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Alerts and Updates

Gov. Wolf Revises Pennsylvania Non-Life-Sustaining Business Shutdown Order with Waivers Allowed

March 23, 2020

Gov. Wolf Revises Pennsylvania Non-Life-Sustaining Business Shutdown Order with Waivers Allowed

March 23, 2020

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Governor Wolf also revised the definitions of what are considered “non-life-sustaining” businesses as opposed to life-sustaining businesses.

Implementation Timeframe Delayed

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has amended his March 19, 2020, order regarding the “Closure of All Businesses That Are Not Life Sustaining.” Commencement of enforcement actions against “non-life sustaining businesses that are out of compliance” was moved from March 21, 2020, at 12:01 a.m. to March 23, 2020, at 8:00 a.m., giving nonexempt businesses two additional days to prepare for closure or seek an exemption.

Industry Operation Guidance Revised

In response to legal challenges requesting emergency injunctions from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on parts of the directive, Governor Wolf also revised the definitions of what are considered “non-life-sustaining” businesses as opposed to life-sustaining businesses. The definitions have changed several times since Governor Wolf’s initial order, and these definitions are likely to change again in the coming days.

As of 5:45 p.m. on March 21, 2020, the following types of businesses, originally designated for closure, are now permitted to continue physical operations after March 23 at 8:00 a.m.: dry cleaning and laundry services; traveler accommodation (includes hotels and motels); accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services; insurance and employee benefit funds; insurance carriers, agencies, brokerages and other insurance related activities (in-person sales/brokerage prohibited); printing and related support activities; coal mining, metal ore mining, nonmetallic mineral mining and support activities for mining; logging; forest nurseries and timber tract operations; saw mills and wood preservation; glass and glass product manufacturing; and lime and gypsum product manufacturing.

The state has also clarified that the construction industry may continue with emergency repairs and the construction of healthcare facilities; most other construction projects must cease operations with the shutdown. Child day care services are not permitted to continue operations “except where permitted by waiver.” Other clarifications include the following: clothing stores are closed, except stores that provide uniforms and accessories/supplies for public safety and healthcare professionals. “Other miscellaneous stores” are closed, except pet supplies stores. The “depository credit intermediation” category allows consumer banks and credit unions using drive-through, ATM and limited lobby services to remain open. “Services to building and dwelling” including janitorial, pest control and landscaping services may continue.

“Civic and social organizations” and “other professional, scientific, and technical services” have been ordered to cease operations on March 23, despite originally being designated to continue physical operations. In the professional, scientific and technical services classification, veterinary and translation/interpreter services may continue physical operations.

“Legal services,” including law firms, may not continue operations “except as required to allow attorneys to participate in court functions deemed essential by a president judge per the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order of March 18, 2020, or similar federal court directive, and lawyers may access their offices to effectuate such functions and directives.”

Waiver Procedure

Those businesses requesting clarification on whether they fit within “life-sustaining” should check the latest version of Pennsylvania’s Updated Industry Operation Guidance, issued at 5:45 p.m. on March 21, 2020, email the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) customer service resource account at, or call 1-877-PA-HEALTH and select option 1 to reach DCED staff.

A business designated as “life-sustaining” whose operations may continue does not need to take any action. However, if a business is designated as “non-life sustaining” and required to cease physical operations on March 23, an online waiver is available.

When a business completes a waiver form, a team of professionals at DCED will review each request and respond based on the guiding principle of balancing public safety while ensuring the continued delivery of critical infrastructure services and functions. Those requesting a waiver will be notified via email if their operations may reopen. Businesses applying for a waiver must remain closed until a decision is made about their application.

For More Information

If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Sharon L. Caffrey, Sean S. Zabaneh, any member of the COVID-19 Strategy Team or the attorney at the firm with whom you are in regular contact.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.