Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered non-essential businesses to suspend in-person operations by 8 pm March 23 in the state’s latest move to manage the coronavirus pandemic.
Unless modified, the governor’s executive order, issued March 20, runs through April 22.
“At this critical time it is essential that everyone just stay home so we can contain the spread of this virus while keeping essential services running,” the governor said.
“I know that this will be disruptive to many and will bring many daily activities to a halt, but the only way we will be able to mitigate the impacts of this public health emergency is to take measures like this.”
Gov. Lamont’s March 20 executive order followed a similar announcement earlier in the day by the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo.
On March 22, the Lamont administration released a list of essential businesses not subject to the executive order.
The list includes all healthcare and related operations; infrastructure including commercial trucking and telecommunications; all manufacturing companies and connected supply chain firms; some retailers; service companies including accounting, legal, and financial institutions; food and agriculture; construction; human services organizations; and safety and maintenance.
Non-essential retailers can take orders remotely and sell products for curbside pickup and delivery.
Non-essential businesses are allowed the minimum staff necessary on site for security, maintenance, and other essential services.
Lamont urged all businesses to have staff work remotely when practical.
Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner David Lehman said while there is a waiver process, businesses should only apply “if they deem necessary.”
“DECD will also be launching more assistance for small and medium businesses who are impacted by COVID-19 in the coming days,” he added.
CBIA president and CEO Joe Brennan said the organization worked closely with the Lamont administration “to provide greater clarity for manufacturers and all industries.”
Earlier executive orders by the governor restricted bars and restaurants to takeout and delivery only and closed shopping malls, amusement parks, gyms, fitness centers, hairdressers, barbershops, and hair salons.
The March 20 announcement came a day after Lamont outlined some of the steps his administration is taking to more than 5,000 business leaders during a conference call hosted by his office, DECD, and CBIA.
During that call Lehman also shared the preliminary results of a survey produced by DECD, AdvanceCT, and CBIA that showed 80% of Connecticut employers expect the pandemic will drive down sales and revenues.
Fifty percent of surveyed companies remained open and running at full capacity, 39% were operating at reduced capacity, and 12% had closed.
More than one-quarter (26%) have offered or told employees to work from home, 31% have offered or mandated working remotely to some workers, 65% have cancelled meetings, and 56% have suspended or limited travel.
The governor said 12,000 unemployment compensation claims were filed on March 18 alone, noting that weekly claims during the 2008-2010 recession never exceeded 5,000.
“This is far worse,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can to help you with your fixed costs and make it easier for you to stay in business.
“We are trying to keep as much of the economy going as possible.”
Bridge Loan Program
The governor said the state will “do everything it can” to backstop federal emergency legislation allowing small and midsized businesses to use payroll tax credits to provide employees paid leave through December 31.
Lamont said rolling out a bridge loan program for small businesses was a priority.
Lehman expects to release details of that program, featuring low and zero-interest loans, next week.
At Lamont’s urging, Connecticut was one of the first states to gain U.S. Small Business Administration emergency status, giving smaller employers access to federal disaster relief loans.
DECD had already suspended loan and interest payments on state loans for three months and is working with private lenders to help small businesses manage fixed costs.
“We understand there’s a need to supplement and provide more capital to businesses quickly and inexpensively,” Lehman said.
“We are in constant contact with federal agencies and have been pushing them for more stimulus initiatives, particularly for small and midsized businesses.”
He added that the state “is looking to provide regulatory relief in a sensible way” for Connecticut employers.
Other recent state initiatives include:
- Relaxing unemployment compensation regulations and encouraging employers to use the Shared Work program, supplementing a worker’s reduced hours with unemployment to avoid layoffs.
- Following the federal government’s decision to extend the tax filing deadline three months to July 15. The state had already extended certain deadlines for pass-through entity and corporate business taxes.
- Expanding a prohibition on utility shutoffs to businesses through May 1.
The state has a hotline (860.500.2333 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) to field small business inquiries about the pandemic.
Companies with supply chain, delivery, or business continuity issues should email the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Business Emergency Operations Center.
“I understand that small businesses are taking the biggest hit in some ways,” Lamont said. “I hope you’re getting the message that we understand what you’re going through.
“Business and state government haven’t always been on the same page in this state.
“I think we’re all on the same page with this crisis—we’re all in this together.
“I appreciate what you’re all doing for Connecticut.”