• 10/01/2021 2:52 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    On Friday, September 24, the White House Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued new guidance regarding vaccination requirements and other COVID-safety measures for the employees of federal government contractors of all business sizes. The Guidance implements the Exeutive Order that President Biden issued last month regarding COVID precautions for government contractors.

    The Guidance requires that covered contracts and contract-like instruments include a clause that the contractor and any subcontractors (at any tier) are required to incorporate specifying that contractor or subcontractors shall, for the duration of the contract, comply with all the Task Force’s Guidance.

    The Guidance requires that contractors and subcontractors conform to these protocols:

    1. COVID-19 vaccination of covered contractor employees by December 8, 2021, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation;
    2. Compliance by individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, with the Guidance related to masking and physical distancing while in covered contractor workplaces; and
    3. Designation by covered contractors of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces.

    The vaccination requirement applies to covered employees working from home and who have recovered from COVID-19. In addition, there is no alternative for workers to present a weekly negative COVID test, as expected in the forthcoming OSHA vaccine requirement for large employers.

    In addition, the Guidance applies to contractor or subcontractor workplace locations that are outdoors.

    The Guidance also lays out a process for phasing in the requirements.

    • On contracts awarded prior to October 15, 2021, where performance is ongoing, the requirements must be incorporated at the point at which an option is exercised or an extension is made.
    • The requirements must be incorporated into contracts awarded on or after November 14, 2021. Between October 15 and November 14, agencies must include the clause in the solicitation and are encouraged to include the clause in contracts awarded during this time period but are not required to do so unless the solicitation for such contract was issued on or after October 15.

    The Task Force has created a set of FAQs for government contractors which provide more information about the requirements.

  • 09/30/2021 3:34 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Storytelling in CRM: Moving Beyond Producing Gray Literature
    October 14, 2021
    2:00 - 3:30 PM (EDT)
    Register Now

    Members $89 | Students $19 | Non-Members $129

    In a world of viral tweets and social media influencers, the past is getting swept under the rug. The work of cultural resource management firms is often relegated to gray literature, a checked box before breaking ground. Nevertheless, our efforts reveal powerful human stories with the power to inspire, to educate, and to bring change.

    Join us on October 14 for Storytelling in CRM: Moving Beyond Producing Gray Literature. This webinar provides a virtual “bootcamp” that offers baseline training in the principles of storytelling, photography, videography, public speaking, and social media. Not only will participants leave with a better understanding of the benefits of meaningful public outreach in CRM, but the skillset to try it out on their own.

    As always, in addition to reduced pricing, ACRA member firms enjoy a firm-wide registration fee - once one person pays for a spot, all other firm employees can register for no additional cost.

    We expect spaces to fill up quick, so register NOW to reserve your spot!

    Register for Storytelling in CRM Now

  • 09/28/2021 3:03 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    With the end of the fiscal year looming on Sept. 30, there is the possibility that federal agencies will need to cease operations if Congress and the White House fail to pass spending bills to keep them open.

    Once a rare occurrence, government shutdowns have sadly become more common in recent years as partisan fighting prevents policymakers from taking the steps needed to keep the government’s light on.

    What does a shutdown mean for companies that work with the government, and for the public in general. Below is some basic information about what a shutdown could mean.

    What is a government shutdown?

    A shutdown occurs when Congress and the President fail to pass legislation to provide funding for federal agency operations. The federal government operates on an October 1-to-September 30 fiscal year. Each year, Congress must pass, and the President must sign, appropriations bills that fund government agencies and programs. If an agency does not have its funding signed into law by October 1, Congress can pass a “continuing resolution” that extends the prior year’s funding levels for set time period until it passes a full-year appropriations bill. If the president does not sign either a continuing resolution bill or a full-year appropriation, the affected agency or agencies must “shut down,” stopping operations except for essential services.

    Do all agencies and programs have to shut down?

    Not necessarily. Typically, Congress passes 12 separate appropriations bills funding different parts of the government. If Congress and the President approved one or more of those appropriations bills, the agencies covered by those bills would be able to continue running even if other agencies need to shut down. In addition, the funding of certain so-called mandatory spending programs like Social Security and Medicare is not contingent upon Congress providing annual appropriations; those programs will continue to be funded. However, the staffers who administer these programs may not be able to work so delays in benefits, such as Social Security checks, are possible.

    How long will a shutdown last?

    Shutdowns last until Congress and the President agree on either a full-year spending bill or another continuing resolution. The most recent shutdown, in late 2018 and early 2019, lasted more than a month. Other shutdowns have been much shorter; in fact, if a shutdown lasts only a day or so, its impacts will be negligible.

