covid czar

COVID czar launches website to apply for exemptions to vax mandate ban

Jason Mumpower presents a comptroller’s report in Nashville on Jan. 30, 2018. At left is Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Under a bill signed into law by Gov. Bill Lee on Friday, businesses are banned from requiring employees to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Unless, that is, they are granted an exemption from Comptroller Jason Mumpower — who has been dubbed the COVID czar.

Mumpower’s office has launched a website to handle applications. Here’s the full release:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has launched a new webpage that will allow Tennessee businesses, governmental entities, or schools to seek an exemption from House Bill No. 9077/Senate Bill No. 9014, which was signed into law on Friday, November 12.

The new law prohibits most Tennessee businesses from imposing a vaccine mandate unless they receive an exemption from the Comptroller’s Office.

An exemption may be granted by the Comptroller if an applicant can demonstrate that compliance with Chapter 2 or 6 of the new law would result in a loss of federal funding and an exemption is necessary to conform to a federally awarded or amended contract, subcontract, or postsecondary grant.

Exemptions granted by the Comptroller are not permanent and may be renewed for no more than one calendar year.

The Comptroller’s Office invites qualifying entities to begin submitting a notice for exemption by visiting comptroller.tn.gov/covidexemption. This webpage also includes program Guidelines and some frequently asked questions.

Applicants with questions about the exemption process can contact exempt@cot.tn.gov.

All hail Tennessee’s new COVID czar, Jason Mumpower

Jason Mumpower presents a report to lawmakers in Nashville on Jan. 30, 2018. At left is then-Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville). (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Amid heavy pushback from the business and education sectors about Republican lawmakers’ efforts to ban COVID-19 vaccine requirements for employees, the final version of the bill allows companies to apply for waivers in the event their federal funding might be jeopardized by following the new law.

To do so, they will have to submit applications to state Comptroller Jason Mumpower, who is empowered to set his own guidelines for what evidence will have to be handed in to make their case for an exemption.

Mumpower, incidentally, is a former state House Republican leader who is appointed by a joint convention of the General Assembly.

Here’s the language of the provision:

A provision of chapter 2 of this title does not apply to a private business, governmental entity, school, or employer that submits notice in writing to the comptroller of the treasury that compliance with a provision chapter 2 of this title would result in a loss of federal funding, to the extent such an exemption is necessary to conform to federally awarded or amended contracts, subcontracts, or postsecondary grants as a condition to receipt of federal funds. The comptroller of the treasury shall create guidelines as to what information is required in the notice. The comptroller shall review a notice submitted by a private business, governmental entity, school, or employer and, if the comptroller finds that compliance would result in a loss of federal funding, then the comptroller shall notify the private business, governmental entity, school, or employer in writing of its exemption.

Supporters said Mumpower’s office is a logical choice because it already handles a variety of contract issues. Opponents argue that at best the move creates another layer of red tape, and at worst gives lawmakers another chance to meddle in businesses’ internal workings.

Either way, Mumpower was quickly dubbed the COVID Czar.