COVID-19 and the Law: One Year Later

March 18, 2021
Laura E. McGarry

One year ago today, on March 18, 2020, Aaron Marines wrote a blog article entitled How Does Coronavirus Affect Your Contracts? When that article was published, we were at the beginning of a government-mandated shutdown that was supposed to last for two weeks, just long enough to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases.

Now, one year later, with shut down orders still partially in effect and the phrase “flatten the curve” a distant memory, I decided to look back at what has happened on the Lancaster Law Blog. What I saw was a variety of articles about all of the things we here at Russell, Krafft & Gruber have done to stay up-to-date on the fast-paced changes to help our clients through this difficult time.

Virtual Offices

After the initial shutdown orders took effect, we quickly pivoted to working remotely through Russell, Krafft & Gruber’s virtual office to avoid any lapses in service for our clients. I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke with a client recently who was shocked to learn that most of our conversations over the past year took place with me at my dining room table.

She had no clue I wasn’t in the office! I took this as a testament to the seamless transition we have been able to make to the virtual office setting.

Government Programs and Court Closures

With all of the rapid developments and programs being implemented, the attorneys at Russell, Krafft & Gruber kept up to date on various resources available for Pennsylvania businesses dealing with the ramifications of the shutdown. We tracked the CARES Act and its various programs, including student loan forbearance, the first round of stimulus checks, and the Paycheck Protection Program. And we delved into the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and its impact on family and emergency paid sick leave policies.

We worked through the logistics of representing our clients despite the court closures and virtual reopening, navigating loan programs for small businesses, and understanding the changes to how unemployment compensation was administered in Pennsylvania. We kept up to date on the ever changing orders and regulations regarding evictions and mortgage foreclosures and rent and mortgage assistance programs.

We provided guidance on managing COVID-19 related changes in specific areas of the law, including divorce, custody, protection from abuse actions,  estate administration, and estate planning. We kept abreast of changes affecting the restaurant industry, one of the hardest hit during the pandemic, including mixed drinks to go policies, increased occupancy for restaurants, PLCB changes to 2020 and 2021 liquor license renewals, and $145 Million Relief for Restaurants and Hotels.

We also highlighted some of the pitfalls of COVID-19 programs, such as fraud and compliance oversight, and tracked legislative attempts to terminate the Governor’s emergency powers.

Closer to Home

Through it all, we celebrated the accomplishments of our Russell, Krafft & Gruber graduates, welcomed Nichole M. Baer to our ranks, and looked forward to Lancaster County’s move into the “green phase.”  We participated in the Lancaster Bar Association’s Wills for Classroom Heroes program, and we even got into the podcast business to discuss what it is like to be a lawyer during a pandemic.

Looking back at the past year, I am in awe of all of the changes we experienced and how quickly those changes occurred. I never would have imagined last March that things still wouldn’t be back to “normal” one year later.

However, I am proud of the work that we have done to adjust to this “new normal.” I am confident that the lessons we have learned in the past year in overcoming all of the challenges of COVID-19 have better prepared us for whatever comes next.