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Accounting services deemed ‘essential’ in state ‘stay at home’ order

Written on May 1, 2020

Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton has signed a "stay at home" order for all Ohioans starting Monday evening, however several key businesses and services, including accounting services, may continue as an essential business function. 

The order will go into effect on Monday, March 23 at 11:59 p.m. and will remain in effect until at least Monday, April 6. Gov. Mike DeWine announced the measure Sunday afternoon in what has become a daily news conference and update on the state’s efforts to slow the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sunday’s announcement came after several days of concerted effort by OSCPA members and leadership to ensure accounting services could continue to function amid any shutdowns. Nevertheless, OSCPA is encouraging members – to the extent possible – to stay home and not require employees to go to the office or workplace.

On Friday, OSCPA President & CEO Scott Wiley, CAE, wrote to the DeWine Administration to explain the importance of the profession to the COVID-19 response effort. 

“Businesses are facing difficult decisions due to the major disruption caused by COVID-19,” Wiley wrote. “More than ever, business owners will rely on their CPAs to provide analysis and advice that allows them to make vital decisions, meet their contractual obligations, pay their employees and – ultimately – stay in business.” 

The Society also leveraged the power of membership, as nearly 800 people sent nearly 2,500 messages via OSCPA’s online tool to ask legislators to both recognize accounting as essential, and to move the state’s tax filing day. (More on that below.) 

Wiley on Sunday said the administration’s decision for accounting is “a big deal.” 

“On behalf of the Ohio Society of CPAs’ Executive Board and leadership, I want to thank Gov. DeWine, Lt. Gov. Husted and their staffs for recognizing the importance – indeed, the necessity – of CPAs to the continuity of critical functions in our state. 

“Accounting has a vital role to play – not only in this pandemic, but as we begin to think about how we can help businesses and society get moving again once this ends.” 

It’s important to note that, under the order, businesses permitted to continue operations must meet several requirements, including: 

  • Meeting physical distancing requirements contained in the order 
  • Allowing as many employees as possible to work from home 
  • Actively encouraging sick employees to stay home 
  • Ensuring that sick leave policies are up to date
  • Separating employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms
  • Reinforcing key messages – stay home when sick, use cough and sneeze etiquette, and practice hand hygiene – to all employees
  • Providing protection supplies (soap and hand sanitizer are two examples)
  • Being prepared to change business practices if needed 

Wiley said more remains to be done – and quickly, noting that the Ohio General Assembly will return to Columbus this week. 

“We expect a massive relief package to be on their plate,” he said. “We have urged legislators to include language to mirror the federal filing and payment deadline extensions for 90 days to July 15.” The Society is also requesting the state to extend the due date for the first quarter 2020 estimated payments. 

He said CPAs should continue to let their legislators know about this important effort by using the Society’s online tool. And as news of the coronavirus continues to develop, refer to OSCPA’s resource page to stay informed.