Essential Business Declaration

On March 24, 2020, Governor Evers issued the “Safer at Home” Order closing all Nonessential Wisconsin businesses until 8:00 a.m., Friday, April 24, 2020. View this FAQs document (also in español and Hmong) for answers to frequently asked questions related to the Governor’s Order.

While businesses defined in the Governor’s Order as Essential Businesses and Operations are encouraged to remain open, Nonessential for-profit and non-profit businesses in Wisconsin have been instructed to cease all activities, except for minimal basic operations (e.g., maintaining inventory, preserving the business’s physical plant and equipment, processing payroll and employee benefits, etc.).

Businesses, including home-based businesses, may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own home or residences (i.e., working from home).

Businesses and operations defined as essential by the Governor’s order shall comply with social distancing requirements. Businesses are also encouraged to follow these best practices related the development of a COVID-19 Response Plan.

Businesses fitting the following definitions are allowed to continue operations, according to the Governor’s Order.

Healthcare and Public Health Operations includes, but is not limited to: hospitals; medical facilities; clinics; dental offices; pharmacies; public health entities, including those that compile, model, analyze, and communicate public health information; pharmaceutical, pharmacy, medical device and equipment, and biotechnology companies (including operations, research and development, manufacture, and supply chain); organizations collecting blood, platelets, plasma, and other necessary materials; obstetricians, gynecologists, and midwife practices; eye care centers, including those that sell glasses and contact lenses; home health agencies and providers; mental health and substance abuse providers; detoxification and alcohol or drug treatment programs and facilities; other healthcare facilities and suppliers and providers of any related or any ancillary healthcare services; entities that transport and dispose of medical materials and remains; personal care agencies; hospices; allied health providers; acupuncturists; massage therapists; chiropractors; and adult family homes.

Specifically included in Healthcare and Public Health Operations are manufacturers, technicians, logistics, and warehouse operators and distributors of medical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), medical gases, pharmaceuticals, blood and blood products, vaccines, testing materials, laboratory supplies, cleaning, sanitizing disinfecting or sterilization supplies, and tissue and paper towel products.

Healthcare and Public Health Operations also includes veterinary care and all healthcare services provided to animals. Nonessential veterinary care should be avoided.

Healthcare and Public Health Operations shall be broadly construed to avoid any impediments to the delivery of healthcare, broadly defined. Healthcare and Public Health Operations does not include fitness and exercise gyms, hair salons, barber shops, nail salons, day spas, electrolysis providers, tattoo parlors, body art establishments, tanning facilities, and similar facilities.

Human Service Operations includes, but is not limited to: long-term care and assisted living facilities, as long as the facility follows all current DHS Recommendations for Prevention of COVID-19 in Long-Term Facilities and Assisted Living Facilities and all applicable U.S. Centers for Disease Control Recommendations; residential settings and shelters for adults, seniors, children, people with disabilities, people with substance use disorders, or mental illness; transitional facilities; home-based settings to provide services to individuals with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, seniors, adults, or children; field offices that provide and help to determine eligibility for basic needs including food, cash assistance, medical coverage, vocational services, or rehabilitation services; developmental centers; adoption agencies; businesses that provide food, shelter, social services, or other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals, individuals with physical, intellectual, or developmental disabilities, or otherwise needy individuals.

Human Services Operations shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to the delivery of human services, broadly defined.

Essential Infrastructure includes, but is not limited to: food production, distribution, fulfillment centers, storage facilities, marinas, and sales; construction (including, but not limited to, construction required in response to this public health emergency, hospital construction, construction of long-term care facilities, public works construction, school construction, Essential Business and Operations construction, and housing construction); building management and maintenance; airport operations; operation and maintenance of utilities, including water, sewer, gas, and electric (including power generation, distribution, and production of raw materials); Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, and Public Benefits Energy Assistance Program offices, customer service centers, and public intake centers; distribution centers; oil and biofuel refining; roads, highways, railroads, and public transportation; ports; cybersecurity operations; flood control; solid waste and recycling collection and removal; and internet, video, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services).

Essential Infrastructure shall be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to essential infrastructure, broadly defined.

For purposes of this Order, all first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, jurors and grand jurors, law enforcement and corrections personnel, hazardous materials responders, child protection and child welfare personnel, housing and shelter personnel, National Guard and military, and others working for or to support Essential Businesses and Operations are categorically exempt from this Order. This paragraph does not limit the ability or authority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court to use its constitutional supervisory authority over lower courts to limit or adjust court functions in response to the Public Health Emergency.

Essential Governmental Functions means all services provided by the State, tribal, or local governments needed to ensure the continuing operation of the government body and provide and support the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Each government body shall determine its Essential Government Function, if any, and identify employees and contractors necessary to the performance of those functions.

Any business or worker identified in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response, issued March 19, 2020.

Grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies, farm and produce stands, supermarkets, food banks, convenience stores, and other establishments engaged in the retail sale of groceries, canned food, dry goods, frozen foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, pet supply, fresh meats, fish, poultry, prepared food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and any other household consumer products (such as cleaning and personal care products). Such establishments shall:

  • Close all seating intended for consuming food.
  • Cease any self-service operations of salad bars, beverage stations, and buffets,
  • Except for grocery stores, prohibit customers from self-dispensing all unpackaged food.
  • Abide by Social Distancing Requirements.

This section should not be interpreted to provide an exemption for businesses engaged in the sale of food or beverage ancillary to its primary purpose.

