When it comes to vaccine requirements, local employers are now on their own. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down much of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate, many private firms must decide for themselves whether to make their staffers get the shots.

For some firms, the decision could be a tough one. It may pit labor against management, or human relations staffers against operating executives, our reporters Joseph N. DiStefano and Bob Fernandez write. Of course, many companies already require staffers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. And cities such as Philadelphia have their own vaccine mandates in place.

Did the high court get the decision right? Email me back here and let me know what you think.

And keep reading for a roundup of the biggest business news this week, from a major student loan settlement to a Wharton grad’s new tech startup. If this email was forwarded to you, you can sign up here to get this newsletter each week. Thanks for reading.

— Christian Hetrick (@_Hetrick, businessweekly@inquirer.com)

Employers on their own as court guts Biden vaccine-or-testing mandate

The Supreme Court’s ruling was a victory for business lobbyists and other opponents of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate. They argued individual firms should decide whether their workers must be vaccinated.

But the Biden rules took pressure off individual employers to do the right thing even when it was unpopular, labor leaders say. Employers no longer have that cover. and may have to choose between protecting the health of employees or implementing vaccine mandates that could cause staffers to quit.

“There isn’t a right answer for employers at this point,” said Shannon Farmer, an attorney at Ballard Spahr in Philadelphia.

The ruling leaves a patchwork of rules on COVID-19 workplace safety. Vaccine requirements now vary by city, sector, funding source, or corporate policy. Philadelphia, for example, just delayed its vaccine mandate for city workers. Other Philly-area employers, such as Amtrak and WSFS Bank, already implemented vaccine-or-testing rules similar to the federal standard that the court suspended.

Read more about how the high court’s ruling could affect Philadelphia-area employers.

What else you need to know ...

Student-loan giant Navient agrees to $1.85 billion deal with 39 states, denies wrongdoing

Wilmington-based Navient will cancel the remaining balance on nearly $1.7 billion in subprime private student loan balances under a settlement reached with 39 state attorneys general, including Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro. and New Jersey’s Andrew J. Bruck. Those soon-to-be forgiven loans are owed by more than 65,000 borrowers nationwide.

Navient, a student loan processor, was accused of originating predatory subprime private loans to students attending for-profit schools and colleges even though its executives knew that many borrowers would be unable to repay them. Shapiro likened the practice to how lenders in the subprime mortgage crisis offered homebuyers loans that they couldn’t repay, leading to foreclosures and the 2008 financial collapse.

Navient said in a statement that the allegations were baseless, that it did not admit wrongdoing, and that it settled to save litigation costs. It relinquished its contract with the U.S. Department of Education last year

Read more about the major student loan settlement.

Other stories ...

Breaking ground: Work began at the vast lot on South Broad Street where developer Bart Blatstein has long proposed a big apartment complex — just not by Blatstein alone.

Lackluster forecast: Vanguard CEO Mortimer “Tim” Buckley and two top strategists at the firm said investors should expect the stock market to post far more modest returns over the coming decade.

Hospitals jammed: Philadelphia-area hospitals are overwhelmed, but not only by COVID-19 patients. The upshot is that emergency departments effectively have become inpatient units.

Social media startup: Rosie Nguyen, a 2020 Wharton grad, has cofounded a tech startup that helps social media personalities monetize their massive followings.

New $100 million fund: Philadelphia community aid groups and commercial banks have joined to fund a new loan program for Black and brown business owners, who have long been denied loans and investments.

The Big Number: $8.1 billion in startup funding

Philadelphia-area startups raised $8.1 billion from investors in 2021, shattering the region’s previous record for fundraising, according to the latest PitchBook-NVCA Venture Monitor report. The previous record, set in 2020, was $2.7 billion.

The $8.1 billion raised in Philly last year beat startups in Atlanta ($4 billion), Chicago ($7 billion), Miami ($4 billion, and Washington ($5.7 billion). But our region still trailed other metropolitan areas by large margins. Startups in the San Francisco bay area, home to Silicon Valley, raised $120.3 billion, the report said. East Coast cities such as Boston ($34.9 billion) and New York ($53.8 billion) also beat Philly.

Philadelphia’s record-setting fundraising year was driven in large part by Gopuff, the fast growing delivery service. Gopuff alone raised $3.65 billion, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal, which dug into Pitchbook’s underlying data. The delivery startup rapidly expanded across the globe last year as the pandemic pushed consumers to buy more essentials online.