Federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates could cost Kansas businesses $43 million, Sen. Roger Marshall says

Jason Tidd
Topeka Capital-Journal
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, fields questions from reporters following a roundtable discussion over COVID-19 vaccine mandates and labor shortages in Topeka. File photo.

Federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates could cost Kansas businesses $43 million, according to an economic analysis released by U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall.

The Republican senator released a report Friday estimating that more than 463,000 Kansas workers, or 31% of the state's total labor force, "are at risk of losing their jobs."

"Using the Biden Administration's own estimates, complying with this mandate will cost Kansas businesses at least $43 million," the report states.

The methodology behind the report is unclear. A Marshall spokesperson said, "The data came from U.S. Census Bureau and the CDC, and compliance costs were pulled using the stats in OSHA’s published ETS." The senator was "unavailable for an interview" on the report because of ongoing work on the National Defense Authorization Act.

"Each day we hear from Kansans faced with the difficult decision of taking the jab or losing their job, which is why I will keep fighting against ALL efforts to implement and enforce Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate," Marshall said in a statement.

"This mandate is a slap in the face to so many people, including our essential workers, who answered the call last year. These are real people working to feed their families and pay their mortgages. We are going to do everything in our power to fight for Kansans who are rightfully concerned and uncertain about their futures."

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The footer of the report names Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Marshall is a member of the same committee.

The report also estimates:

• The manufacturing industry in Kansas has approximately 79,000 unvaccinated workers, and vaccine mandate compliance could cost $4 million for businesses in this industry.

• The state's retail trade sector has about 61,000 unvaccinated workers, and vaccine mandate compliance could cost $9.3 million for businesses in this industry.

• The state's wholesale trade sector has about 23,000 unvaccinated workers, and vaccine mandate compliance could cost $4.5 million for businesses in this industry.

• Nationally, about 45 million unvaccinated workers could risk losing their jobs, and U.S. businesses will spend about $1.29 billion to comply with the mandate.

The economic cost estimates appear to come from a study included in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's 154-page filing of the mandate in the Federal Register.

Implementation of OSHA's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large employers has been on hold, as ordered by a federal judge. Democratic President Joe Biden has directed multiple federal vaccination requirements, including for federal employees, federal contractors and health care workers.

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The study estimated nearly $3 billion in costs to American businesses to comply with the OSHA mandate.

The costs center around the logistics of a firm implementing a mandate — from paid time off to get vaccinated to recordkeeping to the time it takes for a manager to post information on a bulletin board.

The report estimates the mandates would apply to about 31.7 million unvaccinated workers. The OSHA analysis suggests about 20 million would ultimately get vaccinated because of the mandate.

Of the workers who would refuse to get vaccinated, less than 1 million would seek medical exemptions, about 3.4 million would seek religious exemptions and about 7.4 million would refuse for other reasons, such as politics.

The OSHA vaccine mandate leaves room for a testing option, so businesses wouldn't be required to fire unvaccinated workers.

Other federal mandates, such as the ones for federal contractors, don't include test-out options.

The Marshall report is significant as one of only a few studies of the economic impact of COVID-19 vaccine mandates. It appears to be the first to measure costs to businesses.

The Kansas Chamber and the Institute for Policy & Social Research at the University of Kansas have produced separate analyses on how a proposal for the Kansas Legislature's upcoming special session could affect the unemployment insurance system.

More:Governor calls special session as business groups object to proposed vaccine mandate response

The chamber estimates anywhere between about 96,000 and about 650,000 Kansans could be affected by vaccine mandates.

The KU study starts with about 500,000 unvaccinated adults, but the labor force participation rate puts the unvaccinated worker number at around 363,000. But the number who would lose their jobs if they faced a vaccine mandate would likely be much smaller, expected to be about 18,000 to 36,000 people, based on hesitancy rates.

Jason Tidd is a statehouse reporter for the Topeka Capital-Journal. He can be reached by email at jtidd@gannett.com.