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essential

Graphic from the Department of Homeland Security site.

 

In what the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) deemed a “huge win for our industry,” it announced “landscapers” have now been added to a revised version of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response.

The Memorandum is used as guidance for many states currently under shelter in place or stay at home directives. However, NALP cautions it is not a federal mandate and state and local authorities may still make “essential business” decisions at their discretion. (For expanded information on the topic, click here.)

Originally the DHS document made a provision for “Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences.” While not specifically mentioning landscapers, Andrew Bray, VP of government relations at NALP, felt the industry’s connection to construction, agriculture, and overall repair and maintenance, deemed it an “essential business” by definition. “I think it’s in there [the language],” he told Turf.

After working with officials for weeks to elicit more exact wording and clear direction, on March 28 NALP announced the revision put forth in Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response Version 2.0. It states a broader definition of essential services to include, “Workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, builders, contractors, HVAC Technicians, landscapers, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, businesses and buildings such as hospitals, senior living facilities, any temporary construction required to support COVID-19 response.”

The DHS revision was a game changer in Wisconsin, where the Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association (WLCA) had originally received word a week ago from the Governor’s Office that landscape businesses were non-essential. Since Wisconsin’s Safer At Home Order follows the DHS guidelines, that stance has now changed. The WLCA announced March 29 that landscapers are now deemed essential.

Just last Thursday, 17 states had shelter in place or stay at home directives, according to the NY Times. Five days later, that number is now 32, in addition to 80 counties, 18 cities, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Only six states have no orders within their borders.

NALP is tracking this constantly evolving issue on its State by State COVID-19 Guidance page.