April 01, 2020

Virginia's Response to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the Impact on Virginia Businesses

6 min

Effective March 30, 2020, Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam issued Executive Order 55, which reinforces Virginia's response to COVID-19 by, among other actions, instructing individuals in Virginia to remain in their place of residence, except for certain activities permitted thereunder and under Executive Order 53 that Governor Northam issued on March 23, 2020, and prohibiting all public and private gatherings of more than 10 individuals. These executive orders will remain in place until June 10, 2020 unless amended or rescinded by the governor, and businesses that violate these orders may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Following is a summary of the impact of these executive orders on Virginia businesses and certain state support available to Virginia businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Impact on Virginia Businesses

Executive Order 55 prohibits all public and private in-person gatherings of more than 10 individuals, but this prohibition does not apply to businesses that are not required to close to the public under Executive Order 53. Additionally, Executive Order 55 provides that individuals may leave their residences for the purpose of obtaining food, beverages, goods, or services as permitted in Executive Order 53 and travelling to and from work. 

Executive Order 53 expressly covers the following business sectors: (1) recreation and entertainment businesses; (2) brick-and-mortar essential and non-essential retail businesses; and (3) restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers markets. Businesses offering professional rather than retail services or not otherwise expressly covered by the order may remain open, but these businesses should utilize telework as much as possible. If telework is not feasible, business operations should follow social distancing recommendations, implement enhanced sanitizing practices on common surfaces, and adhere to relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities.

Businesses That Must Close

The following recreational and entertainment businesses in Virginia must close to the public:

  • theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
  • beauty salons, barber shops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other brick-and-mortar locations where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
  • racetracks and historic horse racing facilities; and
  • bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.
Essential and Non-Essential Retail Businesses

The following essential retail businesses may remain open during normal business hours:

  • Grocery, pharmacy, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products, including dollar stores and department stores with grocery or pharmacy operations; 
  • medical supply retailers;
  • electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology;
  • automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers;
  • home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
  • lawn and garden equipment retailers;
  • beer, wine, and liquor stores (Virginia ABC stores have temporarily changed the hours they are open from noon until 7:00 p.m., seven days a week, in order to allow staff time to stock shelves, as well as clean and thoroughly disinfect store surfaces to protect employees and customers);
  • retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores;
  • retail located within healthcare facilities;
  • banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
  • pet and feed stores;
  • printing and office supply stores; and
  • laundromats and dry cleaners.

Brick-and-mortar retail businesses not included on this list may continue to operate but must limit their operations to no more than 10 patrons per establishment with adequate social distancing. Non-essential retail businesses that cannot comply with these requirements must close.

Restaurants and Similar Businesses with Dining and Congregation Areas

Restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers markets must close their dining and congregation areas, but they may remain open for delivery and take-out services. Restaurant lobbies may remain open for take-out only. Restaurants must maintain adequate social distancing and may only allow up to 10 patrons in the lobby at one time.

Workplace Guidance

The following sources provide workplace guidance for businesses that remain open:

Additional Support for Virginia Businesses and their Employees

Sales, Corporate, and Individual Taxes

Businesses impacted by COVID-19 can request to defer the payment of state sales tax until April 20, 2020. If the request is granted, businesses will be able to file no later than April 20, 2020, with a waiver of any penalties.

Additionally, the Virginia Department of Taxation has extended the due date of payment of Virginia individual and corporate income taxes. Filing deadlines remain the same, but the due date for payment of individual and corporate income tax is extended to June 1, 2020. Interest will still accrue, so taxpayers who are able to pay by the original deadlines should do so.
Additional information on deferring payment and filing returns can be found at: www.tax.virginia.gov

Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loans

Virginia has officially received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Accordingly, small businesses and nonprofits located in Virginia can now apply for a loan of up to $2 million from the SBA to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other expenses.

Information about submitting a loan application for the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan program can be found at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

Additional State Support for Businesses and Employees 

Governor Northam is authorizing rapid response funding, through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, to provide employers eligible to remain open during this emergency with funds for cleaning their facilities and supporting emergency needs.

Additionally, Virginia will activate regional workforce teams to support employers that slow or cease operations. Employers who slow or cease operations will not be financially penalized for an increase in workers requesting unemployment benefits.

Virginia is also taking actions to protect employees impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Governor Northam has directed the Commissioner of the Virginia Employment Commission to waive the one-week waiting period to ensure workers can receive benefits as soon as possible.
  • Employees should apply to receive unemployment benefits if their employer needs to temporarily slow or cease operations because of COVID-19. Additionally, employees who are required by a medical or public health official to self-quarantine and are not receiving paid sick or medical leave from their employer may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. An employee also may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they must stay home to care for an ill family member and are not receiving paid family medical leave from their employer.
  • For individuals receiving unemployment insurance, Governor Northam directed the Virginia Employment Commission to give affected workers special consideration on deadlines, mandatory re-employment appointments, and work search requirements.
  • The Governor's office has provided a Frequently Asked Questions guide for workers who have been temporarily laid off or discharged during this public health crisis.

Information about Virginia's response to COVID-19 can be found at: https://virginia.gov/coronavirus/.