Governor Andrew Cuomo Limits Activities to Essential Businesses, Small Businesses Feeling Impact

Governor Cuomo addressing the COVID-19 Crisis Image Credit:
Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor Cuomo further encouraging New Yorkers to telecommute and stay home. On March 18, 2020,  the Empire State Development Corporation issued guidance for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order Number 202.6, which requires that to the maximum extent possible, all businesses and not-for profit entities throughout the state utilize work from home and telecommuting procedures. This executive order comes as an update to Executive Order 202, which, on March 7, 2020, declared a state of emergency over the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the Empire State Development Corporation’s guidance, essential businesses include the following:

  • Essential Health Care Operations—Research and laboratory services, hospitals, walk-in health facilities, emergency veterinary and livestock services, elder care, medical wholesale distribution, home health care workers or aides for the elderly, doctor and emergency dental, nursing homes, or residential health care facilities, medical supplies and equipment manufacturers and providers;
  • Essential Infrastructure—utilities (i.e. power generation, fuel supply, and transmission), public water, wastewater, telecommunications and data centers, airports/airlines, transportation infrastructure (i.e. bus, rail, for-hire vehicles, garages), hotels and places of accommodation;
  • Essential Manufacturing—food processing, manufacturing agents (including food and beverage), chemicals, medical equipment/instruments, pharmaceuticals, sanitary products, telecommunications, microelectronics, agriculture, household paper products;
  • Essential retail—grocery stores (including all food and beverage stores), pharmacies, convenience stores, farmer’s markets, gas stations, hardware and building material stores, restaurants/bars but only for take-out/delivery;
  • Essential Services—trash and recycling collection (processing and disposal), mail and shipping services, laundromats, building cleaning and maintenance, child care services, auto repair, warehouse/distribution and fulfillment, funeral homes/crematoriums and cemeteries, essential business storage, animal shelters;
  • News media
  • Financial Intuitions—banks, insurance, payroll, accounting, financial markets services;
  • Basic necessities providers—homeless shelters, congregate care facilities, food banks, human service providers;
  • Construction—skilled trades (i.e. electricians, plumbers), firms and professions necessary for essential infrastructure, emergency repair and safety purposes;
  • Defense—defense and national security-related operations supporting the U.S. Government or a contractor to the U.S. Government;
  • Essential services to maintain safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences and essential business—law enforcement, fire prevention and response, building code enforcement, security, emergency management and response, building cleaners or janitors, general maintenance, automotive repair, disinfection
  • Vendors that provide essential services or produces, including logistics and technology support and childcare services—logistics, technology support for online services, child care programs/services, government owned/leased buildings, essential government services


While the list is expansive, individuals may request an essential business designation if their type of business is not included in the above list. Businesses with single employees, such as gas stations, are exempt and need not submit a request. Businesses such as bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, concerts sporting events and physical fitness centers are presumed to be compliant and must remain closed. One may access the essential business designation request application here. The businesses that remain open are strongly urged to maintain social distance to the extents possible.

Houses of worship were not originally considered closed, but Mayor Bill De Blasio has since closed all services throughout the City. Previously, the Governor’s office strongly recommended no congregate services be held. Congregations like the Archdiocese of New York and Temple Emanu-El in Manhattan are live streaming services to their respective members. The Archdiocese of New York will also offer its regular television programming. The Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens and the Masjid Al-Aman Mosque in Brooklyn have also canceled services until further notice. Masjid Al-Aman will still be offering their regular radio programming during this period of closure.

This executive order (Executive Order 202.6) extends through April 17, 2020.

These closures have distressed many small businesses throughout the City. On March 19, 2020, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce issued a report  analyzing the initial economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The report concluded that restaurants, hospitality and entertainment have been most significantly impacted. The report also anticipates that the real estate sector will be impacted and “as businesses are mandated to close, the situation will get worse.”  On March 20, 2020, Randy Peers, CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce appeared on the “1010 WINS” radio program. Peers warned that we should “brace for a long-term impact, on a scale we never experienced before.” He also called for a a sales tax suspension, cash infusion for businesses impacted, rent reductions and a repeal of commercial rent tax. Peers would also like to see the government pay for deep cleaning of businesses.

The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce has reached similar conclusions, requesting the federal government disperse immediate cash infusions to save New York’s small business. In a March 18, 2020, statement by Manhattan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jessica Walker, Walker states “the key here is to provide a fast (and meaningful) infusion of cash to allow business to keep the lights on until life gets back to normal. This approach will bolster the small business community in New York City, which in turn will help the entire country get through this economic crisis on solid footing.”

On March 25, 2020, the United States Congress agreed on a $2 trillion stimulus bill that could provide lower income individuals anywhere from $1,200 to $2,400, based on their adjusted gross income and filing status . Among other provisions, the bill provides a $367 billion program for small business to make payroll. Unemployment benefits will also be weekly supplemented from $200 to $600 a week depending on the state. The bill also addresses hospitals, loans to struggling industries, aid for various municipal agencies and functions (i.e. schools and postal service), and provides housing protections against foreclosures on mortgages and evictions for renters. CityLand will follow up as details continue to emerge.

For New York City-specific COVID-19 updates, the City has established an information site with updates from all major administrative agencies. Agencies include the Department of Buildings, City Planning, Citywide Administrative Services, the Department of Finance and the Department of Transportation amongst others. You can find that page here.

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)



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