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It's not just about the Benjamins.

It’s not just about the Benjamins.

I’m spending this sunny Thursday afternoon in late summer reading up on my Davis-Bacon Labor Standards.  What?!  You’re not?  So far, I’ve reinforced a lot of what I knew already.  This particular manual is aimed at contractors, specifically prime or general contractors.  I am not one, but it was handed out in the Seattle training I attended back in July.  I’m keeping it.  Don’t try to dissuade me.

Here’s your free Davis-Bacon lesson.  Are you ready?  During the construction process, the general contractor employs several subcontractors.  These subs submit their payroll to the general contractor, who submits all the payrolls to the grantee, who then passes them along to the federal government to secure payment, or “drawdown”.  Sometimes, due to  misclassifying employees or simply not having a classification listed for the type of work a laborer is doing, a person can be paid the incorrect amount.  The payroll must be corrected.  Have no fear!  There’s a whole section on it, in this manual and the CDBG manual.  Huzzah!

The problem is usually underpayment.  Some poor schlub has been making significantly less than he/she is supposed to.  Let’s say Johnny-Susie (fictional person) has been paid $28/hr pouring concrete slab, when in reality J.S. should have been making $40/hr.  Poor thing should have 1) checked the online prevailing wage rates, and 2) raised a stink.  But let’s say J.S. is a quiet-living sort and doesn’t know the options available to them. The contract administrator – the government official assigned to the project – raises a red flag.  She calls the contractor to initiate a solution.

“Hey, ABC Contractor, Johnny-Susie McKenna is getting paid $12 less than they should.  Fix it, pronto!  You have 30 days.”

“Yes, ma’am!” ABC Contractor-man says.

The $12 per hour (known in federal-speak as the “adjustment rate”) gets multiplied by the hours J.S. worked, and a total gross amount due to Johnny-Sue is calculated.  This is known as restitution.

res·ti·tu·tion
noun
  1. the restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner.
    “seeking the restitution of land taken from blacks under apartheid”
  2. recompense for injury or loss.
    “he was ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution”

    But what if, by the time the discrepancy appears, J.S. is long gone?  Maybe they  moved on to another job in a different state, or maybe they returned to their home planet.  The general contractor makes a list of names, provided Johnny-Sue’s missing coworkers suffered similarly, Social Security numbers, last known addresses and amounts due.  If unable to locate them by the project’s end, the money, their money, is placed in a deposit or escrow account.  It’s equal to the total gross amount of restitution.

    Now it’s the contract administrator’s job to continue the job of attempting to locate Johnny-Sue and compatriots.  This goes on for three (3) years after the project is completed.  After that, if the former employee can’t be found, the money gets forwarded to HUD.

    I was blown away by the thoughtful gesture of holding the money in a separate account.  And for three years!  Holy toledo, that’s a long time.  The money waits for someone to claim it, that someone being its rightful owner. It’s just sitting there.  How many people claim their money? The act of restitution isn’t complete until the something lost gets back to the owner.  In this case, the second definition of “recompense for injury or loss” applies, too.

    While we usually think of restitution in monetary terms, I am reminded of what Christ did for us. We once enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God.  Then, as humans, we went our own way, and decided to take care of ourselves.  Jesus provided the way for us to be restored back in fellowship with God.  Other ideas spring to mind.  I wonder. In addition to relationship with the Almighty, what else have we lost or been robbed of, that God longs to restore to us?  Our innocence? Freedom?  Peace? God holds all those for us, in a separate account of sorts, waiting for us to claim them.  I want it all back.  Pronto!

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