On May 4th, 2020 ,the Governor’s Office issued new guidance for businesses as they become authorized to restart in-person operations pursuant to the Administration’s phased red-yellow-green plan.  The guidance, which can be found here, includes a series of mandatory protocols designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 between and among employees and customers.  These protocols are binding upon “[a]ll businesses in all industries and sectors of the economy (including non-profit entities), in the Commonwealth, that are permitted to conduct-in person operations…unless they are otherwise more stringently regulated under separate industry-specific guidance”.

Recently, the Governor’s Office announced that twenty-four Pennsylvania counties will transition to the “yellow” phase on May 8th, thereby authorizing businesses in those counties to restart in-person operations on a limited basis.  Continue Reading May 8 Opening: Guidance (Portions Mandatory) From The Commonwealth For Businesses

For most Pennsylvanians, it seems much longer than just over a month ago that Governor Wolf issued orders closing all “non-life-sustaining” businesses and directing all residents to “stay-at-home.”  While these orders have saved countless lives, they have also caused several businesses to either alter or shutdown their operations.  Many employees have been furloughed, laid-off or compelled to work from their homes.

Fortunately, modern technology has enabled certain office employees to continue working, not in their office buildings, but from their home offices.  These new home offices may be nothing more than unfinished basements or converted dining rooms, spare bedrooms or even kitchen tables.  These home office activities and functions are considered a form of home-based businesses or occupations (HBBs) as defined, permitted and regulated by most municipal zoning ordinances.  In many instances, new HBBs have been quite successful.  Therefore, while the Governor’s orders are not likely to remain in place in perpetuity, many businesses are considering modifying their operations to support increased use of HBBs even after the orders are lifted.

Many of the municipal HBB regulations were adopted several decades ago and may not reflect modern community planning, business or technology trends. Continue Reading Modernizing Home Occupation Standards So You Can Continuing Video Conferencing In Your Shorts From Your Basement Outpost

On April 22, Governor Wolf announced an amendment to his standing shutdown and shelter in place order that permits construction projects to resume statewide on May 1st.  This news comes just days after the Governor’s office released its “Plan for Pennsylvania,” which authorized “limited construction” activities beginning on May 8th.  Per the announcement, it appears that all construction will be permitted beginning on May 1st – a departure from the administration’s earlier plan to phase in “limited construction.”

Last night, the Governor issued guidance for all construction businesses and employees.  Per the Governor’s office: “The guidance, developed from guidance created by the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania, provides universal protocols for all construction activity, as well as specific additional guidance for residential, commercial and public construction projects.”  We encourage all members of the construction industry, including those in new construction, renovation, and repair and in surveying, subdivision and land development, among all others, to review the new guidelines.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact attorneys in our Construction LawEnvironmental LawLabor & EmploymentGovernment Relations, or Real Estate groups with any questions.

Attending public meetings is a big part of any land use practitioner’s routine, and, if I’m being honest, one of my favorite parts of my job. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I traveled one, two, sometimes even three nights a week to meetings of zoning hearing boards, municipal governing bodies, and planning commissions. While I understand that a township board of supervisors meeting might not be everyone’s idea of a fun Thursday night, I like watching government at work. In today’s world, how many spaces exist where citizens can engage directly with their elected officials?

Of course, when COVID-19 cases began to appear in Pennsylvania, all of this changed. Businesses (including ours) started to adapt to social distancing requirements by replacing in-person meetings with audio and video conference calls. Municipalities, however, bound by the Sunshine Act and other open meeting requirements, faced a unique set of challenges. How could boards, councils and committees continue to conduct business and ensure public participation while protecting the health and safety of residents? Continue Reading Public Meetings in Pajama Pants: Land Use in the Age of COVID-19

With protestors afoot outside the Capitol building in Harrisburg, Governor Wolf provided additional information on the Commonwealth’s plans to begin reopening businesses, including construction sites, within Pennsylvania.  Per the Governor, “limited construction” activities will be permitted to resume on May 8, to the extent such activities can occur in compliance with job site regulations the Commonwealth has yet to release.  The May 8 date provides developers, contractors, business owners and potential home owners with some hope that their projects can begin (or continue) in a little under three weeks.  However, it is unclear what is meant by “limited construction” and what job site regulations will be required by the Commonwealth.

We will monitor the Commonwealth’s updates and, in the meantime, we encourage you to refer to guidance that has been issued by the Commonwealth and the McNees COVID-19 Resource Center.

Steve Matzura, Andrew Levy and Austin Wolfe recently issued a client alert updating our clients on newly required safety measures for COVID-19 in the workplace.  The first half of the alert is below, but you should contact one of the authors for more details or the full alert.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued an Order effective April 15 requiring social distancing, cleaning, use of masks for employees and visitors, and other mandatory mitigation protocols for businesses authorized to maintain in-person operations during the ongoing COVID-19 emergency (except for healthcare providers). This Order expands on the Department of Health’s prior order effective April 6 that required building safety and cleaning measures for certain businesses.  Employers have only a few days to comply with the April 15 Order, as it becomes enforceable on April 19, 2020 at 8:00 PM. Continue Reading Workplace Regulations: PA Newly Required Safety Measures for COVID-19

Thank you to our friends at Capitol Buzz and the McNees Government Relations Group (MSSG) for a great update on bills working their way through the PA General Assembly, which affect public meetings and hearings, construction activities and more.  A few highlights are below, but you should read the entire Capitol Buzz post.

On Tuesday, along strict party lines, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a Republican-sponsored proposal to allow many businesses impacted by Gov. Tom Wolf’s business shutdown order to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House passed Senate Bill 613, which includes language introduced by House Republicans last week to reopen the state’s workforce while practicing social distancing and other mitigation efforts outlined by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). The legislation was sent Continue Reading Updates On Public Meetings & Hearings, Construction Activities, and More from the General Assembly

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.