The White House took another step last week aimed at easing the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump signed an Executive Order seeking “to combat the economic consequences of COVID-19” by giving “businesses, especially small businesses, the confidence they need to re-open.”  The Order directs agencies to address the economic impact of the pandemic by eliminating regulations, providing reopening guidance to businesses, and recognizing that regulatory compliance may be difficult under the current circumstances.

The Executive Order contains the following directives:

  • Emergency authorities: Agencies shall use their emergency authorities “to the fullest extent possible and consistent with applicable law” to support the economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Regulatory relief: Agencies shall consider temporarily or permanently eliminating regulations that inhibit economic recovery and temporary enforcement discretion or extensions of time. The Order also encourages agencies “to promote economic recovery through non-regulatory actions.”
  • Pre-enforcement rulings: Agencies shall enable businesses to obtain pre-enforcement rulings as to whether proposed conduct in response to COVID-19, including any response to economic stimulus actions, is consistent with law.
  • Enforcement discretion: Agencies shall consider adopting enforcement discretion policies that decline enforcement against businesses that have attempted in good faith to comply with law, guidance, and any pre-enforcement ruling.
  • Regulatory review: Agencies shall consider permanently rescinding any regulations that were temporarily rescinded in response to COVID-19.

The Order encourages cooperation with regulated entities and other interested parties, meaning regulated businesses may have an opportunity to weigh in on the reduction or elimination of regulatory burdens.

Importantly, the pre-enforcement rulings directive may enable businesses to obtain guidance regarding compliance and relaxed enforcement of regulations in real-time as businesses are working to develop protocol for re-opening.

It remains to be seen how forcefully agencies will respond to these de-regulation directives. We will provide further updates on the practical impact of this Executive Order as more information is released.