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Dan Bennett, PresidentMar 26, 20207 min read

Governor Sununu: Automotive Sales and Service are Essential

Tonight, Governor Sununu issued Emergency Order #17, the “Stay at Home” order which spells out which businesses are considered essential.  The full order can be found here and the list of essential businesses can be found here.

Recognizing Governor Sununu: Again, I want to recognize the leadership shown by Governor Sununu. Trying to strike the right balance of protecting the greater public from COVID-19 and maintaining running businesses and workers is a near impossible duty. This order strikes the right balance considering the major health crisis we face. He has done a nice job in tackling a crisis that he didn’t create but yet was foisted upon him.

Automotive Sales and repair are essential: There is a lengthy list of businesses and workers included as “essential” which is positive for NHADA’s member businesses. In particular “automotive sales, repair and maintenance” facilities are essential. Automotive is not defined in the order but according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “automotive” is “relating to, or concerned with self-propelled vehicles or machines.” 

Consequently, the logical interpretation is that automotive would cover cars, trucks, powersports, OHRV’s, RV’s, equipment, inspection stations and recyclers. Similarly, automotive repair would cover mechanical repairers, as well as, collision repairers. NHADA will work to confirm this analysis but considering Governor Sununu’s emphasis on ‘transportation’ infrastructure, this reading of automotive makes sense. 

THIS DOES NOT MEAN BUSINESS AS USUAL -- NHADA members need to take COVID-19 very seriously:

Being named as essential comes with a great responsibility. NHADA members need to recognize that COVID-19 is a dangerous virus that is likely to infect over 50% of NH’s residents, knows no age boundaries and has overwhelmed the medical infrastructure across the world. It has only just begun to seriously impact NH’s residents and hospitals. We are just entering the woods.

You need to implement serious plans and procedures to protect your employees and customers from being infected by the virus. If NH wants to “flatten the curve”, NHADA members need to take the Governor’s “stay at home” plea and develop strategies, procedures and practices to allow for social distancing protocols consistent with guidance provided by the CDC and the Division of Public Health. 

NHADA strongly urges NHADA members from activities that might draw crowds such as blow out sales, tent sales, etc. If automotive businesses abuse this privilege, COVID-19 will continue to spread and more stringent measures would need to be put in place.  

What is considered Essential Businesses and workers:

Specifically, and of interest to NHADA members, the following businesses and workers are declared to be essential by Order #17 (the full list is found in the order itself):

  • Automotive sales, repair and maintenance facilities
  • Commercial retail stores that supply essential sectors, including convenience stores, pet supply stores, auto supplies and repair, hardware and home improvement, and home appliance retailers
  • Employees supporting or enabling transportation functions, including dispatchers, maintenance and repair technicians, warehouse workers, truck stop and rest area workers, and workers that maintain and inspect infrastructure (including those that require cross border travel)
  • Workers critical to operating rental car companies and Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) that facilitate continuity of operations for essential workforces, and other essential travel
  • Employees who repair and maintain vehicles, aircraft, rail equipment, marine vessels, and the equipment and infrastructure that enables operations that encompass movement of cargo and passengers
  • Employees of firms providing services that enable logistics operations, including cooling, storing, packaging, and distributing products for wholesale or retail sale or us
  • Workers who support the manufacture and distribution of forest products, including, but not limited to timber, paper, and other wood products
  • Employees engaged in the manufacture and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructure necessary to agricultural production and distribution
  • Workers and instructors supporting academies and training facilities and courses for the purpose of graduating students and cadets that comprise the essential workforce for all identified critical sectors
  • Professional services (such as legal and accounting services) and payroll and employee benefit services, when necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities and critical sector services or where failure to provide such services during the time of the order would result in significant prejudice
  • Educators and staff supporting public and private emergency childcare programs, including remote learning and facilitating distance learning among residential schools for students with disabilities, K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, provision of school meals, or performing other essential student support functions, if operating under rules for social distancing
  • Workers who are critical to facilitating trade in support of the national, state and local emergency response supply chain
  • Security staff to maintain building access control and physical security measures • Residential and commercial janitorial and cleaning services
  • Manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying materials and products for industries that include, but are not limited to, pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, chemicals and sanitization, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, construction, gun and related products (including associated retail), operations of dams, water and wastewater treatment, national defense, communications, as well as products used by other essential businesses and operations
  • Workers who are needed to process and maintain systems for processing financial transactions and services (e.g., payment, clearing, and settlement; wholesale funding; insurance services; and capital markets activities)

Traveling for essential work allowed

Those deemed essential will continue to have the ability to cross state borders for work related travel (e.g., traveling to and from work/home, transporting products to distribution facilities, etc.).

Limitations on gatherings (10 or less) and social distancing:

The essential businesses/workers are urged to follow social distancing protocols for employees in accordance with guidance from the Department of Public Health, including but not limited to:

  • Prohibiting all gatherings with more than 10 individuals
  • Keeping all personnel six feet apart
  • Encouraging employees to stay home when sick, and sending home those who report feeling ill or display symptoms

The term “Gatherings” is not clearly defined but in light of the how serious COVID-19 is, NHADA members should limit the number of customers in the facility to avoid violating this rule. NHADA suggests scheduling customer visits and strictly limiting who can enter your facility.

Ideally, the more you follow social distancing and limiting customer interaction, the better off we all are in NH as you’ll limit the spread of the virus. NHADA will seek more guidance on the gathering limitations.

Remote Operations/work encouraged for all businesses.

“Businesses and organizations, essential or not, are encouraged to continue their operations through a remote means (ie., telework) that will not require employees, customers, or the public to report to the company or organization’s physical facility.”  NHADA members need to take this encouragement seriously. In order to limit the spread of COVID-19, having employees working from home will go a long way.

What if I am not an “essential business”?

The order provides that “All businesses and other organizations that do not provide Essential Services shall close their physical workplaces and facilities to workers, customers, and the public and cease all in person operations as of 11:59 p.m. on March 27, 2020 and shall not re-open to workers, customers or the public or resume in person operations before 12:01 a.m. on May 4, 2020.”

What does “stay at home” mean?

The Governor’s order states that “New Hampshire citizens shall stay at home or in their place of residence” but gives many exceptions including:

  • going to work “if the individual is employed at a business or organization that provides Essential Services or a business or organization to whom this Order does not apply” and
  • Running essential errands or other errands an individual determines to be essential for everyday needs. If a citizen needs a vehicle repaired or inspected or needs to purchase a new or used vehicle or replace a leased vehicle, NHADA believes that the citizen can leave their home to accomplish those essential errands by visiting an essential business. (“Leaving home to run essential errands such as going to the grocery store, pharmacy, laundromat, or fulfilling any other errands an individual determines to be essential for everyday needs”)

The full list of exceptions can be found in the order.

Are there entities that are not subject to this order?

Yes, the following are not subject to this order: K-12 schools within this State, State Government, local and county governments, local and county legislative bodies, the General Court, or the Judicial Branch; any church, synagogue, mosque, or other house of worship, provided that those organizations must still comply with Emergency Order #16;

How will this order be enforced?

Division of Public Health and State or local police shall have the authority to enforce this Order.

As noted throughout the blog, NHADA will be following up with the State as to certain aspects of Order #17 to obtain additional clarity.  If you have questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to our offices. We are working remotely but still on patrol.