Updated: Apr 8, 2020
Intense lobbying by industry groups appear to have helped lumberyards and hardware stores win an exemption from state and local orders to close non-essential businesses. Builders have fared slightly less well, while for remodelers (as opposed to repairmen and tradespeople) the situation is murkier.
Several states based their orders in part on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) that lists what it regards as essential industries that should remain open during the COVID-19 pandemic. At first the memo only vaguely exempted lumberyards under a provision for forest products, but no other dealers were mentioned, and construction work--residential, commercial, and remodeling--wasn't mentioned. But on March 28, after furious lobbying by scores of groups, the federal CISA memo was updated to cite construction workers, dealers, distributors, and repair people and construction workers.
Here's the new language involving dealers:
And here is the section involving construction (in the final bullet point):
Many--but not all--states and localities reference the CISA memo in their orders, while some others basically copy the previous CISA language without citing it specifically. The report below tells what's what with each governing body.
Gov. Kay Ivey has finally issued a stay-home order. Her April 3 decree exempts hardware, home improvement, and building material stores, as well as stores that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating materials. It also exempts construction and construction-related services. The order also cites the federal CISA memo, thus providing extra justification to the groups above to keep working.
Gov. Doug Ducey issued a new stay-home order on March 30, but its definition of essential and thus exempt business falls back to a March 23 list of essential services. That list specifically exempts hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating materials; all construction, including plumbers, electricians, HVAC people, and painters; and sellers/distributors suppliers of essential businesses (such as construction and hardware).
The Golden State's order cites the CISA guidelines, and several lumberyards in California said they have received requests from officials to stay open. Gov. Gavin Newsom then made it official on March 22 with a list of critical infrastructure workers that included construction material suppliers as well as construction companies
However, on March 31, residential and commercial construction was all but banned in the San Francisco Bay area when the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo plus the city of Berkeley issued the same stay-at-home order. Now the only construction allowed is basically what keeps essential infrastructure going; supports health care, affordable, and temporary housing; or is needed merely to shut down the job site. As for remodeling, only vital, can't-wait repair work is allowed. Here's the general announcement and a link to one of the orders.
In the city of Los Angeles, If you work in a lumberyard or hardware store, if you're a carpenter or handyman or do remodeling work within city limits, you now must wear a mask. That's per the latest order from the mayor, issued April 7.
Rather than issue a stay-at-home order, Colorado specifically directs employers to reduce their in-person workforce by 50%. However, the list of businesses exempted from this reduction include hardware stores, building material stores, farm supply stores, distribution centers, builders and skilled trades.
Gov. Ned Lamont's executive order refers to the CISA memo and also specifically exempts construction as well as "vendors of essential services and goods necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential business." The order also says the state will consider requests from exemptions by others.
The First State's list of exempt businesses looks much like Pennsylvania's, but it's much looser; among other things, it permits commercial and residential construction, and includes garden centers alongside building material and supplies dealers. In addition, it adds four-digit NAICS codes to each listing. Remodeling is grouped under the same four-digit NAICS code as residential construction, so it's clear here that this group is exempt.
District of Columbia (Washington)
The stay-home order here lasts longer than other places--until April 24. It exempts construction and building trades, including roofers, carpenters, and bricklayers. Also exempt are businesses that sell supplies and materials to maintain commercial and residential buildings--notably big-box stores and plumbing, electrical and HVAC distributors. The order cites the federal CISA guidelines on essential businesses, so lumberyards are deemed exempt.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on April 1 issued first the first time a stay-home order for the entire state. The order cites the federal CISA guidelines, so building material dealers, hardware stores, distributors, builders, and remodelers are exempt. It also puts going to a religious service on its list of essential activities and thus is exempt. And a second order also issued on April. 1 declares that no local jurisdiction can set standards that supersede what the governor has ordered.
Gov. Brian Kemp said April 1 that he planned to issue his first state-wide stay-home order on April 2. The plan ends a situation in which Georgia was a patchwork state of varying regulations. One of the first actions was in Atlanta, where Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an order that exempts hardware stores and residential repairmen and those that supply them. It regards construction as an essential infrastructure, and also exempts companies that supply materials to essential infrastructure businesses, so lumberyards should qualify. In addition, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that officials in the Atlanta suburbs of Dunwoody, Chamblee, Forest Park, and Clarkston have stay-home orders.
snahils, The New York Times says Blakely, Carrollton, Athens-Clarke County, and Dougherty counties are under shelter-in-place orders.
