On March 19, 2020, Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf issued an Executive Order requiring the closure of any business not deemed “life-sustaining.” Generally using NAICS codes, the Executive Order provided the public with a general listing of businesses and detail as to whether those businesses were “life-sustaining.” In many regards, the Executive Order was more draconian than those of Pennsylvania’s neighbors, New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. For example, nearly all construction activity state-wide is barred as well as most retail operations. The Executive Order also created a process for businesses to seek waiver or exemption from the order through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
Between March 19, 2020 and April 1, 2020, the Executive Order was updated to address concerns raised. For example, the prohibition on construction work was only slightly relaxed to allow for emergency repairs and the ongoing construction of medical facilities.
On April 1, 2020, the Governor and DCED imposed a deadline of waiver/exemption applications of April 3, 2020 at 5 p.m., after which it is unclear whether any relief from the Executive Order will be provided until such time as the COVID-19 emergency is abated.
The waiver/exemption application requests detailed information as to why business, including construction/real estate projects, should be deemed “life-sustaining” or otherwise exempt. The application must also be verified, i.e. sworn under pain of perjury. We recommend that businesses seek the advice of counsel in applying for waiver or exemption and do so promptly so that the door is not closed for what appears to be an indeterminate period.
Please note, on April 5, 2020, the Pennsylvania Secretary of Health issued an Order mandating enhanced cleaning and disinfecting requirements for owners of large buildings. The Cleaning Order applies to owners of buildings of at least 50,000 square feet used for commercial, industrial or other enterprises, including but not limited to facilities for warehouses, manufacturing, commercial offices, airports, grocery stores, universities, colleges, government, hotels, and residential buildings with at least 50 units.
The Klehr Harrison COVID-19 Task Force has been advising clients concerning the waiver and application process. Should you have any questions or concerns, or would otherwise like to discuss applying, please contact Gaetano P. Piccirilli or Jonathan S. Krause.