Food and beverage manufacturing, production, processing, and cultivation, including farming, livestock, fishing, baking, and other production agriculture, including cultivation, marketing, production, and distribution of animals and goods for consumption; and businesses that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for animals, including animal shelters, rescues, shelters, kennels, and adopting facilities

Restaurants shall close, except as follows:

  • Restaurants may remain open for food take-out or delivery service only.
  • Alcohol sales must comply with section the requirements for Bars below.
  • Customers may enter the above establishments only for the purpose of ordering, pick up, and paying for food or beverage or both.
  • No seating may be provided.
  • Food and drink may not be consumed on premises, either indoors or outdoors.
  • Establishments shall meet Social Distancing Requirements between all individuals on the premises to the extent possible.
  • Self-service operations of salad bars, beverages stations, and buffets are prohibited.
  • Customers are prohibited from self-dispensing any unpackaged food or beverage.

Bars

This includes breweries, brewpubs, wineries, distilleries, and alcohol beverage retailers. Such establishments shall close, except as follows:

  • Carryout sales of alcohol beverages and food are allowed, if permitted by state law and municipal ordinance.
  • Delivery of alcohol beverages to retail customers is prohibited.
  • Wineries holding direct wine shippers’ permits may make deliveries of wine in accordance with their permit.
  • Customers may enter the above establishments only for the purpose of ordering, pick up, and paying for food or beverage or both.
  • No seating may be provided.
  • Food and drink may not be consumed on premises, either indoors or outdoors.
  • Establishments shall meet Social Distancing Requirements between all individuals on the premises to the extent possible.
  • Self-service operations of salad bars, beverage stations, and buffets are prohibited.
  • Customers are prohibited from self-dispensing any unpackaged food or beverage.
With the exception of Governor Evers’ Emergency Order #6, childcare settings include all licensed and certified childcare providers for any age or ages of children up to 18 years of age.
Businesses and religious and secular nonprofit organizations, including food banks, when providing food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals, individuals who need assistance as a result of this public health emergency, and people with disabilities
Religious facilities, entities, groups, and gatherings, and weddings and funerals, except that any gathering shall include fewer than 10 people in a room or confined space and individuals shall adhere to Social Distancing Requirements as much as possible.
Funeral establishments, as defined in Wis. Stat. § 445.01(6), except that any gathering shall include fewer than 10 people in a room or confined space and individuals shall adhere to Social Distancing Requirements as much as possible.
Newspapers, television, radio, and other media services

Gas stations and auto-supply, auto repair and sales, farm equipment, construction equipment, boat repair, and related facilities and bicycle shops and related facilities

Banks, credit unions, and other depository institutions; licensed financial service providers; personnel necessary to perform essential functions at broker dealers and investment advisor offices

Hardware stores and businesses that sell electrical, plumbing, and heating material
Building and Construction Tradesmen and Tradeswomen, and other trades including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, security staff, operating engineers, HVAC, painting, moving and relocation services, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, Essential Activities, and Essential Businesses and Operations

Post offices and other businesses that provide shipping and delivery services, and businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food, beverages, goods or services to end users or through commercial channels

Laundromats, dry cleaners, industrial laundry services, and laundry service providers
Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply products needed for people to work from home

Businesses that sell, manufacture, or supply other Essential Businesses and Operations and Essential Governmental Functions with the support or supplies necessary to operate, including computers; audio and video electronics; household appliances; IT and telecommunication equipment; hardware; paint; flat glass; electrical, plumbing, and heating materials; sanitary equipment; personal hygiene products; food, food additives, ingredients, and components; medical and orthopedic equipment; firearm and ammunition suppliers and retailers for purposes of safety and security; optics and photography equipment; diagnostic; food and beverages; chemicals; paper and paper products; soaps and detergents

Airlines, taxis, transportation network providers (such as Uber and Lyft), vehicle rental services, paratransit, and other private, public, and commercial transportation and logistics providers necessary for Essential Activities and other purposes expressly authorized in this Order
Home-based care for seniors, adults, children, and/or people with disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness, including caregivers or nannies who may travel to the child’s home to provide care, and other in-home services including meal delivery
Professional services, such as legal or accounting services, insurance services, real estate services (including appraisal, home inspection, and title services);
Manufacturing companies, distributors and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, chemicals and sanitation, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel and steel products, petroleum and fuel, mining, construction, national defense, communications, and products used by other Essential Businesses and Operations.
Essential activities include the administration of health and welfare funds and personnel checking on the well-being and safety of members providing services in Essential Business and Operations, provided the checks are done by telephone or remotely where possible.

Hotels and motels, except that such establishments shall:

  • Comply with requirements of Restaurants, Bars and Childcare Settings.
  • Close swimming pools, hot tubs, and exercise facilities.
  • Prohibit guests from congregating in lobbies or other common areas.
Higher educational institutions, for purposes of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions as determined by the institution.

Essential Business Designation Inquiry

In the exceptional circumstance that a business is performing essential functions not included in these approved categories, it may request to be designated as essential by submitting the following form to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

Thank you we will be touch shortly.

Thank you for your inquiry. Our staff is currently fielding hundreds of questions related to Governor Evers’ “Safer at Home” Order. We appreciate your patience as we work through the submissions we have received as quickly as we can. In the meantime, we encourage you to review the information at www.wedc.org/essentialbusiness. Companies that self-identify as Essential based upon these definitions do not need to contact us or take any further steps.