The order from Aloha State Gov. David Ige cites the federal CISA guidelines, which regard as essential all companies in the lumber business. It also exempts from the stay-home order all hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating material, as well as building and construction tradesmen and tradeswomen. Manufacturers, distributors, and supply chain links also are exempt.
Like most other states, Idaho now has a stay-home rule that treats residential and commercial construction as essential infrastructure and hardware stores, plumbers, and electricians as essential services and businesses. Companies that supply other essential businesses (i.e. building material dealers and distributors that serve builders) also are exempted. Lumberyards also get covered a second way: through Idaho's reference to the federal CISA list of essential critical infrastructure.
The stay at home order specifically exempts construction as well as "hardware and supply stores." Notably, the order exempts such critical trades as "plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers that maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences."
The Hoosier state announced an order that looks remarkably similar to Ohio's (see below).
As with Oregon, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' expanded stay-home order specifies what must close but doesn't provide any long list of what's exempt. So building material dealers, hardware stores, residential construction, commercial construction, and remodeling all can stay open, it appears.
Gov. Laura Kelly's stay-home order here was enacted March 28 in conjunction with something called the Kansas Essential Function Framework (KEFF). It exempts companies that "maintain supply chains for essential functions and critical infrastructure (as defined by DHS)." That's probably a reference to the CISA memo, which exempts LBM deals, hardware stores, residential and commercial builders, and remodelers. The order itself permits companies that construct, maintain, or clean buildings and that produce or distribute construction materials.
The Bluegrass State's stay-home order cites the federal CISA memorandum, which exempts lumberyards. The order itself specifically exempts hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating material. Construction and maintenance businesses are on the list of "life-sustaining businesses," as are tradespeople.
This order is one of the shortest issued by any state. The only construction and LBM reference it could be said to make is a link to the CISA guidelines, which support lumberyards being exempt. But then late on March 23, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a fact sheet with "additional illustrative examples" of what businesses are exempt. That list includes construction, building management and maintenance, distribution centers, people in the building and construction trades, and hardware stores.
Gov. Janet Mills' stay-home order cites the CISA document, so lumberyards are exempted. Also, "construction and maintenance of essential infrastructure" makes the list of Essential Businesses, as does industrial manufacturing, hardware and home repair shops, distributors, and forest products. Nothing about remodelers or home builders.
Gov. Larry Hogan amped up the Bay State's coronavirus response on March 30 with a tougher stay-home order. But the order still references the CISA memo, so building material suppliers/distributors remain exempt, as are home builders and remodelers.
The Bay State's stay-home order appears to take the federal government's CISA memo and build on it. So not only do lumberyards get protected (in a section exempting forest products industries companies), there's also a section exempting "Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, inspectors and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, construction sites and projects, and needed facilities." Construction also gets exempted, though I'm told localities can stop work (as Boston, Cambridge and Nantucket Island already have).
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order for her state. The order references the CISA memo exempting lumberyards from forced closure. But, unlike other states and localities, the word "construction" never shows up in the order.
The stay-home order cites federal CISA guidelines, so lumberyards can claim to be exempt. Also exempt are supply stores, construction material suppliers. Also: "workers necessary to provide repairs, maintenance and operations support to residential dwellings." The construction section doesn't explicitly say residential and/or commercial construction is OK. Rather, it generally exempts skilled trades, including electricians, plumbers, and HVAC workers, plus "all other service providers who provide services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of homes and residences." Indian tribes in the state can set their own rules.
The updated shelter in place order in the Magnolia State, signed on April 1, has the same list of exempt businesses as was in an earlier order on March 24. In that earlier order, Gov. Tate Reeves exempts "construction and construction related services including building and construction, lumber, building materials and hardware, electricians, plumbers ... painting ... other skilled trades, and other related construction firms and professionals for maintaining essential infrastructure."
