HARRISBURG – With nearly 1.4 million Pennsylvanians filing for unemployment benefits, the state Senate took action today and approved two bills that would provide clarity and common sense to the process of deciding which businesses can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Sen. Gene Yaw (R-23).
“It is important to consider carefully the next steps in our fight against the coronavirus,” Sen. Yaw said. “While the safety of our state residents remains first and foremost, the Senate today has worked to address inconsistencies in the Wolf Administrations waiver process that is essentially picking winners and losers in my Senate District and across the state. These bills will create a better process for determining which businesses can continue to remain open, provide clarity on mitigation strategies necessary to protect the health and safety of both customers and employees, and give county leaders a stronger voice in which mitigation measures should be implemented locally.”
On March 19, Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all businesses not deemed “life-sustaining” in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. Although a haphazard waiver system was eventually created for businesses that wished to remain open, that process was riddled with inconsistencies and lacked any sense of transparency or accountability to the public.
“My constituents recognize the importance of CDC guidelines. They are willing to comply with restrictions on work and life in general, but these restrictions must be logical. The current system of essential and non-essential, along with waivers has raised the frustration level of citizens to the breaking point. It is ok to walk but it is not ok to walk with golf clubs? Car dealers can’t sell remotely on the internet? A mom and pop store which has 20 customers a day must close, but a big box store with 2,000 customers a day can remain open? All road construction is closed because state inspectors assigned to the project might be exposed to COVID-19? Building construction is closed because workers might be too close with a hammer and saw? Building construction performed by a sole carpenter is not allowed for unknown reasons? Not only is there no logic to the classifications, but it is clear that the administration’s attitude is that the residents of Pennsylvania, especially north central Pennsylvania, can only survive if the government takes care of them. That is not the feeling of my constituents.”
Senate Bill 613 would require the governor to create clear guidelines for businesses to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses that are able to operate safely under the new guidelines would be permitted to re-open as long as they comply with mitigation strategies.
The bill would require COVID-19 mitigation plans to be developed by the Wolf Administration based on guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia follow CISA guidelines.
To restore local control, Senate Bill 327 would give county governments the option to develop and implement their own plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, following CISA guidelines. Under the bill, businesses already identified as essential could continue to operate. However, counties would also be given the authority to develop plans to allow other industries to operate if it is safe to do so.
The bill also creates a COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force made up of representatives of all three branches of government to identify and address issues related to the COVID-19 public health emergency together. The panel would be responsible for developing a recovery plan to restore public services and economic activity when it is safe to do so.
“Instead of working with Pennsylvania business owners and lawmakers to develop a recovery plan for Pennsylvania’s economy, Governor Wolf recently joined other northeastern governors in an agreement to open selected industries on a shared schedule,” Sen. Yaw added. “The plan would essentially give unelected bureaucrats in other states more power over Pennsylvania businesses than state lawmakers and local elected leaders.”
For more state-related news and information, visit Senator Yaw’s website at www.SenatorGeneYaw.com or on Facebook and Twitter @SenatorGeneYaw.
Rita Zielonis, Chief of Staff