    Do all federal employees have to stop working if there’s a shutdown?

    When there is a shutdown, agencies designate “essential” personnel to continue working. The definitions of what is essential vary by agency, but personnel like air traffic controllers, Secret Service agents, and military personnel will most certainly continue working. Essential employees work without pay, but have been granted back pay following previous shutdowns. Non-essential personnel are placed on unpaid furlough, meaning they must cease all work activities, including answering emails and phone calls.

    I have a contract with a federal agency. What do I do?

    If you have a current contract with the federal government, you should speak to your point of contact in the government as soon as possible. Typically, agencies will provide some guidance for contracting officers as a shutdown looms. Even if there is a shutdown, if your contract is already in place, you might not have to cease operations because the money for the contract would already have been committed. However, it is possible that your contracting officer will be furloughed, and payments could be delayed. Contractors should carefully maintain records of all contacts with agencies, outstanding invoices, costs incurred due to the shutdown, and other data about activities both before and during a shutdown that will help agencies understand what work has been done.

    Will my company get paid for the work we do during a shutdown?

    In general, contract expenses incurred prior to a shutdown will be paid, but there may be delays in the processing of these expenses due to a shutdown. However, contractors are generally not entitled to reimbursement for performance of unfunded work during a shutdown. In previous shutdowns, Congress did approve back pay for both furloughed and essential federal employees but not for contractors. Some businesses contracting with the government were forced to furlough employees working under contract, and it fell to those businesses to determine whether to provide back pay or paid leave for those workers. That is why it is vital to keep good records of work done both prior to and during a shutdown.

    Will I be furloughed by my company if its funding for federal projects is stopped or delayed?

    That depends on your company and the kind of contract it holds. If you are furloughed, you may be eligible for unemployment compensation. Unemployment compensation requirements and rules vary by state; for more information, contact your state’s unemployment office.

    Will federal grants be affected by a shutdown?

    It depends on the agency. In some cases, grant activities may continue, but your points of contact with the federal government may be furloughed and payments may be delayed. If your federal grant is in conjunction with a state or local government, those entities may decide to cover the gaps in federal funding caused by a shutdown, although there is no guarantee they will be reimbursed by the federal government. As with contracts, it is important to speak with your point of contact at the awarding agency as soon as possible.

  • 09/27/2021 1:46 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    Congress and the White House are headed into a make-or-break week as the outcome of a number of complex issues could determine the ultimate success of President Biden’s agenda – and the shape of the economy for months, or even years, to come.

    Even as they continue to haggle over massive infrastructure and social spending bills (more on that below), policymakers are coming up against two immovable deadlines. First, on Sept. 30 the current fiscal year ends; if Congress does not pass appropriations bills for the new year starting Oct. 1, many parts of the government could shut down. Second, at some point in October, the Treasury Department will run out of borrowing authority to pay its bills; unless Congress raises or suspends the debt ceiling, the U.S. government could default on its debts for the first time in history, with major ramifications for the global economy.

    The House attempted to deal with both issues last week, passing a so-called “continuing resolution” that extends government spending at current levels until Dec. 3. The bill includes $28.6 billion in additional disaster relief spending and an additional $6.3 billion to support Afghanistan evacuees. In addition, the bill suspends the debt ceiling, the provision in law which places a cap on how much the government can borrow, until December 2022. (It’s important to note that raising the debt ceiling does not give Congress the power to increase spending; it enables the government to pay debts already incurred.)

    However, the bill is likely to go nowhere in the Senate, because Congressional Republicans have said they will not vote to raise or suspend the debt ceiling under any circumstances. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that, since Democrats control the White House and Congress, it is up to them to raise the debt ceiling (even through Democrats supported debt ceiling increases under the Trump administration). Without the support of at least 10 Senate Republicans to bypass a filibuster, the House bill is dead on arrival.

    Democrats can raise the debt ceiling as part of their budget reconciliation bill, since that requires just 50 votes (plus a tie-breakers from the Vice President), but Democrats are leery of raising the ceiling – and the political anger it engenders – on their own.

    What would a government shutdown, or a default, mean? The impact of a shutdown would depend on how long it lasted; the 35-day shutdown in 2019 impacted air travel due to Transportation Security Administration furloughs, slowed some FBI investigations, and cost taxpayers $5 billion in lost tax revenue and fees at National Parks. A shorter shutdown might have little or no impact.

