Is My Business Essential? COVID-19 Restrictions in MA

March 24, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising case numbers throughout the U.S., Governor Baker recently issued an emergency “stay-at-home” order for all of Massachusetts. The order limits the movements of Bay State residents, and requires all “non-essential” businesses to close their doors until further notice. Which, for many business owners, begs the question:

Is my business essential?

plumbing businesses are essential businesses during COVID-19 shutdowns

Massachusetts has provided the following 13, top-level categories. For a full list of sub-categories and business descriptions within each one, visit Mass.gov

  • Healthcare | Public Health | Human Services
  • Law Enforcement | Public Safety | First Responders
  • Food & Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Water & Wastewater
  • Public Works
  • Communication & IT
  • Other Community-Based Essential Services
  • Critical Manufacturing
  • Hazardous Materials
  • Financial Services
  • Chemicals
  • Defense

Still not sure if or how your operation might fit into these categories? Here’s an extended list of essential businesses:

  • Laundromats
  • Veterinarians
  • Postal workers, including private companies
  • Moving and storage companies
  • Plumbers, electricians, and exterminators
  • Weather forecasters
  • Hotel workers
  • Those who work in sober homes
  • Convenience stores and pet supply stores
  • Hardware and home improvement shops
  • Workers at places of worship
  • Construction workers (a Baker administration representative said the state will work with Boston on construction)

Can landscaping companies continue to operate during the Massachusetts emergency order?

Yes! This is good news for many of our clients in the green industry. Thanks to recent confirmation from the Massachusetts Association of Landscaping Professionals, we know that landscaping companies do fall into the “essential” category. While continuing operations, however, companies should be careful about complying with social distancing protocols and safety guidelines.

Can towns, cities or municipalities halt construction during the Massachusetts emergency order?

No. According to a letter, issued by the state’s Chief Legal Counsel to all Massachusetts municipal CEOs, the governor’s order supersedes any local decisions issued by any town or city, with respect to the continuation of construction projects. In order words, the COVID-19 Essential Workforce Order provides that all construction projects are to continue throughout the emergency (consistent with the safety guidance provided by DPH). Individual towns and districts cannot issue directives to the contrary.

Can I appeal the state’s designation of my business?

As per the Massachusetts COVID-19 Essential Services memo, you can submit an appeal:

If the function of your business is not listed above, but you believe that it is essential or that it provides essential services, you can put in a request for exemption by visiting https://www.mass.gov/forms/essential-service-designation-request.

If my business is forced to close, can I submit a business interruption claim?

Unfortunately, even if you have business interruption insurance, most policies include a specific exclusion that addresses viruses. Our recent blog post, Business Insurance and the Coronavirus, explains this issue in detail. Meanwhile, we’re keeping an eye on developments in states like NJ, where a new bill, New Jersey Bill A-3844, provides a framework for businesses that endure business interruption losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic to recover those losses from their insurer… even despite the stated exclusion. Check back with us for future updates.