COVID-19 CLIENT ALERT
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing all New York businesses to face unprecedented uncertainties and challenges in a host of areas central to their operations. The landscape of state and federal laws being passed, and regulations and executive orders being issued, is changing almost daily. We are monitoring these changes in federal and state laws, and are continuing to provide guidance and advice to our clients as they navigate these ever-changing and uncharted waters. Although not comprehensive, below we provide some highlights of important changes that may affect your business.
- Federal Stimulus
As of this writing the U.S. Senate has passed, and the House is considering, a major federal stimulus package that will include a variety of benefits for employers and employees alike. We are monitoring that and will be providing updates concerning significant features of it once enacted into law.
- Loans and Mortgages
Under Gov. Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.9, financial institutions in New York have been ordered to provide 90 days of forbearance on loans and mortgages to individuals and businesses who are experiencing hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What “forbearance” means in any specific case depends upon the particular circumstances of the borrower and lender, but borrowers experiencing hardship should consider this an invitation to contact their bank or financial institution to initiate discussions.
- Suspension of Time Limits for Legal Proceedings
Gov. Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.8 suspended until April 19, 2020 any specific time limit for the commencement, filing, or service of any legal action, notice, motion, or other process or proceeding. This tolling of time limits applies to all criminal, civil, family court, surrogate’s court, and Court of Claims proceedings. Filing of papers with all court clerk offices has also been suspended state-wide, with certain exceptions, and no new criminal or civil jury trials are being conducted until further notice. We expect the April 19 date will be subject to further extension if circumstances warrant.
- In-Person Workforce Reduction
Pursant to Executive Order (“EO”) 202.8, all “non-essential” businesses and not-for-profit entities in New York were required to reduce their in-person workforces by 100% no later than March 22 at 8 p.m. An entity providing “essential” services or functions, whether to an essential business or a non-essential business, are not be subject to this in-person work restriction, but may operate at the level necessary to provide such service or function.
The list of “essential” businesses not affected by this mandatory in-person workforce reduction is lengthy; a complete list can be found here. In general, it exempts essential health care, infrastructure, manufacturing, and retail businesses, services such as trash and recycling, mail, auto repair, and cleaning services, news media, and financial institutions. We welcome clients’ questions concerning whether they qualify as essential businesses or how they may apply to qualify if not currently on the list of essential businesses and services.
- Hospitals, Medical Personnel and Services
The Governor’s Executive Order 202.10 contains a number of important provisions concerning hospitals and medical services, all of which are designed to maximize available facilities and increase the number of personnel permitted to provide medical services in New York. Our Healthcare Law attorneys would be happy to discuss your questions.
- Employment Law
Many of the most significant changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic are happening in employment law, at both the state and federal levels. For example, the recently-enacted Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) creates new obligations for employers with respect to paid sick leave and paid family leave. New York likewise recently passed legislation imposing new obligations on employers with respect to paid leave and providing new or enhanced state benefits to employees. The details of these laws are beyond the scope of this Client Alert, but our Labor and Employment Law professionals are ready to help you navigate through these new laws and any that may hereafter be enacted. For a helpful summary of the FFCRA, please see Adam Rodriguez’s article here.
- Evictions and Foreclosures
Gov. Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.8 suspends enforcement of all residential and commercial tenant evictions, and all residential and commercial property foreclosures, for a period of ninety days as of March 20, 2020. Note too that with the temporary state-wide suspension of new court filings ordered by New York’s Chief Administrative Judge, no new eviction or foreclosure proceedings can be commenced for the time being.
- Real Property Tax
While numerous requests have been made to extend the deadline for the payment of Town and Westchester County taxes beyond April 30, 2020, to date no such action has been taken. As of today, the Town and County tax remain due by the end of April.
Additionally, for property tax assessment purposes, in New York State, commercial property is valued using an income-based approach. Vacancies and rent abatements or other decreases in income will have a profound effect on the market value of properties. Similarly, market-wide vacancies and decreases in rent may also result in lower market values across the board. If the current assessment on a property reflects a value above the proper market value, you may be entitled to reduced assessment, resulting in a lower property tax bill. Keep in mind that tax assessments must be challenged each year and strict deadlines apply to filing these challenges.
- Land Use Approvals
Under Executive Order 202.1, New York State suspended the Open Meeting Law. This permits Town Boards and other approving agencies to meet remotely, allowing the land use process to proceed in many localities. Local Building departments remain open for the most part, to issue non-discretionary permits and permits in compliance with the still-functioning Boards.
We extend our best wishes to you and your families during this very challenging time. Please do not hesitate to call us with any questions you may have.