    A default, on the other hand, could be extremely damaging for the economy. In the immediate term, Social Security checks would not go out, government contractors would not get paid, and families would not receive their monthly child tax credit. In the longer term, the nation’s credit rating would sink, and interest rates would likely rise. At the end of the day, it is unlikely Congressional leaders and the White House will allow the government to default on its debt, but the brinksmanship will probably continue for some time.

    Even as they confront the fiscal year and debt ceiling deadlines, Democrats are trying to maneuver their domestic agenda through a very difficult path to passage. As the White House and Congressional Democrats continue to negotiate between the centrist and progressive wings of the party on the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that a final vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill would be pushed back to Thursday. Originally, she promised House centrist Democrats a vote on the bill today, but at least 60 progressive Democrats have said they would oppose the infrastructure bill unless the reconciliation bill was passed first by both chambers. On Sunday, the Speaker said it was "self-evident" that the $3.5 trillion price tag will drop due to opposition from at least two Senate Democrats.

    Despite the seeming chaos, there was good news for the CRM industry in at least two areas last week.

    • First, the House approved an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that partly addresses an issue raised by ACRA relating to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and CRM firms that seek contracts from federal agencies and state DOTs. Under federal rules, firms that have PPP loans forgiven need to credit the value of the loan back to agencies when they contract for projects, potentially leaving CRM firms in the position of losing money on government contracts. The bipartisan amendment to the defense bill eliminates the credit-back requirement on contracts with the Department of Transportation and state DOTs.
    • Second, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing for Sara Bronin as Chair of the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation (ACHP) on Sept. 21, a key step in getting her in position at the Council. At the hearing, Bronin said that, if confirmed, she would work with Congress and other stakeholders “to ensure the ACHP continues to take a leadership role in advancing and modernizing preservation practice nationally.” Bronin’s nomination is expected to move easily through the Senate.

    As Washington continues grappling with a set of thorny issues, stay tuned to ACRASphere for the latest on how they will affect the CRM industry.

  • 09/23/2021 11:16 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    28th Annual Conference
    September 21-25, 2022
    San Antonio, TX

    Stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for further details on sessions, registration, and more!

  • 09/16/2021 1:57 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The 2021 ACRA Awards were presented at the Annual Conference in Old Town Alexandria last week, and we are thrilled to congratulate the following winners:

    • Cloverfields Preservation Foundation for the renovation of Cloverfields
    • Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology for residential planning and development in Indiana, 1940-1973
    • Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for the Agua Caliente Vision 2020 Project
    • Florida Department of Transportation District 4 for the preservation of Woodlawn Cemetery
    • Delaware River and Bay Authority for the Delaware Airpark Master Plan

    You can learn more about each winner and project in the video below, and congratulations again!

  • 09/15/2021 2:58 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    ACRA is proud to be a general sponsor of the First Annual NATHPO Sacred Sites Summit. More information on the event can be found below.

    National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (NATHPO), a national non-profit 501(c)(3) membership organization, founded in 1998, of tribal preservation leaders protecting culturally important places that perpetuate Native identity, resilience, and cultural endurance, is thrilled to announce its First Annual NATHPO Sacred Sites Summit – Virtual Event will be held September 22 & 23, 2021. The conference theme is “The Stars Align to Protect Native Places.”

    NATHPO is committed to providing solutions-focused programming in support of Tribal historic preservation. With the unique opportunities being opened by the current social and political climate for Indigenous Peoples, the organization recognized the need to offer a space for Native voices, legislators, and agency leadership and staff to come together in understanding the current legal and policy framework and ways to strengthen protection of Tribal sacred sites. The Sacred Sites Summit is the result. Each subsequent annual Sacred Sites Summit will help effect real change through accountability, as well as through the establishment new goals and relationships. The 2021 summit’s virtual venue will ensure all parties are able to meet safely due to the continued threat of Covid-19, while also providing the opportunity for broader engagement since travel time and expense is not involved.

    The virtual Sacred Sites Summit agenda is comprised of two days, each with multiple sessions progressing through four aspects of protecting sacred sites. First, connecting to place through virtual experiences with the land and those who hold it sacred. Second, what is the state of current sacred sites protection in the U.S.? What is the existing legal and policy framework and what are the gaps from the Tribal perspective? Third, what should be in place to close the gaps? What solutions would truly address the issues and protect the places that define us? Fourth, action by defining recommendations and deliberate, measurable steps forward for preservation and reconciliation.

