Governor Cuomo Suspends Non-Essential Construction
Dear Empire Chapter members,

As you've read, on Friday Governor Cuomo deemed much of the construction work to no longer be essential. As he's done in the past, he and his team provided little to no guidance as to how to proceed. The utter lack of specifics has thrown the industry into a combination of panic and anger.

Along with our friends at AGC, the GCA, and the Business Council, we submitted a number of questions raised not only by the membership, but by staff as well. Those were submitted late in the afternoon Friday. As I write you this message those questions remain unanswered. While we understand and appreciate that this crisis is all consuming and should be the focus, it wouldn't have taken long to provide us answers and guidance. That, to me, is unacceptable.

We're now left with the lingering issue of how to answer your questions and provide you with some direction. This is our best guidance without having the specifics we both need and want:

Public Work:
1- Public work is still public work and there's no indication that any of that will stop. The agencies and authorities, both state and local, have been issuing guidance about how to proceed. If you haven't received a directive to stop, we recommend you call your contacts and confirm that the work continues.

Private Work:
1- The order on Friday was meant to take effect immediately. That would mean that all of you working on projects that are no longer essential should begin the process of shutting them down. Guidance on how to safety shut down a project, along with a checklist, can be found in a list below. If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact Empire Chapter Statewide Director of Safety, Craft Training, and Workforce Development, Jason Ashlaw at 315-454-2320 or ashlaw@abcnys.org


2- The new order was very clear that construction sites should be brought to a level of keeping the project and the public safe while it's shut down. Utilize your safety professionals to help make that determination. Safety is what they do best and their work/word should drive your process.

You and your team are the professionals. You'll know when the site is safe enough to sit idle while we wait out this new directive. We don't recommend that you try to push the envelope and keep working longer. The Governor was clear that fines will be levied. It's safe to assume that as the number of COVID-19 cases on construction sites increase the more action there will be to shut sites down. Don't put yourself or your company in a position of getting fined.

The new directive from the Governor does allow for someone to be at the site once it's shut down. We suspect that's there so you can keep someone around for security purposes. We believe you're well within your rights to have someone on site to keep your project safe, free from the public wanting to look inside and potential thieves.

3- If you're working on a project for an industry that is STILL deemed to be essential, work with the project owner to get clarification from state or local leaders that the project can continue. Be sure to get that clarification in writing and keep it at the job site. 

If people are still unclear, you SHOULD SUBMIT A WAIVER REQUEST to Empire State Development. You can find that waiver HERE. You can also call your regional Empire State Development office for support and guidance. That list can be found  HERE.

We fully suspect that local elected leaders and governmental staff will be engaged in the approval process. Leverage your relationships, as well as the project owners, to get clarification and answers. While that will lead to a hodgepodge of approvals across the state, it will at least give you clarification on the status of your projects.

Again, this is not the detailed information we want to provide, nor what you want to hear. This is merely guidance while we wait for more answers.

We'll continue to make calls, send emails and text messages to get more details. The Internet and rumor mill will be full of news and information, some of which may ultimately end up being accurate. But the only accurate information is that which we get from the Governor and his team.

More to come.



Brian Sampson
President, Associated Builders and Contractors, Empire State
How to Shut Down a Project
For guidance on shutting down a jobsite, please visit the links below:


If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact Empire Chapter Statewide Director of Safety, Craft Training, and Workforce Development, Jason Ashlaw at
315-454-2320
NYS PAUSE Extended Until April 15th
Governor Cuomo announced the extension of the "New York State on PAUSE" executive order, a 10-point policy to assure uniform safety for everyone.

The 10-point NYS on PAUSE plan is as follows: 
  1. Effective now until April 15th, all non-essential businesses statewide will be closed;
  2. Non-essential gatherings of individuals of any size for any reason (e.g. parties, celebrations or other social events) are canceled or postponed at this time;
  3. Any concentration of individuals outside their home must be limited to workers providing essential services and social distancing should be practiced;
  4. When in public individuals must practice social distancing of at least six feet from others;
  5. Businesses and entities that provide other essential services must implement rules that help facilitate social distancing of at least six feet;
  6. Individuals should limit outdoor recreational activities to non-contact and avoid activities where they come in close contact with other people;
  7. Individuals should limit use of public transportation to when absolutely necessary and should limit potential exposure by spacing out at least six feet from other riders;
  8. Sick individuals should not leave their home unless to receive medical care and only after a telehealth visit to determine if leaving the home is in the best interest of their health;
  9. Young people should also practice social distancing and avoid contact with vulnerable populations; and
  10. Use precautionary sanitizer practices such as using isopropyl alcohol wipes
Federal Stimulus Package Signed
President Trump approved  a $2 trillion stimulus package  Friday to help Americans who have lost jobs and wages due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to one-time $1,200 direct payments to adults making up to $75,000 , one component of the  Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act  will provide an estimated $250 billion to expand unemployment insurance benefits. The stimulus package will increase the amount of money jobless Americans can receive, extend the length of time they can receive it and include more workers previously not eligible for assistance.

Under the new stimulus package, workers will be paid an additional $600 per week on top of what they would normally receive for up to four months until July 31. Once that additional federal assistance is exhausted, they will continue to receive their normal benefit amount, administered by their state.

The legislation also included a number of proposals aimed at supporting small businesses that have been hard hit as the pandemic has forced businesses to shutter in accordance with social-distancing orders from state and local officials across the country.
For an overview of Phase 3 of the COVID-19 relief bill and how it effects your and your business, click here.

