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Gov. Larry Hogan has issued a stay-at-home order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The order takes effect at 8 p.m. this evening. Under this order, no one is to leave their home for any reason other than essential work, to get food, or for other fundamental reasons. The executive order and the latest interpretive guidance are attached in links.

Even essential businesses must take more steps to scale down in-person operations and institute telework for as much of their workforce as possible. If you can telework, you should be teleworking, according to Mike Ricci, Gov. Hogan’s communication director.

Accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll firms continue to be listed as essential businesses in the Governor’s executive order from March 23, 2020. Technology services are also listed as essential businesses. This has not changed. However, this additional guidance, dated March 24, 2020, also grants staff access to non-essential businesses for the purposes of:

  • 1. a. facilitating remote working (“telework”) by other staff; and
  • 1. c. performing essential administrative functions, including without limitation, picking up mail and processing payroll.

A few important things to keep in mind

  1. Everyone should follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as state and local governments, regarding strategies to limit the spread of the disease.
  2. Workers should be encouraged to work remotely when possible and focus on core business activities. In-person, non-mandatory activities should be delayed until the resumption of normal operations.
  3. When continuous remote work is not possible, businesses should enlist strategies to reduce the likelihood of spreading the disease. This includes, but is not necessarily limited to, separating staff by offsetting shift hours or days and/or social distancing. These steps can preserve the workforce and allow operations to continue.

Note: You cannot order anyone to come to work under both federal and state emergency orders. As an employer, you should consult the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act and Maryland’s COVID-19 Business Response for authoritative guidance.

‘Permission slip for employees’
If you find it necessary to send employees to your offices, Gov. Hogan advises that you give them a “permission slip” of sorts that they can present to authorities, should they be stopped for any reason.

“Employers must make the determination if they’re allowed to remain open,” Gov. Hogan’s office stresses. “If they do, it would be advisable for them to give their employees some kind of letter, in case the employees are stopped by law enforcement. The burden here is on the employer.”

Feel free to use the following templates to draft your letters for employees. Many thanks to former MACPA board member Barrett Young for helping us draft these templates.

For CPA firms

To whom it may concern,

The bearer of this letter is an employee of [CPA Firm], located at [address]. According to the Interpretive Guidance in Executive Order of the Governor of the State of Maryland, Number 20-03-23-01, dated March 23, 2020, accounting and bookkeeping firms such as ours have been determined to be an essential business in the financial services sector (Ref paragraph 2(h)viii). As such, the bearer is granted permission to travel to and from work.

Our current hours of normal operation are [hours], and though we are currently operating with more than half of our staff working virtually as they’re able, some of our support services require in-office tasks. We have ensured that the in-office essential staff is working according to the CDC’s recommendations for social distancing and environmental cleaning and disinfection.

Signed,
[Name]
Managing Partner
[Firm name]

For CPAs in corporate finance

To whom it may concern,

The bearer of this letter is an employee of [Business], located at [address]. According to the Interpretive Guidance in Executive Order of the Governor of the State of Maryland, Number 20-03-23-01, dated March 23, 2020, accounting and bookkeeping services have been determined to be essential. (Ref paragraph 2(h)viii). As such, the bearer is granted permission to travel to and from work.

We have ensured that the in-office essential staff is working according to the CDC’s recommendations for social distancing and environmental cleaning and disinfection.

Signed,
[Name]
[Business Leader]
[Business Name]

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