    “The time for the Sacred Sites Summit is here. In this historic moment, the stars have aligned – now is the time to work toward real, enduring solutions for protecting Tribal sacred sites. NATHPO has set the stage and this event is shaping up to be a powerful incubator of possibilities as we bring Tribes, legislators and agency leadership and staff together to share best practices, learn from one another and work together,” says Dr. Valerie Grussing, NATHPO Executive Director, “If we and the earth are made from the same stuff, our health and survival are linked to taking care of places.”

    For more information about the First Annual NATHPO Sacred Sites Summit – Those interested in more information about NATHPO can visit the website at https://www.nathpo.org/. For more information on the First Annual NATHPO Sacred Sites Summit, including how to register and sponsorship opportunities, go to the summit registration page at https://www.nathpo.org/sacred-sites-summit/.

  • 09/13/2021 1:30 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    ACRA members took to Capitol Hill last week – in spirit, if not always in person – to advocate for the industry as part of ACRA’s 2021 Annual Conference in Alexandria, VA. Although many of the meetings were virtual due to the resurgence of the coronavirus, ACRA members met with nearly 50 House and Senate offices to educate them on CRM and urge them to support policies that benefit the industry.

    In particular, ACRA members pressed their elected representatives to:

    • balance the need to build a better infrastructure with preserving our heritage by ensuring that federal agencies, their state and tribal partners and other stakeholders have the resources to carry out effective and timely Sec. 106 reviews
    • permanently authorize the Historic Preservation Fund and increase its authorized funding level to help states, communities and tribes protect cultural and historic heritage
    • support CRM firms, especially small ones, by fixing a provision in federal contracting rules that requires companies that sign government contracts to reduce their pay if they received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and had it forgiven

    The timing of ACRA’s 2021 Hill Day could not have been more opportune as Congress is in the thick of drafting President Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill and looking to pass a $1 billion infrastructure plan, which will lead to more federally backed projects – and greater demand for Section 106 reviews. ACRA members made clear that, while additional infrastructure investments were needed, without additional support for state and tribal historic preservation offices from the Historic Preservation Fund, it will be difficult to move the review process forward in a timely manner.

    As ACRA members were engaging with their representatives, the House Natural Resources Committee was approving, on a party-line vote, $25.6 billion in additional funding for the Department of the Interior as part of the larger spending bill. The bill provides an additional $75 million for historic preservation activities at the National Park Service through 2031. In addition, the bill protects Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Outer Continental Shelf from future oil and gas drilling, raises rates on oil and gas developers operating on public lands and waters, from 12.5% to 20% for onshore and offshore development, and reestablishes the federal government’s authority to hold lease sales for offshore wind development off the Atlantic coasts of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina and in the Gulf of Mexico. (You can see more details of the bill here.)

    Democrats in both chambers of Congress hope to finalize their versions of the $3.5 trillion bill by the middle of September and bring them to a vote. However, passage is far from assured, as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) indicated he would only support $1.5 trillion in spending, $2 trillion below what Democrats hope to include in the bill and much lower than what progressive Democrats are demanding. With bare majorities in both chambers of Congress, Democrats can’t afford to lose the support of either wing of their party.

    As the virtual nature of ACRA’s Hill Day demonstrated, the pandemic is far from over. Last week, President Biden ramped up pressure to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 and the infectious Delta variant. On Thursday, Biden released an updated Covid-19 Action Plan, which, among other actions, requires all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly.

    The proposed rules, which will be implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), will require workers in companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing, and will mandate that the businesses offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated. OSHA is expected to finalize details soon.

    In addition, Biden announced that federal workers will need to be vaccinated, and took steps to require that federal government contractors and subcontractors be vaccinated, with more details to be announced Sept. 24. (The rules for contractors are not expected to cover grants, or contracts or contract-like instruments or agreements with tribes).

    The plan was condemned by a number of Republican governors and policymakers, and it is likely the plan will face lawsuits, although numerous legal experts said the White House is on solid legal footing.

    The ongoing pandemic reminds us that the economy remains fragile, which is why Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill are anxious to produce results on the infrastructure and social spending bills. By educating policymakers on the important role that the CRM industry plays in the economy, ACRA members who took part in Hill day last week are helping to make sure that the industry is at the table when lawmakers make important policy decisions. To learn more about how you can help advocate for the industry, contact info@acra-crm.org.

  • 09/02/2021 1:28 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    From the SPARC team:

    We are pleased to announce the 2021-2022 application season for the SPARC (SPatial Archaeometry Research Collaborations) Program. SPARC is an NSF-funded Archaeology and Archaeometry program dedicated to promoting geospatial research in archaeology, hosted by the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas and Dartmouth College.

