Vermont Nonprofits & the Stay Home Stay Safe Executive Order

Governor Phil Scott has issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order

Effective March 25, 2020 at 5:00 pm, all businesses and not-for-profit entities not expressly exempted in the order must suspend all in-person business operations. Operations that can be conducted online or by phone, or sales that can be facilitated with curbside pickup or delivery only, can continue. These restrictive measures are in place to minimize all unnecessary activities outside the home to slow the spread of this virus and protect the public. The Stay Home, Stay Safe order will be in effect until April 15, 2020, though may be extended or shortened as needed.  

What should Vermont nonprofits do next?

  1. Read the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order and the FAQs below.
  2. Watch Gov. Scott’s 3/25 Press Conference
  3. Sign-up for VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s COVID-19 Economic and Community Response Newsletter for updates.
  4. If your business is facing an immediate public health threat due to coronavirus, contact the Department of Health at: healthvermont.gov/COVID-19.
  5. Do you have questions about acceptable continuation of business operations? Complete this online form: https://bit.ly/covid-vt-business-operations.

Questions:

Thank you to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for sharing these FAQs. For up to date information, visit their website.

Is my business included as critical to public health, safety, or economic and national security in Vermont?

The Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order specifics the following sectors and activities as critical:

  • (a) Health care operations such as COVID-19 testing and clinical research, hospital personnel and other healthcare providers, public health workers and other healthcare service providers, laboratory services, caregivers, logistics, technology, security and custodial support, blood and plasma donors and mortuary services;
  • (b) Law enforcement, public safety and first responders, including fire, ambulance services, emergency medical technicians and emergency management personnel;
  • (c) Critical infrastructure including utilities, telecommunication, airports and transportation infrastructure;
  • (d) Construction necessary to support the COVID-19 response and maintain critical infrastructure;
  • (e) Critical manufacturing, including food and animal feed manufacturing, processing and supply, pharmaceuticals and other manufacturing necessary to support the COVID-19 response as well as economic and national security;
  • (f) Retail serving basic human needs such as grocery stores, pharmacies, other retail that sells food, beverage, animal feed and essential supplies, provided, these retail operations shall be conducted through on-line and telephone orders for delivery and curb-side pickup to the extent possible;
  • (g) Fuel products and supply;
  • (h) Hardware stores, provided, these retail operations shall be conducted through online and telephone orders for delivery and curb-side pickup to the extent possible;
  • (i) Transportation sector and agricultural sector equipment parts, repair and maintenance,  provided these retail operations shall be conducted through on-line and telephone orders for delivery and curb-side pickup to the extent possible;
  • (j) Trash collection and disposal, recycling and operations and maintenance of drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure;
  • (k) Agriculture and farms, animal shelters, production and delivery of seed, chemicals and fertilizers, CSAs and veterinarians;
  • (l) Lodging, to the extent required to support COVID-19 response, critical infrastructure and national security;
  • (m) Other building and property services for the safety, sanitation and operations of residences or other businesses;
  • (n) Mail and shipping services;
  • (o) News media;
  • (p) Banks and related financial institutions, provided, however, routine retail banking operations shall be limited to transactions conducted through automated teller machines, drive-through services and online and telephone services;
  • (q) Providers of necessities and services to economically disadvantaged populations; and
  • (r) Other vendors of technical, security, logistics, custodial and equipment repair and maintenance services necessary to support the COVID-19 response, critical infrastructure and national security.
  • Please refer to the NAICS Code Guidance List and these FAQs to help determine which sectors and activities are critical. If the list says “Yes” in the “Critical” column, then your business may remain operational, subject to the restriction that you use remote work wherever possible and also need to follow all Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Vermont Department of Health (VDH) guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

How do I know if I fall under these industry descriptions?

Included with the descriptions is the relevant 4-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. All businesses should have a NAICS code or codes on their unemployment insurance forms or on their most recent tax return. The U.S. Census Bureau is a helpful resource to learn more about individual NAICS codes.

What if my business has multiple NAICS codes?

If your business includes a NAICS code that is essential, that function of your business can remain operational. The non-essential functions of your business should suspend, unless those functions can be transitioned to remote working.

The list says “no” am I out of luck?

If the list says “No” it does not necessarily mean you are closed for business. Please follow this guide to learn more.

  • On the NAICS Code Guidance List, please check the corresponding note to determine if there is a special exemption.
  • All business activities and workers identified in The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response dated March 19, 2020 are deemed critical to public health, safety, or economic and national security in Vermont. Businesses, organizations, or entities with workers identified in the CISA memorandum may remain operational during the COVID-19 response. However, these businesses must comply to the fullest extent possible to the Governor’s executive order concerning telework and remote work, and follow CDC and VDH guidelines.

What if I think my business should be open but I am being asked to close?

Vermont businesses may seek further guidance from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development by completing the Continuation of Operations Form describing why they believe the existing guidance incorrectly requires them to close their in-person business functions.  Individuals will receive a decision within 24 hours of your submission.

I still don’t qualify. What now?

You’re not alone. These are extraordinary times requiring extraordinary measures and sacrifices.  Many employers and workers will face financial hardship during the COVID-19 outbreak. The State and its Federal partners are working hard to bring aid and relief to Vermonters.

What if my business is primarily online? Do I still need to close?

The purpose of Stay Home, Stay Safe is to reduce person-to-person contact. If you operate an online business, or have transitioned to remote working with no in-person transactions, you can continue operating. A reminder that an online business must also eliminate in-person interactions amongst employees also.  All in-person business that has not been deemed critical shall suspend operations. Businesses can petition ACCD as to why their in-person transactions are essential and will get a response within 24 hours.

What is the definition of “in-person business operations”?

The Stay Home, Stay Safe order directs businesses to suspend in-person business operations and transactions.  In-person business operations refer to both employees and customers.  A business should not operate, unless exempted within the order, if its operation requires one person to come into contact with another person.  This may occur because people share a workspace, must interact with a customer, or have incidental close contact outside of the CDC recommended social distancing. 

Does Stay Home, Stay Safe require restaurants to close?

No.  This policy does not change the Governor’s executive order on restaurants. Restaurants can continue take-out, curbside and delivery services.

Are colleges required to suspend all in person business? 

Schools and colleges may continue to offer remote learning opportunities, assuming all instruction does not require in person business to occur at the college (multiple staff or professors in the same room).  For colleges that have students living on campus unable to return to a primary residence (international students, vulnerable populations, etc), the college may continue operating as an essential housing provider.  This would include providing facilities management, limited food service in accordance with previous Executive Orders, and security services.  All CDC and VDH guidance should continue to be adhered to.

What does the Executive Order mean for construction?

All construction activities should cease if they require in-person business, and are not related to 6 (d) or 6 (m) of the Executive Order.  Specifically, only construction required to support COVID-19 response and maintain critical infrastructure and construction to provide services for the safety, sanitation and operations of residences or other businesses should occur.  As an example, replacing a failing roof or failed electrical system would be acceptable.  However, building a new home or place of business would not be acceptable. 

I am a single person business, must I suspend operations if I am not on the critical list?

No.  If you are able to conduct your business without in-person business interactions, you have complied with previous orders concerning remote work and telework.  However, if your business requires you to do site visits that might require you to have an in-person contact, you may not be able to continue operations. 

Will there be penalties for non-compliant businesses?

Guidance is currently being distributed to municipalities and law enforcement that focuses on encouragement, education, and voluntary compliance. While primarily self-regulating, there may be potential penalties and long-term consequences for ignoring a state order.