CARTA Caught Between Feds, State On Mask Requirements

Thursday, November 18, 2021 - by Thea Marshall

Officials of Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA) said Thursday morning they are caught between conflicting federal and state COVID requirements. 


Executive Director Lisa Maragnano said the recent COVID updates from President Biden, OSHA, and the state of Tennessee do not affect the transit agency. She said according to the Tennessee legislature they cannot require vaccines or masks on any of their property or equipment. 


Ms.

Maragnano said there is an exception application that they have already applied for. She said if they do not require masks on their property or vehicles, they could lose their federal funding. 


“There’s really no option for us,” Mrs. Maragnano said. “If we don’t comply with federal regulations we could lose that and if we don’t comply with the state we could lose our state and local funding.”


All 26 transit agencies in the state applied as a whole for exemption on Monday. That application was denied because each individual agency had to apply. Mrs. Maragnano filed another exemption for CARTA on Wednesday. 


“I’m hoping we don’t anticipate a long turnaround time,” said Ms. Maragnano. “But as of right now, masks are still required on all of our properties and vehicles.” 


Mrs. Maragnano mentioned vaccine requirements as well. She said OSHA came out with a vaccine mandate that they would have had to comply with. Because CARTA has 101 employees but they are not a private employer, they do not fall into either category to require vaccines. So as of right now, vaccines are not required for CARTA employees. CARTA also reported no active COVID cases.


CARTA announced a new health insurance plan for their employees. Ms. Maragnano said they applied to be considered for state health insurance and their application was accepted. She said right now their insurance only offers one plan with only individual and family options. She said state insurance will offer them four plans along with four tiers of coverage including employee, employee and spouse, employee and children and family. 


“That will save a lot of folks a lot of money on their premium,” Ms. Maragnano said. “There will be better coverage including chiropractic, mental health, vision and dental with less copays.” 


She said the premiums are less than half of what they pay now and the benefits are better. She said the state will also offer insurance for retirees. The new state insurance plan will begin Jan. 1. 




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