    Now in its 8th year, SPARC offers direct support to archaeological projects through awards in three categories: Fieldwork (on-site data collection), Data & Analytics (preparation, processing, and analysis of geospatial data), and Publication (presentation, publication, and archiving of complex geospatial datasets). New to 2021-2022 are funded, short-term residencies at either CAST and Dartmouth for visiting scholars to undergo face-to-face research collaborations, utilize or train on equipment and facilities, or develop publications.

    We are particularly interested in proposals that overlap with our current analytical development priorities:

    • historic and satellite imagery analysis
    • sUAS (drone) sensors
    • microCT applications for archaeology
    • data analytics
    • digital data management
    • visualization and archiving of complex spatial datasets

    Please visit the SPARC homepage to learn more.

    We encourage applications from scholars underrepresented within the field of archaeology, early-career scholars, and those working in the public sector or at public institutions. Late-stage PhD students are eligible for SPARC submissions. The Program sets no priorities based on time period, geographic region or specific research topic, but projects should have an anthropologically relevant focus and qualify for NSF archaeology funding. The project must be affiliated with an institution and/or organization that would otherwise be eligible for NSF support, which is typically US-based.

    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. Pre-application consultations are required before submission. Please visit our website at https://sparc.cast.uark.edu/ for more information about the Program and the application process.

  • 08/30/2021 2:16 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Your Congress in Action is a series that highlights the Capitol Hill news that affects CRM firms the most. Be sure to subscribe to the ACRAsphere to ensure you don't miss an update.

    Even as Washington remains gripped by the unfolding crisis in Afghanistan, Congress managed to take a big step forward on President Biden’s domestic agenda.

    In a rare mid-August session, the House approved a budget resolution that paves the way for consideration in the fall of a $3.5 trillion "soft" infrastructure bill that includes many of President Biden's domestic policy priorities. Although the details have yet to be worked out, the bill will likely contain provisions that provide universal pre-Kindergarten for 3- and 4-year olds, tuition-free community college, paid family and medical leave, and steps to address climate change.

    Passage of the resolution was not certain until the very last minute, however, due to infighting between moderate and progressive Democrats. Progressive Democrats wanted to move ahead on the "soft" bill before taking up the Senate-passed bipartisan "hard" infrastructure bill, but a group of nine House moderate Democrats announced earlier this month that they would not vote for the resolution until the House passed the "hard" bill, essentially the opposite of the progressives' position. Because of the Democrats' narrow House majority, defections by either faction would doom the resolution. In the end, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) negotiated a deal with the moderates ensuring that the House would take up the "hard" infrastructure bill by Sept. 27, allowing Democrats to pass the budget resolution to start the process of drafting the "soft" bill.

    When Congress returns to Washington after Labor Day, committees in both chambers will begin writing the details of the $3.5 trillion bill. A major potential sticking point will be how to pay for it; Democrats have said they do not want the bill to add to the federal budget deficit, but President Biden has pledged not to raise taxes on people making under $400,000 per year. That leaves tax increases on higher earners and corporations on the table; the White House has proposed raising the top marginal individual tax rate to 39.6% and the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

    In an effort to allay concerns that the bill will not harm small businesses, the Treasury Department said in an analysis last week that only three percent of small businesses in the country would see their taxes rise under the proposed $3.5 trillion soft infrastructure bill. Although the plan envisions an increase in the corporate tax rate paid by C corporations, very few small business organize as C corporations. According to the analysis, raising the top individual marginal tax rate to 39.6% would impact very few small businesses that organize as S corporations and partnerships. As always, the devil is in the details, and ACRA is watching the deliberations closely to understand the potential impacts on CRM firms.

    Meanwhile, the National Park Service this week announced nearly $10 million in grants to assist 20 historic preservation projects, located on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in 10 states. These grants come from the Historic Preservation Fund, which has faced increasing demand as states, tribes and communities ramp up preservation activities. The expected passage of the “hard” infrastructure bill means more projects will be coming down the pipeline, which in turn means more Sec. 106 reviews. ACRA and its allies are continuing to make the case to policymakers that an increase in funding for the Historic Preservation Fund will enable CRM firms and their partners in state and tribal historic preservation offices to complete Sec. 106 reviews in a timely manner and get infrastructure projects moving.

    Support for the Historic Preservation Fund will be one of the key topics that ACRA members will bring to their Congressional representatives on ACRA’s 2021 Hill Day on September 9, at the outset of the ACRA Annual Conference. As Congress debates how to shape legislation that will impact nearly every aspect of the economy, it’s important for CRM professionals to make their voices heard.

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