As of the timing of this communication (March 23, 2020), CAMICO is aware of four states (CA, IL, NJ and NY) that have issued formal state-wide orders for all residents to stay at home, with several other states (CT, DE, KY, OH, LA, MA, MI, NV, PA and WI) announcing similar orders to be executed in the next day or so. More states are expected to announce comparable orders in the very near future. The common thread in all of these orders is the intent to restrict non-essential movements in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm the medical system.
What is an essential business?
Although the determination of an essential business is not uniform with all of the orders that have been promulgated, some of these state-wide orders reference the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (“CISA”) website (https://www.cisa.gov/identifying-critical-infrastructure-during-covid-19)
for guidance and information regarding the essential critical infrastructure workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 16 critical infrastructure sectors noted on the CISA website do not specifically identify accounting services as an essential business. However, under many of the state-wide executive orders, accounting services have been identified in their detailed list of examples and/or frequently asked questions.
Each firm must make their own informed determination whether maintaining staff in the office amounts to “an essential business service” under the promulgated guidance. Ideally, firms will be able to operate exclusively remotely. Doing so meets the “spirit and intent” of a state’s Executive Order and previously released “stay at home” requirements designed to protect the health and safety of your personnel, clients and communities. While some firms have determined that certain personnel must be present in the office to meet essential firm business service demands, it is imperative that firms satisfy all current personnel guidelines, including but not limited to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) and Family First Response Act, and follow appropriate hygiene and social distancing safeguards.
Risk management guidance
CAMICO advises firms to carefully evaluate their particular situations to ensure that they are taking appropriate steps and precautions for the health and safety of their personnel, clients and communities. Consult with legal counsel as appropriate if concerned about potential violations of a state’s Executive Order and any local orders that may be more restrictive than a state order.
Again, as the application of a state’s Executive Order or any other applicable “stay at home” order requires organization-specific interpretations and has legal implications, CAMICO strongly advises firms to NOT take on such a decision for any business client. Clients should consult with their own attorney when they need assistance making such determinations.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. We appreciate your patience and professionalism during this difficult time. We will continue to update you as news becomes available to us.