Highlights include:

• A $350 billion forgivable loan program designed to ensure that small businesses do not lay off employees
• A 50% refundable payroll tax credit on worker wages will further incentivize businesses, including ones with fewer than 500 employees, to retain workers
• Looser net operating loss-reduction rules that will allow businesses to offset more
• A delay in employer-side payroll taxes for Social Security until 2021 and 2022
• Sole proprietors and other self-employed workers could be eligible for the expanded unemployment-insurance benefits the bill provides
• A portion of the $425 billion in funds appropriated for the Federal Reserve’s credit facilities will target small businesses
Empire Chapter Offers Supplemental Health and Safety Plan to Address Novel Coronavirus 
The personal safety and health of each employee is of primary importance. We believe that employees are our most important assets and that their safety at the worksite is our greatest responsibility. As such, the Empire Chapter is offering members a Supplemental Health and Safety Plan to address Novel Coronavirus  


 
With Stay at Home orders issued around the region, new federal regulations for paid family and sick leave, and the ongoing COVID19 state of emergency, contractors have numerous questions. ABC Heart of America Legal Counsel Denise Delcore, JD, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, a Shareholder at Polsinelli, will address some of the most pressing concerns and assist members in understanding the implications of the new orders on you and your business.
 
*The recording is available to ABC members in management positions on the  Academy site *

Length: 60 minutes
Speakers:  Maury Baskin, Littler Mendelson P.C.; Brad Hammock, Littler Mendelson P.C.
WEBINAR DESCRIPTION
ABC Members Only
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and we are already hearing about construction employees testing positive on jobsites. Join ABC general counsel Maury Baskin and ABC OSHA counsel Brad Hammock for a webinar providing guidance to ABC members and chapter staff on employer and employee responsibilities as well as OSHA reporting and recording.

*The recording is available to ABC members in management positions on the  Academy site *

Length: 60 minutes
Speakers:  Aron Beezley, Bradley; James Collura, Bradley; David Pugh, Bradley
WEBINAR DESCRIPTION
ABC Members Only
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and we are already hearing of employees testing positive on projects across America. Do you know what the impact of COVID-19 is on your contracts? Join David Pugh, partner at Bradley, for a webinar providing guidance to ABC members and chapter staff on the impact of coronavirus on contracts.

*The recording is available to ABC members in management positions on the  Academy site *

Length:60 minutes
Speakers:  Anirban Basu, ABC Chief Economist
WEBINAR DESCRIPTION
ABC Members Only
Get the latest data on the spread of COVID-19, market responses and economic consequences from ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu.



Brian Sampson, president of Associated Builders and Contractors, Empire State Chapter, said union and non-union construction organizations were “very active in speaking to the governor’s office and the state assembly to argue the case for why construction is essential.” He said maintaining working roads and infrastructure was a central part of the industry’s pitch.

Sampson’s group, which is a non-union organization, is pushing local officials outside of New York to provide a unified approach to determining essential services. Sampson said all 69 ABC chapters have worked together to ensure construction is exempted from mandatory closures. States, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Utah, and New Mexico, have followed New York’s example in categorizing the construction industry as essential, with some regional differences, he said.

“The patchwork approach is always going to be more problematic,” Sampson said. “I think the federal government has a role to provide good guidance to the states, but at the end of the day, state’s rights will rule out, and they will be the ones to make those decisions.”



INDUSTRY REACTION:

Shortly after the announcement was made, the construction industry was still processing what exactly it meant for the near future.

“I’m not sure it brings a whole lot more clarity to what may or may not be deemed essential,” said Brian Sampson, president of the New York chapter of the Association of Builders and Contractors.

While Sampson said he understood why the far-reaching measure was taken, given the epicenter of the outbreak is centered in densely populated New York City, he was frustrated by the lack of detail regarding when it will take effect and which projects are included or excluded.

Construction sites in New York tend to be dense and more vertical but outside of the city, sites tend to be horizontal and spread out, which could be safer for social distancing measures, said Sampson. He added that many members with projects in New York City reported that they have already taken measures to reduce density at their sites.

“We’d like to see an understanding that different parts of the state may have different abilities to do construction,” said Sampson.

He also expressed concern over areas in the state outside of New York City that don’t have the economic strength to weather major events in the same way. “When you take an entire industry and essentially put it to a halt, that means projects in Long Island and upstate—they may be done forever,” said Sampson.
New York Offers a Free Mental Health Hotline to Help with the Emotional Trauma of the Coronavirus
On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo announced the creation of a free mental health hotline for New Yorkers. It is staffed by over 6,000 mental health professionals, all volunteers.

Anyone can call the hotline and schedule an appointment with a mental health professional for free. Callers to the hotline will hear an introduction to the "New York State COVID-19 Emotional Support Helpline," and then will be directed to a trained volunteer.

You can reach the hotline at 1-844-863-9314 .
Health Benefits for New Yorkers
New Yorkers without health insurance can apply for a health plan through  NY State of Health If you recently lost employer coverage, you must apply within 60 days of losing that coverage. Because of loss of income, New Yorkers may also be eligible for Medicaid, the Essential Plan or Child Health Plus
Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance in Response to the Coronavirus
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to New York small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, to declare a disaster following a request received from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on March 17, 2020.

The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of New York.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela . Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (1) 800-659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call (800) 877-8339. For complete details on SBA, visit www.sba.gov .