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BLOG / 05.18.20 /Jacob E. Amir

COVID-19: State Authorizes Phased-in Reopening of Businesses. When Will New York City, LI and Westchester Qualify? Some Reopening Considerations.

New York State has implemented a four-phase plan to reopen businesses across the state based on seven benchmarks. The state is divided into ten regions: New York City and Long Island are each separate regions, and Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Dutchess and Putnam counties are part of the “Mid-Hudson Region.” As of now, none of these regions has met all seven benchmarks to reopen. For the status of each region in meeting its benchmarks, check the regional monitoring dashboard at https://forward.ny.gov/regional-monitoring-dashboard.

When a region meets all seven benchmarks, that region begins its Phase One reopening. Assuming that region continues to meet its benchmarks for approximately two weeks, the region moves onto Phase Two, and so on. Phase One businesses that can reopen include construction, manufacturing, wholesale suppliers and some curbside retailing. Phase Two businesses include additional storefronts and professional services, Phase Three covers restaurants, gyms and spas (including pools), and finally, Phase Four includes schools, theaters and recreational venues.

How Should Your Business Reopen? Businesses need to consider many operational and public health factors when deciding how to reopen We highlight some of these considerations below.

Workforce Protection: Employers must have a plan to protect their employees. Does the business meet the guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for reopening? See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community/workplace-decision-tree.pdf for a useful checklist. Is there adequate PPE for workers? Would social distancing and personal protection issues inside the workplace be eased by encouraging telecommuting? Have standards been established for protection of (and from) visitors entering the site?

Some employees may be afraid to return to work for fear of becoming infected, or claim the need to stay home for other reasons. Employers have different rights under different circumstances. We suggest that employers review the leave and payment policies contained in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act and the CARES Act. The employee handbook also may need to be updated to address new standards.

Vendors and Support Services: Will the business have adequate supply lines and support services to maintain the business, furnish inventory or service its clients? Companies need to review their contacts — and their contracts — to verify whether they will get the necessary support to maintain their operations, and what rights they have to find alternative sources of suppliers and vendors if need be.

Recordkeeping for Loans; Multi-Phase Operations; Insurance Coverage. Companies who have received PPP or EIDL loans should make sure that proper records are being kept to qualify for PPP loan forgiveness or meet an EIDL audit. Companies whose operations fall into different Phases might want to verify whether they can function effectively if reopening is staggered between the Phases.

Companies should also check whether they need to meet the particular requirements of their insurance company in order to reopen. Will insurers require liability waivers, proof of testing, or evidence of compliance with other medical or governmental guidelines to provide coverage? A company also should know whether it will receive liability defense coverage if a customer gets sick after visiting the premises, or if an employee falls ill after returning to work.

New York City is aiming for a June 7th reopening, and the Long Island and Mid-Hudson regions are hoping to reopen even sooner. Businesses should develop a plan in advance – before they reopen their doors – to minimize staff and customer uncertainty, and to enable the smooth resumption of work.