Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an Executive Order on Monday that closed all “non-essential businesses” across the State starting at 5 p.m. on March 23, 2020. “Essential” businesses, which include auto and truck dealerships and other businesses identified as part of the Federal critical infrastructure, may remain open. All other businesses must close to the general public indefinitely. Gov. Hogan announced the move along with a $175 million economic relief package for small businesses.
The Interpretive Guidance from the Office of Legal Counsel accompanying Gov. Hogan’s Executive Order provides a “non-exhaustive” list of essential businesses that are not required to close. The Guidance originally identified automotive repair and maintenance facilities, “lessors of transportation assets,” and automotive part suppliers as essential businesses within the “transportation systems sector” that are allowed to stay open, but did not specifically identify vehicle sales as an essential function. The Guidance was later amended to add “auto and truck dealerships” to the list of businesses that are not subject to the closure Order. Thus, at least for now, vehicle sales and service facilities may continue to operate and remain open to the Maryland public.
Businesses allowed to remain open should continue to adhere to CDC and Maryland Department of Health guidelines for COVID-19 and prevent groups of 10 or more from congregating in one location. Routine sanitization policies should be implemented and adhered to in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Finally, while this is not a “shelter-in-place” order, Marylanders are urged to remain home and employers are urged to promote teleworking to the extent feasible. In that sense, the amended Guidance strongly encourages retail establishments that remain open to “modify their operations to conduct as much business as possible remotely, and to limit in-store interactions where practicable.” Such modifications could include, for example, “making products available for delivery” and other efforts to “limit in-store browsing.”
In addition to the closure Order, Gov. Hogan also announced a number of financial assistance programs for eligible small businesses. Among other measures announced on March 23, businesses with under 50 full- and part-time employees may be eligible to receive loans of up to $50,000 to help with payroll, rent, and other fixed costs during this time.