On April 7, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.14 invoking new powers from a law passed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic to temporarily suspend or modify laws necessary to assist or aid in coping with a declared State disaster emergency. On March 3, 2020, the Governor signed into law legislation that expanded his authority to temporarily suspend, modify, or issue directives in response to a declared State disaster emergency. That legislation also accompanied a $40 million appropriation to the Governor to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Governor modified a section of the Education Law to permit the practice of medicine by medical students who will graduate in 2020 from an accredited medical school and who have been accepted by an accredited residency program.
The Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act was modified to permit parents, legal guardians, legal custodians, and primary caretakers who work in a health care facility or who reasonably believe they may be exposed to COVID-19 to designate a standby guardian through a written designation.
The period for the payment of insurance premiums was extended along with a prohibition on insurers from failing to pay claims or cancelling policies during the extension period. The Governor extended the payment period for premiums for health insurance policies and imposed a prohibition on the retroactive termination of policies under the extension period.
The Governor also issued a directive that requires facilities to inventory and report necessary equipment or supplies to the Department of Health. The directive permits the department to shift any necessary items not currently needed by the inventory facility to another facility in urgent need of the equipment. The department may then return the equipment when there is no longer an urgent need or it will ensure compensation is paid to the facility for unreturned equipment.
The directives to close or restrict public places and businesses and the directive to postpone or cancel all non-essential gatherings of individuals are extended until April 29, 2020. The fine for violating these directives is raised to $1,000. Further, the Governor directed the continued closure of schools statewide until April 29, 2020. School plans to provide meals for children and childcare for essential workers are to remain in effect during the extended closure.
The Superintendent of Financial Services is empowered under the Executive Order to promulgate regulations that waive late fees and prohibit the reporting of negative data to credit bureaus.
Finally, a new directive authorizing the witnessing of documents via video conference technology under the Estates Powers and Trusts Law, the Public Health Law, the General Obligations Law, and the Real Property Law provided:
- The person requesting the signature witnessed must present valid photo identification if not personally known by the witnesses.
- The video conference technology allows for direct interaction between the person, the supervising attorney, and the witnesses.
- The witnesses must receive a legible copy of the signature page on the same date of the signature.
- The witnesses may sign a transmitted copy of the signature page and transmit the signed copy back to the person requesting the signature be witnessed.
- The witnesses may sign the original signature page within 30 days of the date of execution.
Under the newly enacted law, the Governor has the power to suspend, modify, or issue directives during a declared emergency for 30 days which may be extended for an unlimited number of 30 day periods with consent of the legislature after each subsequent period. Unless the Governor elects to extend the suspension or directives, they will expire on May 7, 2020.