal from my position or removal from a contract.
Moreover, though, the US government will potentially assess a $14,000 fine per employee per occurrence for non compliance. And for those whom are questioning the authority under which the US government is collecting the information? It is set out clearly on the form itself,
We are authorized to collect the information requested on this form pursuant to Executive Order 13991, Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing (Jan. 20, 2021), Executive Order 12196, Occupational Safety and Health Program for Federal Employees (Feb. 26, 1980), and 5 U.S.C. chapters 11 and 79.
In addressing the enforcement piece of the EO, I relate to you Lao Tzu’s 6th Century Chinese finger trap. The form creates the innocuous reporting instrument and then stores the pertinent data to be culled at a date and time of the US government’s choosing. It also begs the question whether or not the US government is the only one whom may trigger the compliance audit? What I mean is when subcontractors or employees begin lodging complaints — to get even or otherwise — there is not a single agency whom will turn a blind eye. Far too much is at stake — both for combating COVID as well as documenting regulatory compliance.
There is no disputing the fact that COVID is an extremely virulent virus leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake — no matter what the strain. And there is little doubt, in my mind at least, that vaccinations are the most efficient tool in our arsenal to combat COVID. Simply listen to this exclusive Foreclosurepedia Interview with a former Industry contractor and US Army veteran whom was unvaccinated, hospitalized, and to this day still suffers from COVID.
The reality is that if the Biden Administration is hoping for meaningful participation by both Cabinet level agencies and those contractors and subcontractors they deploy, they are in for a rude awakening. The EO rollout has been a complete debacle. The implementation of the Biden Administration’s five point Path Out of the Pandemic plan is an abysmal failure when it comes to messaging. For example, Foreclosurepedia reached out to Freddie Mac whose media office contact “Sarah” simply forwarded our request for comment to “Chris” and then turned around and said, “Hi Paul, Apologies, the previous message was sent in error. Thank you.” Follow up requests for comment went unanswered. It was similar with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) whom oversees nearly $235 million worth of loans including their Section 502 and 504 rural home loans of which include distressed assets serviced by contractors and subcontractors. USDA simply stated, “We are following up on this request.” In typical Biden fashion they included no answer, no documents, nothing.
Ditto for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency under the control of the Department of Homeland Security. Foreclosurepedia spoke with Mike Hart, FEMA’s Media Branch Chief, via telephone, after he inquired what our article was about. To date, FEMA has been unresponsive in their guidance for contractors or subcontractors as requested from Foreclosurepedia. As the EO impacts the HUD M&M AM and FSM contracts, Foreclosurepedia reached out to the National Association of Realtors (NAR) as potentially their Realtor members would appear to be subcontractors under the Asset Manager side. To date, they as well have been unresponsive. Ironically, the World Health Organization (WHO) at least replied by and through Carla Drysdale, WHO Communications Officer. It was a non-answer, but at least they were forthcoming,
We don’t comment specifically on member state policies.
Unfortunately, the Biden Administration’s rolling out of their COVID requirements has been disjointed and an almost knee jerk reaction — especially when it comes to messaging. When press secretaries and media contacts are either fearful of reprisal for or incapable of disseminating information, it sows the seeds for both disinformation and animosity. The distressed asset space, in conjunction with disaster remediation tops nearly a trillion dollars a year overall. And the subcontractors total in the hundreds of thousands. To date, only HUD has issued any meaningful guidance with respect to President Biden’s EO and its impact on contractors and subcontractors. With respect to the US government’s legal ability to require COVID vaccinations for federal contractors and subcontractors it is absolute. The jury is out as to whether the Biden Administration may force it upon the private sector.
We will publish upon comments from other US government agencies as they are received.