The Show-Me State's decree references the federal CISA memo, so building material dealers and hardware stores, builders and remodelers, and product distributors all are exempt. Previously, both Kansas City and St. Louis had had their own stay-home orders.
The stay-home order by Gov. Steve Bullock declares hardware and supply stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating material to be essential businesses and thus exempt from the order. In addition, construction as well as building management and maintenance are deemed to be essential infrastructures, and building and construction tradesmen and tradeswomen are essential businesses.
Gov. Pete Ricketts is issuing one of the lightest, most selective set of stay-home orders of any state that has issued such decrees, but he has slowly expanded its reach. As of April 2, the state's Directed Health Measure applies to 56 of Nebraska's 93 counties. It not only exempts construction and all types of hardware and building material suppliers, it even lets the malls stay open. Read Ricketts' press release as well.
Gov. Steve Sisolak extended his March 20 stay-home order on March 31 but didn't expand it. Thaat earlier order exempts hardware stores and home improvement centers; plumbers, electricians, and similar trades; and construction. Cannabis stores also are exempt. Brothels are not.
An addendum to Gov. Chris Sununu's March 26 stay-home order lists construction workers as an essential function, then specifically identifies hardware and home improvement stores as exempt. Manufacturers and distributors serving construction also are exempt.
Starting April 10, all non-essential construction in the Garden State must stop. According to an FAQ sheet from the state, Gov. Phil Murphy's pending executive order gives exemptions only to construction projects at hospitals and schools, in transportation and utilities, for the building of affordable housing, and "other individual housing sites that can adhere to strict limits on the number of workers on-site at any given time, emergency repairs, and work needed to safely secure a construction site." As for dealers, Murphy's Executive Order No. 107 exempts "hardware and home improvement stores."
The stay-home order announced by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham designates as essential businesses all hardware stores; commercial and residential construction and maintenance; "services necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences," including plumbers, electricians, and other skilled trades." Aside from hardware stores, it doesn't identify building material dealers or distributors.
The Empire State's March 27 update now declares that only emergency construction "necessary to protect health and safety of the occupants, or to continue a project if it would be unsafe to allow to remain undone" remains exempt from a previously issued stay-home order. Hardware and building material dealers remain exempt, as do sole employees in the construction industry.
After a week in which counties and cities acted, Gov. Roy Cooper has finally issued a statewide stay-home order. Construction is deemed essential infrastructure and thus is exempt. Home improvement, hardware, and supply stores are exempted businesses, as are building and construction tradespeople.
The stay-at-home order from Ohio's Department of Health includes as essential all distribution centers; home construction and essential commercial construction. It also references the CISA memo as well as "hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating material." A section later on allows businesses that sell products like hardware, paint, and flat glass to remain open.
Oklahoma referenced the federal CISA memo near the top of Gov. Kevin Stitt's stay-home order, so lumberyards are exempt. The National Association of Home Business's map of permitted activities indicates that construction is exempt in the state.
The stay-home order in Oregon looks different from all other states I've reviewed because it doesn't have an exemption list. Rather, Gov. Kate Brown specified who should close (the usual gang of clubs, social places, yoga studios and dining establishments) but then apparently leaves all other businesses free to stay open so long as they promote telework as much as possible. The order requires businesses to "designate an employee or officer to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies."
The commonwealth's ban on residential and commercial construction as well as remodeling now applies to all 67 counties after Gov. Tom Wolf extended his stay-home order on April 1. Building material dealers are exempt from the updated stay-home order's list of exempt businesses. And, after being ordered to close in earlier orders, lumber and construction material merchant wholesalers now can stay open.
A memo from the state's Department of Business Regulation lists hardware stores as exempt, along with "industrial, construction, agricultural/seafood equipment and supply stores." There's no specific exemption given to construction itself, either in the memo or in Gov. Gina Raimondo's March 28 executive order.
Gov. Henry McMaster has issued a fairly open stay-home order. It closes the usual night clubs, fitness centers and other "non-essential" businesses, but by omission indicates that building material suppliers, builders, remodelers, distributors, and hardware stores can stay open. Businesses that want clarification can ask the state's Commerce Department.