Office workers wearing face masks during a meeting
Employee Benefits

What Next, Cat? – How the COVID-19 Pandemic is a Bit Like the Children’s Book

Claire Pancerz
Claire Pancerz
Compliance Director, Employee Benefits

If you have a child — or were a child (a pretty safe guess on my part) — chances are you are familiar with Dr. Seuss’s classic book, “The Cat in the Hat.” It’s the story of a lanky cat in a red-and-white-striped top hat who proposes to entertain two bored children stuck inside the house on a rainy day with some tricks he knows. With the help of Thing One and Thing Two, the Cat nearly succeeds in destroying the children’s home.

The lone voice of reason is the children’s fish, who despairingly asks, “What next, Cat?” as the Cat and his compatriots go merrily about their destructive process.

Well, 2020 and 2021 seemed to be the years that the Cat surely must have hauled out Things One and Two to try to turn our businesses and our lives upside down with the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ve done a pretty solid job.

Government Policies Impacting Businesses

Employers have had to twist their companies into pretzels to remain viable throughout the course of the pandemic. You’ve lived through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which extended and expanded the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include paid COVID-19 leaves for special reasons.

Then, you faced the extension of opportunities to elect COBRA and pay claims and had to decide whether to allow employees to carry over Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP) funds.

You handled the offer of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) COBRA extension, which is still haunting many of us.

On top of all of that, you followed the progress of the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) where you were going to have to make some tough decisions about your vaccination requirements. It all came to a breathless head with a Supreme Court hearing and a decision that OSHA’s ETS for employers with 100+ employees had over-reached OSHA’s powers.

What Can We Expect Next?

So, in the words of the fish (did you know his name is Carlos K. Krinklebine?), “what’s next?” No one really knows, because the depth and breadth of this pandemic and its variants are still an unknown. Employers are still faced with decisions about returning employees to work, maintaining safe workplaces, and whether to encourage remaining employees who have not done so to become vaccinated.

We are all exhausted with the amount of change we have faced and tired of discussing vaccination, masking, and safety requirements. New words and concepts like social distancing, N95, KN95, and PPE have entered our vocabulary — whether we wanted them or not.

It’s time to take a breath and realize that while we can’t predict what’s next, we have more grit and resiliency than we ever thought. Look back at where we’ve been, pat yourself on the back for keeping things going at your company, and for facing each day and each challenge as it came.

While there will no doubt continue to be challenges ahead until we can get Thing One and Thing Two dealt with, I’m a resolute believer in the fact that we have passed through the very worst, and that Holmes Murphy will be there to help you in the future, whatever the Cat has in store for us next. If you have questions in the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!

Explore more from Holmes Murphy