DeWine Stay at Home Order – What You Need To Know
Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued a Stay At Home order which required Ohio residents and businesses to stay at home or cease operations unless they are defined as ‘essential’ in the order. Yesterday, the Governor extended the Stay at Home order to May 1st. The goal of the order is to limit movement and interaction between individuals to only those activities and businesses that are most essential. Reduced interaction and social distancing are critical components to slowing the spread of COVID-19. Businesses who are defined as essential need to be aware of the order’s provisions.
Essential Business and Activities
In general, the order includes provisions that apply to individuals and also to businesses. Citizens and workers may leave their home to perform essential activities (i.e. seeking medical care, procuring food, helping relatives, exercising outdoors) as well as to travel to and perform work at an essential business or operation. Businesses are deemed essential if they fall under a detailed list included in the order or if they part of a category listed on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During CIVOD-19 Response. In general, any business involved in agriculture (either in retail, cultivation, or supply chain) is considered essential. Additionally, any businesses that support essential businesses are deemed essential as well; this would include contractors, gas stations and repair shops, and business support (i.e. legal, accounting, finance).
What Businesses Need to Do
If a business is deemed essential, it must still comply with mandates regarding social distancing and minimum essential staffing. Businesses should allow as many employees as possible to work from home. Further, employees and customers must remain at least six feet apart as much as possible. Hand sanitizer and cleaning products should be readily available. Finally, businesses should prepare documents for employees, drivers, and other personnel that provide information regarding the essential nature of the business and the employees activities. This should help with discussing operations with local health officials, law enforcement, and the public should the need arise.
Support for Small Business
Both the State and Federal government have enacted several protections for businesses during this time. The tax filing deadline for state and federal filings has been moved to July 15th and professional licenses issued by the state (along with drivers licenses) have been extended to avoid expiration during the COVID-19 emergency declaration. BWC premiums and health insurance premiums are also deferred until the pandemic passes. Additional resources can be found here:https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/covid-19/home/covid-19-checklists/businesses-employers-covid-19-checklist
At the federal level, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering loans and assistance to businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) offers assistance to businesses through loans to cover the cost of payroll. More details can be found here: https://www.sba.gov/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources
As of April 1st, the 2020 Decennial Census is underway. This marks the first year that responses can be filled out electronically and all residents should have received information in the mail regarding the census. The Ohio Census Advocacy Coalition (https://www.ohiocensus.org) has number of resources for Ohio businesses and individuals. Census takes will start visiting homes this summer to ensure people who do not fill out a paper or electronic census are counted. The census is vital to the distribution of federal funds and apportionment of Congressional seats.
Ohio Primary Moves to Absentee Only
In-person voting for the March 17th Ohio Primary was cancelled under order of Dr. Acton, however absentee voting was permitted to continue. Following Dr. Acton’s order, the Ohio General Assembly passed HB 197 (COVID-19 relief bill), which extended the window for absentee voting through April 28th. There will be no rescheduled in-person voting day. Many states have delayed their primaries or moved to absentee only amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Voters can request an absentee ballot from their local Board of Elections. All ballots must be postmarked by April 27th.