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Appeals Process Created for Businesses Affected by Shutdown

by on March 20, 2020 12:53 PM

After Gov. Tom Wolf's order on Thursday ordered all "non-life-sustaining businesses" to close to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, an appeals process is in place for businesses that would otherwise be shuttered to make their cases that they need to remain open.

According to state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, any company that believes they should be considered a life-sustaining business can apply for a waiver at [email protected]. Any business owner with questions about whether they  need to close can email [email protected].

On Thursday night, Senate Republican leadership — including Corman, President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, Senate Majority Whip John Gordner and Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne — said in a statement that while they understood the need for measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, the governor's announcement created confusion.

“We understand the dire health crisis COVID-19 presents in the Commonwealth. We understand that we are in uncharted territory as we try to prevent the spread of this deadly disease," they said in calling for an appeals process. “At the same time, we know that every business is life-sustaining to someone – whether employers or employees. The economic devastation that is being caused will last long into the future, especially for small-business owners. Because of the manner in which the Governor released this information, we have more questions about his unilateral decision than there are answers."

Wolf's order mandated more than 150 categories of businesses and services to close, ranging from entertainment and recreation venues to clothing stores to building construction, and some, but not all, manufacturing, to name a few.

Grocery stores, gas stations, pharmacies, food and beverage production, telecommunication providers and beer distributors are among the various businesses that will continue to remain open. Municipal services also will continue. Restaurants and bars can  continue to provide drive-thru, delivery and takeout service, but as previously ordered may not offer dine-in service.

“We remain committed to working cooperatively with the Governor and state agencies to slow the spread of this dangerous virus and ease the impact of this crisis on individuals, families and employers," the Senate Republicans said. "While at the same time, we will stand with our small-business owners who now face challenges that seemed unfathomable just a few weeks ago.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, took a harsher tone on Thursday night, saying Wolf "set off a panic" and questioned whether the governor had the authority to order the shutdown.

"The ill-prepared actions, announced after normal business hours, are not only an economic blow to every worker in the state right now but will have ramifications long into the future," the House GOP statement said.

“The sprawling and confusing list provided by the governor is provided with no explanation, and we will explore all avenues available to us to determine whether the action he’s taken is allowed within our state Constitution.... It is incumbent upon all state leaders to recognize that long after we have defeated this public health threat, we must have the ability to create economic opportunities for all Pennsylvanians."

Wolf said the the closure order is authorized under the Emergency Management Services Code's provision granting the governor extraordinary powers. 

Corman, meanwhile, encouraged businesses impacted by the shutdown to consider applying for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which helps businesses that are unable to meet financial obligations and operating expenses during an emergency situation. Loan amounts are calculated based on the actual economic injury and a company’s financial needs.

Information is available by contacting SBA’s disaster assistance customer service center by calling 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or emailing [email protected].

As of Friday morning there are 268 confirmed cases of COVID-19, up from 22 a week ago. There has been one death and 2,574 people have tested negative.

The first COVID-19 case in Centre County was among 83 new cases reported on Friday by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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