Is My Business Essential under COVID-19 Shutdowns?

Navigating the “Essential Business” Designation under COVID-19 Work Shutdowns

As the country battles the spread of COVID-19, many State and Local Officials are taking measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, often including shutting down all “non-essential” businesses. This poses a severe challenge to federal contractors in the defense, aero-space, intelligence and other firms, as well as their supply chains.

As government contractors, you are probably asking: How do I know if my business is essential?

Ellen Lord, the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, issued guidance on Friday March 20th, 2020 trying to clarify that point, explaining which businesses the Federal Government considers ‘essential’ and asking them to continue working. They use Department of Homeland Security (DHS) guidelines for ‘critical infrastructure’ which include aerospace mechanical and software engineers; manufacturing/production workers; IT support; security; intelligence support; aircraft and weapon systems mechanics and maintainers; suppliers of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals; and critical transportation – among others.

The challenge is that the States have sovereignty in this area, so your best course of action is to contact your Governor and other local authorities and request to be exempted from any shutdown affecting your operations because of your commitment to supporting / supplying our nations’ security.

ACTION(s): If you need to keep your government contracts moving ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic, then:

  1. Appeal to your State Governor and local officials using Undersecretary Lord’s memo as a catalyst, and explain (that you):
    • Are seeking to be designated as an ‘essential business’
    • Have federal government contract commitments that need to be met
    • Believe your business meets the definitions outlined in the memo
    • Are providing a copy of the memo and show where your business meets the DHS definitions
    • The precautions you are taking to curb the spread of COVID-19 during the showdown (e.g. compliance with CDC guidelines, etc. – be specific about your plan)
    • Appreciate the difficulty your state/local leaders are undertaking but feel you must remain open, even under the circumstances
  1. Send courtesy copies of your letters to your elected federal officials at the same time you make your appeal
  2. Send your letter, and Undersecretary Lord’s letter, to your suppliers and ask them to do the same in their state and community

Ellen Lord’s Memo to the Defense Workforce is available on the DoD’s website.

Read about Ellen Lord’s statement.

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