U.S. industries scramble for exemptions as state shutdown orders grow
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[March 24, 2020]
By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As several more U.S.
states moved to impose stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the
coronavirus, industries from steelmakers to auto dealerships were
scrambling for exemptions that would allow them to remain open.
A patchwork of state and local authorities are imposing business
closures. While many manufacturing firms were declared "essential" and
were being allowed to stay open, some suppliers were not.
The stay-at-home orders are designed to stop the spread of the highly
contagious virus, which has infected over 40,000 Americans in recent
weeks and killed over 500.
The manufacturing-heavy states of Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and
Michigan imposed stay-at-home orders on Monday, joining states such as
New York, California, Illinois, Delaware and Maryland.
"What we do now will slow this invader," Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said
Sunday. "It will slow this invader so our healthcare system ... will
have time to treat casualties.”
The National Association of Manufacturers has urged states to declare
all manufacturing facilities and supply chains as part of the "essential
infrastructure" and "essential businesses," allowing them to stay open
under guidance provided by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure
Security Agency (CISA), part of the Department of Homeland Security.
As the virus halts physical commerce, keeping operations open provides
companies a better chance of staying in business than waiting for a
government handout, said Gary Hufbauer, a non-resident senior fellow at
the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
"Cash flow and survival are the key words here," said Hufbauer. "As the
shutdown continues, more and more firms will seek to be designated
Several letters to state and local officials from industry groups did
not address how worker safety would be maintained for firms granted
According to the CISA guidance, working remotely is encouraged, but when
that is not possible, the agency recommends following guidance from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for social distancing,
and off-setting shift hours to separate staff.
"These steps can preserve the workforce and allow operations to
continue," the agency said.
Industry may get an opening as President Donald Trump voiced a desire on
Monday to avoid a complete shutdown of the U.S. economy, Hufbauer said.
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Man walks past a factory at Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., January 18,
2020. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Trump said he was considering ways to restart the economy in the
coming weeks and wanted to avoid the pandemic becoming "a
long-lasting financial problem"
Pennsylvania imposed a stay-at-home order in seven counties, mainly
in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas on Monday evening. Steel
mills are allowed to operate, but not some critical suppliers such
as metal fabricators and producers of limestone used in blast
"Without the continued operation of these businesses, steel mills
will not be able to continue their physical operations in
Pennsylvania and elsewhere," Tom Gibson, president of the American
Iron And Steel Institute, wrote in a letter to Pennsylvania Governor
As of late Monday afternoon, those metal fabricators were not on a
list of the types of businesses that could stay open from
"We are issuing these orders because Pennsylvanians’ health and
safety remains our highest priority," Wolf said in a statement.
Pennlive.com reported that 10,000 businesses in Pennsylvania were
seeking exemptions from the order.
The Aluminum Association called on local state and federal agencies
to ensure that industry operations and employees are designated as
“essential” and exempted from any "shelter in place" orders.
Groups representing the ports, chemical industry and hazardous waste
transport also urged officials to keep them open as essential
Auto dealerships, which repair vehicles and perform warranty and
recall work, also should stay open, to "ensure that our nation's
motor vehicle fleet remains as safe and operational as possible" two
automotive trade groups said in a letter to Trump.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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