As “stay-at-home” orders have rolled out across the United States, businesses, particularly financial services companies, have scoured definitional provisions to understand whether all forms of financial services companies have been designated as “essential businesses” and therefore exempt from closure requirements. What numerous financial services firms have found is that many categories of the financial services sector tend to be defined as essential businesses, but jurisdictions do not consistently define what is an essential financial services business. As a result, in some cases only banks and insurance companies have been specifically exempted from stay-at-home orders, whereas in other cases, jurisdictions apply and even expand upon the guidance that was issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) on March 19, 2020.

The CISA guidance was issued in an effort to provide communities and state governments with an initial list of what constitute “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” to ensure continuity of functions critical to public health and safety as well as economic and national security.[1] With respect to financial services, the guidance states that the following workers are considered essential:

Continue Reading OCC Issues Guidance to Protect Essential Workers

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia have adopted certain measures intended to encourage “social distancing” in an effort to limit human contact and thus slow down the spread of the virus. Cities and states have adopted various measures to try to achieve this goal, including by closing schools and/or limiting or prohibiting large gatherings (such as by cancelling concerts, plays, museums, and eating in restaurants and bars). Some governments are also acting to protect people who get sick and cannot work or who are laid off. Several states have recently taken even more aggressive action.

In just the last week, some jurisdictions have issued orders advising their residents to stay in their homes (i.e., “shelter in place” orders). Other states have imposed strict limits on which businesses can remain open and/or have imposed requirements that “nonessential” workers stay home. As of now, these types of restrictions are in effect in, among other places, California, New York, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Connecticut. At present, these types of orders reach one in four Americans. As a result, businesses and workers have been confronted with the critical issue of whether they can operate and who, if anyone, can leave home to work on premises.

These actions are similar to many of those that have been taken by other jurisdictions, such as in China, Italy, and France. As governments have imposed these tight restrictions, they have also recognized the need to allow certain businesses to continue to operate as necessary to provide essential goods and services. These orders have been imposed quickly, responding to the immediate needs of each community, and thus neither the orders nor the exemptions to the orders allowing certain activities to continue are consistent across jurisdictions or always well-defined.

This Update provides guidance on the scope of essential services or businesses in five US jurisdictions that have adopted restrictive measures to fight the spread of the virus: CA, NY, IL, OH and PA. Alerts covering additional jurisdictions across the globe, and updates regarding these jurisdictions, will follow.

Continue Reading Who or What Is an “Essential” Business or Service That May Be Exempt from Shelter in Place or Stay at Home Orders?