Are You Essential?

Are You Essential?

While not named specifically, there’s a very good chance snow and ice management is an essential support service while under quarantine.

March 23, 2020

To stem the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19), 10 states have implemented measures beyond social distancing and have ordered that residents outside of essential service personnel remain quarantined in their homes.

Since most of these states reside in the snowbelt, and with a few weeks remaining in Winter 2019-20, the situation has left some in the snow and ice management community to question how their services factor into these respective state mandates.

ASCA general counsel Joshua Ferguson spent the good portion of his morning addressing contractor concerns about the industry’s role as an “essential service.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a clear-cut answer on this in most states,” says Ferguson, who is the Partner and Co-chair of the Philadelphia and Cherry H

ill offices at Freeman, Mathis and Gary LLP. “Interpretation is that snow management is essential as at least part of the services are for essential businesses.”

ASCA Executive Director says there's no doubt in his mind that snow and ice management is included as an essential service during a stay-at-home quarantine event.

"We have been in communication with state representatives and we have watched them act responsibly in including snow and ice management services as essential services if we get an event like the potential Nor Easter we are hearing about," GIlbride says. "Our services are essential in maintaining clean and safe pavement services so people have clear access to the emergency and essential services they're seeking."

Without a doubt, snow and ice professionals agree with Ferguson and GIlbride’s estimation that their services are essential, because they support essential operations like grocery stores, banks and medical facilities.

“I’d consider snow removal an essential service,” said Jason Fassler, Operations Manager for Green Earth Inc & Brightstar Landscape & Design, Ronkonkoma, NY, via social media. “The regulations being put forth are mostly excluding anything regarding safety and security. Keeping lots clear is most certainly a safety service.”

Russ Spring, owner and president of Legends Landscape Supply in Burlington, Ont., agrees with this assessment, adding if snow professionals are taking care of essential service parking lots, then by default they become an essential service. He advises also discussing this matter with clients.

“You may be able to discuss the areas of service [with clients, then] you may be able to limit [service] on their sites,” Spring adds via social media. “This may save money for both parties and assure you get paid properly for your services.”

Ferguson adds some states, like NY, a company can petition for “essential” designation, an encourages contractors to see if this is being offered in their state, as well.

While not specifically spelled out in each state’s list of “essential businesses,” logic would dictate that snow and ice management services would be included because it is critical to keep facilities open and to ensure an unbroken supply chain. Each of the 10 states provides a detailed list of “essential businesses” (simply search that state name and the phrase “essential businesses”). Of the 10 states, most had language in their “essential services” lists that included “building cleaning and maintenance” or “building support” – all of which would allude to snow and ice management, and possibly landscaping and lawncare in the coming weeks.

In addressing this assumption, the New Jersey Green Industry Council issued in a statement: "Lawn, Landscape, and Tree care companies can continue working in the areas of maintenance and treatment as they are considered service companies, not retail."