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Gov. Wolf hits back at Pa. legislature passing resolution to end COVID-19 disaster declaration

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Governor Tom Wolf is hitting back at state lawmakers who want to end the state’s COVID-19 disaster declaration.

Wolf said ending his emergency declaration won’t do anything and that it would - in fact - hurt Pennsylvanians.

The Pennsylvania legislature passed a resolution Tuesday to end the disaster declaration issued March 6, which gave Wolf the ability to shut down non-essential businesses to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Wolf renewed the declaration on June 3 for another 90 days.

If the emergency disaster declaration were to end, it would take away the protections now in place for people out of work or having trouble keeping up with their bills.

This is the full list of things Gov. Wolf said people would see come to an end:

  • Burdensome eligibility requirements for more than a million Unemployment Compensation claimants would immediately go back into effect, and employers across the commonwealth would no longer receive relief from charges.
  • Certification requirements under the public-school code and child protective services law would end.
  • A school meal eligibility waiver, which has allowed more than 300 meal sites to open for distribution of food to school-age children in need, would end.
  • Telehealth and other health care services provided by out-of-state providers for Pennsylvanians would end.
  • Utility assistance for thousands of families and individuals would end, leaving people without water or electricity.
  • Hospitals and alternative care sites would no longer be able to add capacity or repurpose facilities (i.e., beds) without having to abide by the 60-day notice requirement.
  • License renewal and training requirement suspensions for health care professionals, child care workers, direct care workers, direct support professionals, among other professional groups who provide life sustaining services to our children, seniors, and vulnerable residents would end, meaning all of these workers would need to choose between not returning to work until those credentials could be renewed or trainings completed and the option of returning to work with the understanding that they are practicing out of compliance with Pennsylvania law and regulation, very well opening themselves up to personal liability.
  • PennDOT waivers for commercial motor vehicle weight limitations and permitting requirements for the transport and delivery of agricultural feed, food, and dairy products, fuel, pharmaceuticals, and medical supplies to assist in supply chain challenges would end and motor carriers would be restricted in their ability to directly assist in supporting emergency relief efforts necessary to respond to the pandemic.
  • Mortgage foreclosure and eviction moratoriums that offer protection to vulnerable Pennsylvanians at risk of losing their homes during the pandemic would end.

Republicans say Wolf’s actions have overreached and are crushing people’s livelihoods.

“We have to strike a balance,” Governor Wolf said Wednesday afternoon. He added that as a former business owner, he understands people’s frustrations, but that this crisis calls on making the right decisions, even when it’s hard.

“It’s not me or the general assembly, its this virus, that’s who the enemy is, and anytime you try to distract from that, we are missing the whole point of this,” Gov. Wolf said. “We’re trying to stay safe and we’re trying to stay safe from a virus that is bent on infecting as many people as it can.”

The disaster declaration is separate from the Disease Prevention Act, which includes provisions for businesses to reopen, as well as worker and building safety.

That order remains in place. A news release clarified that ending any disaster declaration does not end any orders from the Secretary of Health that set guidelines for business operations.