Seyfarth Synopsis: Late yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued additional guidance regarding his Order from yesterday, which directed non-“life sustaining” businesses to close. [You can read Seyfarth’s alert on his earlier order here]. Governor Wolf supplied a revised list of “life sustaining” vs. non-“life sustaining” business categories, along with a series of FAQs to assist businesses with compliance.
The revised “life sustaining” list expands the categories of businesses that may continue physical operations (while practicing social distancing and other mitigation measures). Among other things, it allows hotels, laundromats, specialty food stores, and certain other businesses to remain open. It also clarifies that a number of non-“life sustaining businesses” (such as residential building construction) may continue to make emergency repairs.
The FAQs provide additional guidance. For instance, the FAQs indicate that businesses suspending physical operations may maintain a limited in-person presence to perform essential functions (such as complying with regulatory requirements). Relatedly, in response to a tweet from a Seyfarth attorney, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development confirmed that non-“life sustaining businesses” can still send someone into the office to pick up mail.
Not all of the additional clarity is good for business. The FAQs, echoing earlier statements from the Commonwealth, indicate that violators may face criminal penalties. (Pennsylvania has also threatened fines, revocation of business licenses, and forfeiting the right to seek disaster aid). However, the FAQs indicate that discipline will be “progressive,” will start with only a “warning to any suspected violator,” and that enforcement will prioritize “businesses where people congregate.”
Seyfarth is continuing to monitor the situation, and will provide updates as available.
Jacob Oslick, a Counsel in the New York office, is admitted in Pennsylvania and practices extensively in the Commonwealth.