By Matt Egan, CNN Business
The trade group that represents consumer brands including Coca-Cola, Kellogg and Campbell Soup fired off a letter to President Joe Biden on Monday with a laundry list of questions about his new vaccine mandate.
In the letter, Consumer Brands Association CEO Geoff Freeman called for “immediate clarity” on the administration’s new Covid-19 Action Plan.
That plan, unveiled last week, caught some in the business world off guard because it includes an emergency rule from the Labor Department that calls for all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their entire workforce is vaccinated or regularly tests negative for Covid-19. Biden officials have said companies could face penalties of up to $14,000 per violation.
The Consumer Brands Association — which represents the $2.1 trillion food, beverage and consumer products industry that employs 2.1 million workers — urged federal agencies to “move quickly, anticipate challenges, promptly answer questions” and partner with businesses to implement the new plan.
“The Consumer Brands Association and our member companies stand ready to partner with you in getting Americans vaccinated,” Freeman wrote.
The letter to Biden included a “small sampling” of questions that have surfaced among business leaders, including:
- What is considered documentation for proof of vaccination and how will booster shots factor into compliance?
- Will the requirements only apply to vaccines that are fully approved by the FDA?
- Does the government plan to centralize vaccination tracking?
- What are the consequences of falsifying one’s vaccination status or test results?
- What is considered suitable documentation for a negative test result?
- Should employees choose not to vaccinate, is the company or employee responsible for securing and paying for testing?
- When will the requirements be formally issued?
- Do the new federal requirements include exemptions for religious beliefs and disabilities?
The questions underscore the uncertainty created by the Biden plan and hint at frustration in the business community over the federal government’s response throughout the pandemic.
In an interview Friday, Betsy Booren, vice president of regulatory affairs at the Consumer Brands Association, told CNN Business that the industry was surprised by the Biden announcement and would have liked to have seen more details in the initial rollout.
“But that’s been a concern I’ve had during this whole crisis, regardless of the administration in place,” Booren said. “Whether it was the Trump or Biden administration, getting clarity around these issues has been our concern.”