HARRISBURG – The Senate approved two bills today that would provide some much-needed clarity and common sense to the process of deciding which businesses can safely operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Senator Ryan Aument (R-Landisville).
Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all businesses not deemed “life-sustaining” on March 16 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, Senator Aument said.
“While I don’t disagree with the intent behind many of the actions the Wolf Administration has taken to combat this virus, I think it’s clear that many of those actions have been executed poorly, and that poor execution has hurt far too many Pennsylvanians,” said Aument. “A prime example of this is the arbitrary nature of the business closures and the subsequent waiver process. Despite the Governor’s best intentions, the result of these actions has been disparity in the marketplace, disastrous breakdowns in the supply chain, and widespread confusion. There is an obvious need for better coordination at the state level and a smoother, more transparent and impartial process.”
The bills approved by the Senate today would 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.
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.
“Pennsylvania does not need to choose between saving lives and saving the economy – the bipartisan, inter-branch COVID-19 Cost & Recovery Task Force established in Senate Bill 327 will allow us to develop a plan to do both. By coordinating across all three branches of Pennsylvania’s government, the task force will be able to clearly identify a path forward that will not sacrifice public health for economic prosperity or vice versa, because we need both to build a stronger Pennsylvania,” said Aument.
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. The plan would essentially give unelected bureaucrats in other states more power over Pennsylvania businesses than state lawmakers and local elected leaders.
“While coordinating with other states in our region is certainly necessary moving forward, we should focus on a Pennsylvania-based solution through a Pennsylvania-based task force before we broaden our scope to include the needs of other states and their constituents. The time will come to seek input from surrounding states, but Governor Wolf should first work with the General Assembly and coordinate with local leaders to solve local problems, because the fact of the matter is, the governors of New Jersey or Rhode Island won’t be concerned with our local issues, as their focus will be broad to cover the whole region. We must put on our own oxygen mask before we help others put on theirs,” said Aument.
CONTACT: Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420