Yesterday afternoon, President Biden issued an Executive Order which appeared to directly impact the US Department of Housing and Urban Development‘s (HUD) Management and Marketing (M&M) Asset Manager (AM) and Field Service Manager (FSM) contracts. Entitled, Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, it came directly on the heels of the introduction of a Six Point Plan to combat COVID which is, by far, the most far reaching requirements for COVID vaccination. More on the Six Point Plan in a moment. First, though, lets take a look at whom the Executive Order directly impacts,
(a) Executive departments and agencies, including independent establishments subject to the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, 40 U.S.C. 102(4)(A) (agencies), shall, to the extent permitted by law, ensure that contracts and contract-like instruments (as described in section 5(a) of this order) include a clause that the contractor and any subcontractors (at any tier) shall incorporate into lower-tier subcontracts. This clause shall specify that the contractor or subcontractor shall, for the duration of the contract, comply with all guidance for contractor or subcontractor workplace locations published by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force Guidance or Guidance), provided that the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Director) approves the Task Force Guidance and determines that the Guidance, if adhered to by contractors or subcontractors, will promote economy and efficiency in Federal contracting.
The implication here is that the Executive Order directly applies to all boots on the ground contractors in the Mortgage Field Services Industry. In essence, this Executive Order will have the standing of law by and through the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act, 40 U.S.C. 101 et seq., and section 301 of title 3, United States Code. And while the Executive Order is more prose than not, the Six Point Plan clearly lays out the fact that each and every employee at Altisource, Mortgage Contracting Services, Safeguard Properties and potentially dozens of other Industry firms will be required to submit to the COVID vaccination. Here is the language used,
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100+ employees.
Now, private sector employers are allowed to require either COVID vaccination or perform COVID testing. The kicker here is that should a company refuse to do either, DoL will kick in fines of $14,000 per employee per violation. And while many are preaching the gospel of an economy and housing market on fire — inferring absorption of the fines are an easy task — the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. Wall Street On Parade has a great graphic which documents the 41% drop in GDP just in August alone as seen below.
We will follow up on this article with comments from a HUD Senior Official with respect to how the Executive Order applies to the HUD Prime Vendors as well as boots on the ground.
Over the past decade, disaster cleanup has become the new mecca for many whom used to work in the Mortgage Field Services Industry. Disaster recovery jobs span across the United States and range from picking up trash and removing debris to power line restoration and real estate procurement. In fact, growing from a fractured infancy, the Disaster Recovery Industry has grown exponentially in response to the massive natural disasters that have struck throughout the US over the past decade. More on point, though Wall Street has become quite enamored. And the sky — literally — is the limit because when it rains, it pours.
As meteorology had dramatically improved, well in advance of disasters, workers begin assembling manpower and equipment. As many firms originate well outside of a disaster area, the ability to mass purchase material, food, and fuel is both cost saving and mission critical. Much like military recon units, crews are generally the first on location and often play multiple roles such as removing debris so that first responders and law enforcement are capable of reaching outlying victims and assets. It is a pipeline that is as much dependent upon skill and dexterity as it is in trust of the Prime Vendors to ensure that payments are received.
In the first days and initial weeks, a disaster zone is literally the Wild West. Rules go out the window and crews are 100% on their own. Rarely is there any access to food, clothing and shelter. Moreover, though, 911 is not an option for those in danger and the local auto parts store or mechanics for emergency repairs are non existent.
The segway from the Mortgage Field Services Industry to the Disaster Recovery Industry is a natural one. Generally speaking, both industries deal with debris removal, repairs, rehabs, and restoration. The exceptions are best exemplified by legitimate background checks in the Disaster sector with legitimate regulations as opposed to the Mortgage sector wherein multiple people are capable of using the same Aspen Grove Solutions background check and there is zero training at the field level.
Breaking into the Industry isn’t all that difficult. Where the rubber meets the road is in determining if a contractor desires to work for a firm — which would ensure minimal exposure and steady payments — or aspire to Prime Vendor level status with FEMA and other local, county, state and federal government entities. Things like DUNS, SAM, MBE and financial solvency are all critical when it comes to presenting your portfolio or pitch deck to potential Clients. Another item that separates the wheat from the chaff is having a thorough documentation of all your Policies and Procedures. These volumes, generally in the hundreds of pages, are definite game changers when you are initially courting prospective Clients.
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