What does Vermont’s Stay Home/Stay Safe Order Mean for Vermont Businesses?

Yesterday Vermont Governor Phil Scott issued an Addendum to his March 13, 2020 State of Emergency in Response to COVID-19 and National Guard Call-Out (“Executive Order”), directing Vermont residents to stay at home and businesses and nonprofits to suspend in-person business operations as of 5.00 p.m. today, March 25, 2020. It is to remain in effect until April 15, 2020. This is the sixth addendum to the Executive Order, adding a layer to the March 23, 2020 Addendum 5, requiring businesses and nonprofits to put in place telecommuting or work from home procedures to the extent possible, Addendum 4, closing all close-contact businesses, and Addendum 2, closing bars’ and restaurants’ on-premises service.

Services or functions deemed critical to public health and safety and to economic and national security are exempted from the Order. These include, in brief:

  1. health care operations, which includes a wide scope of operations such as testing, research, direct care, caregivers, logistics, technology, security and other services;
  2. critical infrastructure operations such as utilities, water, sewer, airports and transportation (that being said, Amtrak will suspend operations as of tomorrow);
  3. construction necessary to support the COVID-19 response and maintain critical infrastructure (but not residential or non-essential construction);
  4. critical manufacturing, including food and animal feed production, distribution and sales; pharmaceuticals and manufacturing necessary to support COVID-19 response;
  5. retail serving basic human needs like grocery, medicines, animal feed and essential supplies, but these should operate through online and telephone sales and provide for delivery and curb-side pick-up where possible;
  6. fuel products and supplies;
  7. hardware stores, but under the conditions similar to item 5 above;
  8. transportation and agricultural equipment parts, repair and maintenance, but under the conditions similar to item 5 above
  9. trash collection and disposal;
  10. agriculture, farms, animal shelters, CSAs, veterinarians, and similar operations;
  11. lodging as required to support COVID-19, critical infrastructure and national security;
  12. building and property services;
  13. mail and shipping services;
  14. news media;
  15. banks; however, retail banking shall be limited;
  16. providers of services and necessities to economically disadvantaged populations;
  17. vendors that supply services to support COVID-19 response, critical infrastructure and national security.

To read the more detailed list and the rest of Governor Scott’s Executive Order Addendum 6, click here.  You may also find a description of your business as critical here, or a description of workers critical to infrastructure and COVID-19 Response here.

Business that fall under the list enumerated above should continue their operations, except that they should do so while following social distancing rules to the extent possible. Guidance can be found here.

If your business does not fall into one of the exceptions in the list above, but which is still, in your good faith estimation, a provider of services or products critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security, you should seek an opinion from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (“ACCD”) through this form. In your request, you should address the following factors, which the ACCD will evaluate when considering your request:

  • whether your business is necessary in order to properly respond to this emergency;
  • whether a business transaction or the performance of services requires in-person contact;
  • the implications for business operations in Vermont, taking into account the economic and societal impacts as well as supply chain dependences that are geographically distributed; and
  • other factors you consider relevant to your specific operations.

The ACCD has specifically requested that business and their representatives not call the ACCD directly but should instead use the form linked above to submit their requests. While the ACCD has committed to answering each and every request, it is unlikely that they will be able to address all requests before the effective hour of 5 p.m. this evening. We recommend that businesses that are specifically exempted under the Order continue their operations without submitting an ACCD request. This will also help the ACCD by avoiding an overwhelming flood of unnecessary requests. Those that have a good faith basis to believe that they are essential business operations should submit the request, but should then continue their operations until they have had a response from the ACCD. All businesses that continue operations should do so while following the CDC’s safety guidance.

The ACCD also released this afternoon FAQs, which can be found here.

Businesses that are either specifically exempted or in good faith believed to be exempted from ceasing operations should also evaluate which suppliers and services will be critical to the continuance of their operations and inform those suppliers or service providers of their critical role and your expectation for their continued service. For assistance with this communication, or with any questions about what the Executive Order means to you and your business, please contact your Gravel & Shea attorney or Peter Erly at perly@gravelshea.com; Chip Mason at cmason@gravelshea.com or Cassandra LaRae-Perez at claraeperez@gravelshea.com.