Essential Business List and OPTIONAL Access Letter Template Available for Download
Nueces County provides helpful tools for identifying Essential Businesses and assuring employees they have permission to travel for work
Nueces County is providing two tools to assist employers and residents better understand what businesses are defined as Essential Business under the current Stay At Home order.
The first tool is a document entitled, "Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response" provided by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Nueces County is using this document as a baseline to define Essential Businesses during the Stay At Home order.
The second tool - which is NOT MANDATORY - is a template (in Microsoft Word and PDF formats) for employers to issue letters identifying their employees as workers for an Essential Business. These letters are intended to assure employees that they have permission to travel for work.
"The most frequently asked question so far has been, 'What defines an Essential Business?' and the second most frequent question is, 'Can I get something official which says I work for an Essential Business?'" said Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales. "The DHS list is intended to provide detailed guidance and definitions of critical businesses, and the template is an optional tool -- let me stress, OPTIONAL -- for employers to provide employees with a document stating they are allowed to travel to, from, and for work at an Essential Business."
Defining Essential Businesses and Workers
Essential workers are those needed to maintain the services and functions Americans depend on daily and need to be able to operate resiliently during the COVID-19 pandemic response. Promoting the ability of such workers to continue to work during periods of community restriction, access management, social distancing, or closure orders/directives is crucial to community resilience and continuity of essential functions.
While many think the term "critical infrastructure" only includes things like power, water, and telecommunications, the Department of Homeland Security uses the term Critical Infrastructure Sectors to identify a wide range of essential functions, including retailers like grocery stores, gas stations and convenience stores, as well as the people activities who support them, as well as those who our homes buildings secure and functioning. The DHS list is expansive and inclusive, organized into 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors, with detailed lists of businesses and workers for each sector.
Businesses should consult the DHS list to determine their status as an Essential Business. If a business feels they provide essential services but are not included in the DHS list, the County Attorney's office can provide additional information.
"People want to do the right thing and comply with the letter and spirit of the order, and this list is a useful tool," said Judge Canales. "As a general principle, the list follows these rules: If your business supports people staying at home, it's most likely an Essential Business. If your business provides support to an obviously Essential Business, it's most likely an Essential Business."
Access Letter for Essential Workers - an OPTIONAL tool
Nueces County is also providing a template for employers at Essential Businesses to issue "To Whom It May Concern" access letters to their employees identifying them as Essential Workers during this Stay At Home order.
"I'm providing this template so employers at Essential Businesses can give their workers something which assures them they are considered Essential Workers with permission to travel," said Judge Canales. "Unlike hurricanes, where we need to severely restrict movement to first responders and utility crews entering a disaster area, the coronavirus pandemic requires allowing a much broader range of workers to go to work in order to enable as many people as possible to stay at home."
"I'm not worried about people who always carry badges and official ID cards identifying them as a nurse or a utility worker," said Canales. "My concern is for those who work in the many businesses who are essential to our community's health, safety, and resilience during this pandemic response. This tool lets Essential Businesses print and issue a letter to workers like store clerks, plumbers, IT support specialists and others so they can confidently go to work as part of our community response."
The template is available as both a Microsoft Word document and a PDF file for employers to customize, print and issue on their own. There is no requirement for employers to issue these letters, and there are no required reports to the County. By issuing these letters to employees, the business is self-identifying as an Essential Business as defined by the Stay At Home order, the DHS list, or other official guidance. The template includes instructions for completion.