In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced yesterday that the city will suspend all regular activity at non-essential construction sites in Boston beginning today. Boston is the only major U.S. city to enact such a measure.

According to the announcement, employers should maintain the necessary crews to keep jobsites safe and secure, keep materials from blowing away and prevent trespassing. This work must be completed by Monday, March 23. Once sites are secure, the city will permit skeleton crews at sites for the remainder of the suspension to ensure safety.

Emergency and essential work is the only construction work that will be permitted in Boston at this time. Essential work includes:

  • Emergency utility, road or building work, such as gas leaks, water leaks and sinkholes;
  • New utility connections to occupied buildings;
  • Mandated building or utility work;
  • Work at public health facilities, healthcare facilities, shelters, including temporary shelters and other facilities that support vulnerable populations;
  • Work which ensures the reliability of the transportation network; and
  • Other work necessary to render occupied residential buildings fully habitable.

On a case-by-case basis, Boston will review requests for exceptions to the temporary construction moratorium. Such projects will be granted if they support increased public health and safety. It is unclear how long the policy will be in effect, but the city will review the situation at regular intervals, according to the announcement.

Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America issued a statement condemning the decision to halt construction activity.

“Halting construction activity will do more harm than good for construction workers, community residents and the economy. Construction firms are already acting to ensure the safety and health of their employees in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. These new measures, which include increased hygiene and halting group gatherings of staff, are in addition to the fact construction workers already wear protective equipment, including gloves that will help protect them and their co-workers,” he said. “Given the precautions already in place, halting construction will do little to protect the health and safety of construction workers. But it will go a long way in undermining economic vitality by depriving millions of workers of the wages they will need over the coming days. At the same time, these measures have the potential to bankrupt many construction firms who have contractual obligations to stay on schedule or risk incurring significant financial penalties. In addition, halting construction projects will undermine ongoing, and future, recovery efforts in regions hit by natural disasters, and will also undermine any future efforts to expand hospital capacity.”

“In the unfortunate event construction is halted, we urge construction owners to consider continuing their scheduled payments to contractors as a down payment for work to be completed on the project,” he adds. “These payments will help mitigate some of the potential economic impacts of construction shutdowns.”

More to Come?

Build UK, a representative organization for the UK construction industry, released a statement yesterday warning that it’s likely construction could be impacted in the upcoming weeks.

“Whilst the priority last week was to keep business critical construction projects open

and operational wherever possible, that is likely to change in the weeks ahead. If the

government decides to put the country into ‘lockdown’ and restrict the movement of

British citizens, decisions will be taken out of the hands of individual companies and

sites may have to close,” reads the statement. “The impact on the industry’s supply chain, consisting of multiple layers of businesses, many of them of small- and medium-sized enterprises with a significant amount of self-employed workers, will be catastrophic and unavoidable.”

However, the organization states that its members are already taking action by creating contingency arrangements, reviewing contractual arrangements, liaising with funders and banks to secure sufficient credit and more.

The jobsite for Google’s new headquarters in London’s King’s Cross was closed last week after a trade contractor tested positive for COVID-19. On social media, some U.S. glazing contractors have reported a few jobsite closings in areas such as San Francisco, but these have not been confirmed by USGNN™.

Aid for Small Businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced last week that it will provide disaster assistance loans for small businesses impact by COVID-19.

“The President took bold, decisive action to make our 30 million small businesses more resilient to coronavirus-related economic disruptions. Small businesses are vital economic engines in every community and state, and they have helped make our economy the strongest in the world. Our agency will work directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans to small businesses that have been severely impacted by the situation,” said SBA administrator Jovita Carranza. “Additionally, the SBA continues to assist small businesses with counseling and navigating their own preparedness plans through our network of 68 District Offices and numerous resource partners located around the country. The SBA will continue to provide every small business with the most effective and customer-focused response possible during these times of uncertainty.”

Click here to learn more about disaster relief lending.