On April 9, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.15 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 the Education Law to permit the expedited sourcing of prescription drugs and medical devices. Restrictions prohibiting the delivery of these products into New York from manufacturers, repackers, or wholesalers who are not licensed in the state were lifted. Additionally, New-York Licensed pharmacies can receive drugs and medical supplies or devices from an unlicensed pharmacy, wholesaler, or third-party logistics provider located outside of the state to alleviate a temporary shortage under certain conditions.
A modification was made to the Education Law to prevent unlicensed graduates of New York accredited medical programs from civil or criminal penalties related to lack of licensure; provided they practice under the supervision of a licensed physician. Respiratory therapists who are licensed in another state are also permitted to practice without being subject to civil or criminal penalties for lack of licensure.
Another modification of the Education Law permits mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, creative arts therapists, and psychoanalysts licensed in another state to practice in New York without civil or criminal penalty for lack of licensure.
The Department of Public Health’s review functions were modified so that the Department would only review essential matters. The statutory time limits and notice period requirements for non-essential matters would be tolled during the pendency of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Religious Corporations Law was modified to postpone annual elections for Protestant Episcopal parishes.
The Governor also modified sections of the Environmental Conservation Law and the State Administrative Procedures Act to suspend the requirements for public hearings, to extend the notice period for rule making, to permit the acceptance of comments through mail or electronic means, and to provide for the required appearance of individuals through teleconferencing or other electronic means.
A section of the Education Law was modified to delay the required period for parents to file transportation requests for their school district for the following school year.
Modifications were made to the Public Health Law to ensure the availability of funeral services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funeral directors who are licensed or registered out of state may practice in New York under the supervision of a New York funeral director. The Not for Profit Corporation Law was modified to empower the Commissioner of Health to deputize agents to transport deceased persons.
The Governor directed that public hearings by a local official, state official, local government, or school that were scheduled or required to take place in April or May of 2020 are to be postponed until June 1, 2020. These hearings may occur prior to the postponement date if the public body or official is able to hold the public hearing remotely through the use of a video or telephone conference or similar service.
The Governor directed the Department of Taxation and Finance to accept digital signatures on documents related to the determination or collection of tax liability.
Finally, the Governor directed the granting of absentee ballots based on temporary illness or the potential contraction of COVID-19 and to allow for the electronic application for an absentee ballot without the requirement for an in-person signature.
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 9, 2020.