Pa. Businesses Given Until Friday to Submit Requests for Exemption to Business Closure
photo courtesy of the PA Department of Community & Economic Development www.dced.pa.gov
Deadline now imposed for waivers issued by DCED to businesses seeking closure exemptions.

Pennsylvania businesses seeking an exemption to the Wolf Administration's nonessential business closure order will have until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 3 to submit a waiver to the Department of Community and Economic Development , according to updated guidelines announced yesterday.

The exemption waiver process developed by DCED two weeks ago was created in response to Gov. Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine’s orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 by requiring "non-life-sustaining" businesses throughout the Commonwealth to close their physical locations . Since the business closure orders were put in place, businesses that are determined to be non-life sustaining, but that may provide a life-sustaining services, have been able to request an exemption from the state in order to re-open.

As of Wednesday, DCED has received more than 34,000 requests for exemptions. The Commonwealth has approved more than 5,600 requests and denied at least 8,600. More than 8,100 requests were filed by businesses that did not need them to continue to operate, according to DCED officials. Secretary of DCED, Dennis Davin, said the waiver application will still be available online through Friday, and businesses who are still seeking an exemption should check the department’s updated Life-Sustaining Business FAQ before submitting their application.

In addition to the new deadline issued yesterday, the updated Life-Sustaining Business FAQ and guidance provided by the administration also has been revised significantly regarding how the state utilizes the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) guidelines.

Until just recently, according to McNees attorney Esch McCombie , the administration had been relying, in part, on CISA guidance to help determine what is considered essential critical infrastructure . However, Gov. Wolf and DCED have now reversed course and seem to be distancing their approach from the CISA guidance. To make matters worse, many businesses claim the administration has been inconsistent in approving waivers, and has even reversed course on approved waivers for some industries, including companies within the construction industry.

The administration's handling of construction projects has been a major point of contention for builders, workers, advocates and lawmakers. In an opinion-editorial this week, Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai praised the White House's action to help working Pennsylvanians deal with the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic but also reiterated his call for Gov. Wolf to institute a blanket exemption for all construction projects throughout the state.

But what is clear is that DCED has been overwhelmed with exemption requests . If your business believes it meets the "life-sustaining" standards outlined by DCED and have not yet filed an exemption waiver request with the state, time is running out.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

According to the Department of Health , as of this morning the Commonwealth has more than 1,200 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total of confirmed cases to 7,016. In addition, 90 Pennsylvanians have died directly from complications from the virus.

To date, there have been more than 47,500 negative cases across the state.

Also, the Commonwealth is providing resources and reminders for residents and businesses related to COVID-19. This includes several Fact Sheets about the virus, as well as posters, infographs and images, many of which are aimed at sharing information via social media.

Below is one image we at Capitol Buzz thought would be helpful relating to important new dates in Pennsylvania:
Other News...
Pa. Supreme Court extends statewide judicial emergency, will remain closed until April 30. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Pennsylvania's courts will remain closed until at least April 30, including trial and intermediate appellate courts, as well as magisterial district courts and municipal courts. All trials, except for those that are currently ongoing, are suspended.

Department of Agriculture waives spay and neuter requirements during COVID-19 outbreak. In an effort to preserve the use of personal protective equipment for health care providers on the front lines of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the state's Department of Agriculture has suspended aspects of the Pennsylvania Dog Law that requires shelters and rescues to spay and neuter dogs and cats prior to adoption.

Tax revenues are down, signifying fiscal challenges ahead. Pennsylvania's tax revenues for the month of March fell nearly 6 percent, providing a glimpse of the potential economic difficulty facing the Commonwealth. The reduction in tax revenue for March does not reflect the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the state since there is a lag in some collections and the administration did not begin to order the statewide closure of nonessential businesses until the middle of the month.

Eviction moratorium to continue says Pa. Supreme Court. To help provide additional relief for tenants across the state, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has extended a moratorium on evictions. With the start of a new month, many tenants were faced with paying rent for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak forced stay-at-home orders for citizens and shuttered businesses throughout the Commonwealth.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit www.health.pa.gov .
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