In light of ongoing concerns about the Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) handling of the COVID-19 crisis, Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) has joined Republican senators in calling on the Auditor General to begin an audit of the agency immediately.
“Given recent developments, we formally request you take this proclaimed passion for protecting Pennsylvania taxpayers during COVID-19 and your constitutional obligation as Pennsylvania’s fiscal watchdog, to immediately begin an audit of the Department of Community and Economic Development,” said the letter to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale that was signed by all 28 Republican senators.
Senator Stefano said the audit would help shine a light on the Wolf Administration’s handling of the waiver process for businesses that wished to stay open during Governor Wolf’s shutdown of businesses not deemed life-sustaining. The waiver process has been roundly criticized for lacking clarity, consistency, common sense and transparency.
Also, in some cases the list of non-life-sustaining businesses that were prohibited from operating in Pennsylvania during the shutdown did not match federal guidance. As a result, entire industries were shuttered in Pennsylvania while they continued to operate in other states.
The expanded list of business closures pushed more than 1.6 million Pennsylvanians into the Unemployment Compensation system – more than any other state in the nation except California.
At a Senate hearing last week, senators pressed DCED Secretary Dennis Davin to release information about the businesses that were approved or denied waivers. However, there was no indication from the Wolf Administration when that information might be available.
“You shared in your October 25, 2016 press release that ‘transparency means accountability,’ ” the letter said. “We hope that you prioritize accountability and transparency during this public health emergency, when Pennsylvanians need answers.”
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