Many states are enacting measures to protect their residents from the current COVID-19 pandemic. These measures might impact the way collection agencies run businesses. In addition to the states that eased work-from-home licensing requirements for debt collectors, some states are now going further by locking non-essential businesses down if they are not able to function remotely.
On Thursday, Pennsylvania's governor ordered the immediate shut down of non-life sustaining businesses, other than those that are functioning remotely.
No person or entity shall operate a place of business in the Commonwealth that is not a life sustaining business regardless of whether the business is open to members of the public. This prohibition does not apply to virtual or telework operations (e.g., work from home), so long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are followed in such operations.
The governor's office also provided a list of what businesses qualify as life-sustaining. Debt collection agencies and firms are not explicitly listed. Legal services are deemed non-life sustaining, same with most administrative services. However, there are some credit intermediation services that are considered in the green.
Pennsylvania's Department of Banking and Securities, which sent an email to licensees late Thursday night, might provide some clarity (or confusion, depending on whether you view their statement as in conflict with the governor's order):
Please be aware that banks, credit unions, and non-depository licensees are NOT required to shut down their physical locations. Credit intermediation and related activities also do not require physical closure. Banks, credit unions, and non-depository licensees are encouraged to remain open and operational and to follow best practices for social distancing.
California's governor issued an executive order for all residents of California to stay at home until further notice. Only businesses that provide "essential services" are permitted to stay open. This list includes pharmacies, grocery stores, and banks.
The situation is changing rapidly. insideARM will continue to monitor and report how the government—both state and federal—responds to the pandemic.