Can You Keep Your Business Open? Waivers May Be Available

March 24, 2020

Governor Orders Pennsylvania Businesses to Close
Is My Business Life Sustaining, and if not, What Can I Do?

Governor Wolf ordered all non-life sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 19th, to slow the spread of COVID-19, and published a list identifying those business deemed life sustaining. Due to numerous questions and concerns regarding the list, and the limited time given to businesses to comply, on March 20th the Governor’s office published an updated list and announced that it would delay enforcement actions until 8:00 a.m. on Monday, March 23rd.

The List of Life Sustaining Businesses
To view the Governor’s life sustaining business list, click this link. After reviewing the list, if you are uncertain whether your business must close or not, it is suggested the you review the federal government’s Guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure published by the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which can be found at this link. If you want guidance directly from the state, you can email the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) at

Requesting a Waiver from the List
Businesses that are not deemed life sustaining but can show cause why they should be exempted from the Governor’s closure order may request a waiver. The waiver form can be found at this link, and is submitted via email to

Unfortunately, the state does not indicate the standards it will apply when considering a waiver request. The waiver form merely directs the applicant to explain how its business is life sustaining, which seems nonsensical since if a business considers itself life sustaining from the provided list, it would not need to request a waiver. In any event, it is suggested that if your business does not neatly fit into a life sustaining category, that you explain how it is so closely associated with life sustaining businesses that a waiver is justified.

Businesses seeking a waiver are directed to cease on-site operations until a waiver is approved. Those businesses are nonetheless permitted to have limited on-site personnel to maintain critical functions, such as facility/inventory security, payroll and to assure regulatory compliance. You will be expected to follow COVID-19 mitigation guidance provided by the PA Department of Health and CDC.

If You Have Questions
If you have additional questions regarding the Governor’s business shut down order, the Governor’s office maintains a website addressing these issues at this link.

We are here to help. Please contact Ethan O’Shea with any questions at (215) 661-0400, ext. 1521 or

Questions Every Business Must Ask

Q. Has your business recently reviewed its legal structure to determine whether it is set up in the most advantageous manner for legal and tax purposes, considering recent developments and changes in the law?

Q. Do the owners of your business have a current, updated buy-sell agreement which controls how ownership interests in the business are to be transferred in the event of an owner’s death, disability or termination of employment?

Q. Have the owners of your business developed a succession plan to define how ownership and authority will transition upon the death or retirement of the present owners?

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