Can Contractors Continue Work Under "Shelter-In-Place" Orders?
Updated: Mar 27
The State of Texas has issued recommendations to help combat the spread of coronavirus as the outbreak continues to grow across the globe. The State has instructed residents to avoid gatherings of 10 or more people and required the closure of all Texas restaurant dining rooms, bars, gyms and schools. In addition, many Texas cities and counties have issued shelter-in-place orders amid the global coronavirus pandemic. As of March 24, those counties include:
• Bell County
• Bexar County (San Antonio)
• Brazos County
• Burnet County
• Cameron County
• Castro County
• Collin County
• Dallas County (Dallas)
• Denton County
• El Paso County
• Fort Bend County
• Galveston County
• Harris County (Houston)
• Hidalgo County
• Hunt County
• Lampasas (City)
• McLennan County (Waco)
• Rockwall County
• Tarrant County (Fort Worth)
Most of those orders expressly permit residential and commercial construction to continue, but at least one expressly prohibits construction work (except in limited circumstances).
So, can you continue to work?
It appears that only the City of Austin has prohibited most construction work to continue. According to the STAY HOME – WORK SAFE ORDER 20200324-007 recently issued, construction is only permitted to continue for the following construction projects in Austin:
• Public works construction projects;
• Affordable housing projects;
• Construction of facilities for individuals experiencing homelessness;
• Construction of facilities that provide social services;
• Construction of facilities that are defined in the Order as Essential Businesses, Essential Government Functions, or Critical Infrastructure; and
• Construction of facilities specifically required by the City in response to the current COVID-19 emergency.
It is unclear why Austin has chosen to implement this strict lockdown of construction work in the City, especially where many other metropolitan areas have deemed residential and commercial construction to be "Essential Business" and, therefore, exempt from the shelter-in-place orders.
Builders and builder organizations, including the Austin chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, are pushing back against this order and urging an amendment to keep construction projects moving.
For now, though, the City's order remains, and contractors must cease work. Although the order took effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 24, the City has clarified that it will not cite a construction business or operator for a violation of the order occurring prior to 11:59 p.m. on March 27 if the business or operator can demonstrate that all activities after the effective date of the Order were undertaken to close down the construction project or activity as safely and quickly as possible.
We support the efforts to keep construction moving in Austin and will update our clients if there are any changes.