Here is a headline most developers and builders would not want to see associated with their project: “’Life-sustaining’ casino? Construction continued in South Philly despite Gov. Wolf’s coronavirus shutdown. At least two workers have tested positive.”  Per the above Philadelphia Inquirer article, what has made matters worse for the developer are claims from many trades that the developer, a very large international development company, “wasn’t doing enough to protect them from being infected.”  Moreover, the developer’s “waiver” from the Governor’s Order, that essentially closed all non-life-sustaining businesses (more information available throughout this blog) to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus, is now at risk.

The story provides a great example of what not to do to if you want your business to avoid bad public relations, sick and upset employees and contractors, potential related lawsuits, and putting your waiver at risk.  Below are three short lessons pulled from the article: Continue Reading A Story of Warning for Developers & Builders Operating in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of State has issued new guidelines for real estate transactions initiated on or before March 5, 2020.  Under the new guidelines, a real estate transaction for the sale of an existing home may proceed with in-person inspections, appraisals, final walk-throughs and title insurance activities if the home was under a signed contract as of March 5, 2020.  For new construction, the same in-person activities are permitted if a contract entered on or before March 5, 2020, provides for closing and delivery of the home to the purchaser on or after March 6, 2020.  The new guidelines reiterate that all remote real estate business is permissible, including virtual or telework operation for desktop appraisals and any appraisal that does not require entrance into a physical location. Continue Reading New Guidelines for Real Estate Transactions from PA Department of State

Our Corporate & Tax Group has provided excellent insight on the CARES Act.  Below is a snippet from their recent post on the McNees Auto Dealer Blog that deals with tax related relief under the CARES Act.  All business owners, COOs, etc. would be well served to familiarize themselves with this information:

With guidance from the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) still forthcoming, and the existing guidance changing, many business are struggling to understand their options under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (“Act”).  We previously published guidance on the Payroll Protection Program (“PPP”) and Disaster Relief Loans which can be found here.  In addition to those loan offerings, the Act also created other relief options for businesses some of which can be used in conjunction with the PPP loans.

More information and the remainder of the post are available on the McNees Auto Dealer Blog.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“PADEP”) recently announced the availability of a process for requesting temporary suspensions of environmental permitting and regulatory compliance obligations.  Regulated entities experiencing difficulties due to COVID-19 in meeting the terms and conditions of their environmental permits or complying with environmental regulatory provisions should consider submitting a form request to PADEP for relief.  Completed forms must be submitted to RA-EPCOVID19SuspReq@pa.gov.  While PADEP’s offices remain closed, program staff continue to work remotely to process submitted requests.

Unless a temporary suspension is granted Continue Reading PADEP Responds to COVID-19: How to Ask PADEP for a Temporary Suspension of Environmental Compliance Obligations

If your head hurts, it might be because you are one of the many who have been thrown off the Life-Sustaining Business Roller Coaster, which has had more ups, downs, loops, and spin-arounds than any coaster at Hershey Park.

At 4:00 P.M. yesterday, Governor Wolf released an updated FAQ for Life-Sustaining Business (“Updated FAQ”).  Perhaps the most glaring change is that “[a]ll exemption requests MUST be submitted no later than 5:00 P.M. on Friday, April 3, 2020.”  (Emphasis added.) We have heard the more than 32,000 waiver applications have understandably overwhelmed the Department of Community and Economic Development (“DCED”), which is charged with reviewing waiver applications.

The Updated FAQ has been revised significantly Continue Reading WAIVER DEADLINE & New FAQ Updates for Life-Sustaining Businesses

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”), which executes the Secretary of Homeland Security’s authorities to secure critical infrastructure, updated its guidance on “what is” and “what is not” essential critical infrastructure to include housing construction.  The addition is significant because Governor Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations, including housing construction job sites, to slow the spread of COVID-19 (“Governor’s Order”).  Interestingly, the Commonwealth’s webpage that provides information on the Governor’s Order specifically references CISA.  It states: “Business guidance has been updated after conversations with businesses, stakeholders, and individuals and has been aligned with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency advisory released.”  Continue Reading Housing Construction: “Essential Critical Infrastructure” Says U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security

During the COVID-19 pandemic, real estate professionals have struggled to get documents notarized while respecting social distancing requirements. The Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA), after all, requires an individual making a statement or executing a document to “appear personally” before the notarial officer. Recent direction issued by the Department of State which can be found here, however, indicates that the physical presence requirement in RULONA will be relaxed on a temporary basis for certain types of real estate transactions.

For personal residential real estate transactions Continue Reading **UPDATE: In-Person Notary Requirements Relaxed for Real Estate Transactions**

In her post, Public Meetings Amidst Social Distancing, on the McNees Public Sector Blog, Erica Wibble, provides a great update on guidance for municipalities trying to comply with the Sunshine Act during the COVID-19 pandemic and under Governor Wolf’s Order (which we have discussed in numerous other posts).  A few highlights are below, but please be sure to read her entire post for more details.

According to the Office of Open Records, any agency [not able to meet in person] must provide a reasonably accessible method for the public to participate and comment pursuant to Section 710.1 of the [Sunshine] Act. Further, the Office of Open Records strongly recommends that any agency holding such a meeting should record the meeting and proactively make the recording available (preferably online) so that a full and complete record of the meeting is available to the public. Continue Reading Guidance on Conducting Municipal Meetings/Hearings During the COVID-19 Pandemic

An important update for all employers from a co-chair of our Labor and Employment Group, Jen Will, on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act:

On the heels of its invitation to individuals and businesses to participate in a dialogue on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“Response Act”), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division issued a much needed Q&A late Tuesday afternoon.

Effective DateThe biggest question weighing on everyone’s mind has been answered.  The law passed to provide emergency paid sick leave and emergency paid family leave to employees impacted by the pandemic gripping the nation will be effective April 1, 2020 and apply to qualifying leave taken by December 31, 2020.  This means that employers cannot take credit for any paid leave extended to employees prior to April 1, 2020, even if they did so in an effort to comply with the Response Act.  To be perfectly clear, the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements are not retroactive.

Additional information based on our review of the new Q&A for the Response Act is available HERE.

From my colleagues with our Government Relations Group and Capitol Buzz:

During the daily COVID-19 update provided by the administration, Gov. Tom Wolf instituted a “shelter-in-place” order for seven counties in the Commonwealth, including those in the Philadelphia region and Allegheny County in western Pennsylvania.

The order, which came 24 hours after the city of Philadelphia announced action of its own to order its residents to stay home, will go into effect starting at 8:00 p.m. Monday, March 23.

Specifically, the “shelter-in-place” order will apply to Continue Reading **Update 3/23/2020; COVID-19: Shelter in Place for 7 Pennsylvania Counties**