Just over 24 hours after announcing that all “non-life-sustaining” business must close their physical locations, Gov. Tom Wolf delayed the enforcement of his Executive Order until 8:00 a.m., Monday, March 23. The Governor said in a press release that the Order for “non-life-sustaining businesses” to close physical locations still stands and that businesses applying for a waiver must remain closed until a decision is made about their application. The administration’s decision to delay the enforcement of the Order was due to the high volume of inquiries and requests for waivers submitted by concerned and impacted businesses across the Commonwealth. Many of whom are either life sustaining businesses themselves or are in the supply chain for a life sustaining business. It is expected that the Commonwealth will begin enforcing the Order, as warned, beginning at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, March 23. The details of the meaning of “enforcement” have not been yet been provided.
The Governor continues to update the list of business types that would be considered “life-sustaining”. Those businesses are permitted to continue physical business operations while the Order is in effect. The updated list is the result of conversations with businesses, stakeholders, individuals, and their advocates, and in consultation with the Department of Health. Business guidance has also been aligned with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency advisory released on Friday.
In addition, the administration established an online waiver application for businesses not included in the updated list and who are seeking waiver from the order. The administration also provided an FAQ document related to the Order and COVID-19 mitigation. Recently, though, the Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”) began informing those who applied for a waiver under the original process that they must resubmit their request using the application available at the link above. Information important to DCED and the Governor includes facts that support and justify that a business is a life sustaining business and how the business plans to meet Center for Disease Control’s recommended guidelines to maintain employee safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is very important for any business who previously submitted a request without using the approved online waiver application to resubmit immediately by using form linked above.
The process and overall status of government and business operations remain fluid. Legislative leaders and the Governor’s office are working with business to help industries seeking help during this COVID-19 crisis. Legislative efforts to support businesses is expected in the coming months. The Commonwealth is taking a proactive approach which will continue to be great for businesses operating in Pennsylvania. For example, as the Commonwealth reviews applications for waivers from the Order, it updates the list of exempted business sectors and has been issuing updated lists almost every 24 hours. We expect at least another updated list sometime Sunday, March 22, 2020 and will share that in a future post.
In addition, the Commonwealth is working on details of a small business loan program through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (“PIDA”). On March 18, 2020, the Commonwealth Financing Authority authorized the transfer of $40 million to the PIDA for further support of PIDA’s Small Business First Program and its existing allocation of $20 million. The monies will be used to provide zero interest loans to small businesses (100 or less full-time employees). Loans of up to $100,000 will be available to small businesses to use as working capital with 0% interest rates. While detailed guidelines of the program are still being developed, the program will not charge an application fee, and the terms will include no payments and no interest during the first year of the loan.
It is still unclear how long the Order will remain in effect for businesses in the Commonwealth. Please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group or, for government relations assistance, contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG), for assistance on applying for waivers and with questions about how the Order affects employees and related operations. In addition, all McNees practice groups are prepared to support our clients’ increased and immediate needs during the COVID-19 crisis, including how the Order affects other operations of your business.
Stay safe and healthy and know the McNees team is here to assist you in any way.