Governor Wolf ordered the closure of all businesses he deemed “non-life-sustaining” on March 19, 2020.
Fifty days later, one-third of Pennsylvania is beginning to reopen under the governor’s three-phase, color-coded approach. Yet, certain businesses in these regions are still being prevented from opening with no justification, and other counties throughout the Commonwealth that meet the same standards are still ordered closed.
Have we seen progress? Yes, the governor’s recent announcement that Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland counties are set to move into the “yellow phase” is uplifting. Unfortunately, this announcement will do next to nothing to help individuals who want to return to work. There are plenty of businesses that can open safely and adhere to the CDC and Department of Health guidance that cannot open under the governor’s plan.
All business is essential. Being able to pay your bills and feed your family is essential. How do I know this? First, I have heard from hundreds of constituents since Governor Wolf made his May 1 announcement that twenty-four counties in the Northern part of the state would reopen. Second, I know because I own a small business that has felt the effects of the governor’s ill-conceived orders.
We must begin to get back to a state of semi-normalcy. The same day Governor Wolf announced to reopen some counties, the Department of Revenue released estimates that revenue collections were $2.2 billion short of estimates for April. Additionally, some estimates show the gap in funding we will ultimately face at $5 billion. These estimates show that we can not wait another moment to get our businesses running again.
I do not mean to underscore the fact that this virus poses severe risks to the health and safety of Pennsylvanians as it preys on the weakest among us: namely the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. I firmly believe that mitigation measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 must remain a part of our strategy going forward. However, it has become equally apparent that we can’t wait any longer to get back to work.
Reopening our business sector is essential to Pennsylvania’s recovery process. I think it is time to begin this process safely and give our citizens back the rights granted to them in our constitution and to preserve our way of life.
Senator Pat Stefano represents Pennsylvania’s 32nd Senatorial District covering Fayette, Somerset, and parts of Westmoreland Counties.
CONTACT: Mark Fetzko, firstname.lastname@example.org