Building Readiness: Planning, Prevention, Response, and Liability


As organizations across the Community Action network adjust their operations and services disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak, it is critical to thoughtfully consider issues that are likely to arise and to plan carefully. The concerns that each Community Action Agency (CAA) faces will depend in large part on the issues specific to its community, including any local and state guidance, and are likely to evolve over time.

CAPLAW has developed this Building Readiness: Planning, Prevention, Response, and Liability Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) resource in an attempt to anticipate and address many of the questions on the forefront of CAAs’ minds. These questions are organized into five sections:

  1. Planning for onsite services;
  2. Prevention and workplace safety protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19;
  3. Response to known or suspected cases of COVID-19 in the workplace;
  4. Liability issues, actual or potential, with respect to COVID-19 related claims; and
  5. Resources for additional guidance.

For many issues, there are no straightforward, easy answers. Because COVID-19 community spread varies drastically across the network, there simply isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. For some CAAs, these adjustments may be a slow, evolving process gradually phased in over time, while for others, operations may resemble pre-COVID days more quickly. Thus, instead of prescribing what your CAA should or must do, this FAQ presents guidelines for assessing the legal risks associated with onsite operations to help organizational leaders weigh those risks against other important interests of the CAA and make better-informed decisions.

CAAs will need to closely examine their workforces and services together with the changing conditions in their communities when deciding how to balance safety with responsiveness to the community’s needs. There are different considerations to weigh—legal requirements, safe practices, and funding source directives. These issues are informed by rules and guidance at the federal, state, and local levels, and a CAA will need to consult with legal, organizational, and health experts.

Our goal with this FAQ is to provide the national Community Action network with a broad legal framework to navigate the most commonly-faced issues. CAPLAW intends to update this FAQ based on the network’s needs and additional questions, as well as any changes to the legal requirements.



On Thursday, May 21, 2020, CAPLAW hosted a webinar discussing how to use the guidance in this resource to assess the legal risks associated with resuming operations, weigh those risks against other important interests of your CAA, and make better-informed decisions.

View Recording | Download Slides

*Updated October 15, 2020

This resource is part of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Legal Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) Center. It was created by Community Action Program Legal Services, Inc. (CAPLAW) in the performance of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services Cooperative Agreement – Grant Award Number 90ET0467-03. Any opinion, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.