(HARRISBURG, PA) – As Chairmen of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee and the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, respectively, Senators Mike Regan (R-31) and Tom Killion (R-9) hosted a joint public hearing today to address concerns raised about the Wolf Administration’s response to COVID-19.
Two groups of panelists participated, beginning with representatives from the business community, who spoke on issues that have impacted industries across the Commonwealth since Governor Wolf ordered the closure of businesses he deemed non-life-sustaining on March 19. The second panel consisted of three members of the Wolf Administration – Secretary of Health and Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine, Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Dennis Davin, and Director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) Randy Padfield.
The central message of the business community was the need for more transparency, accountability and consistency in the Administration’s actions and decisions. They also conveyed that a lack of collaboration and input from business owners led to miscommunication, misunderstanding and ultimately mistakes with the classification of certain businesses as non-life-sustaining and the subsequent waiver process overseen by DCED.
Members of the Wolf Administration echoed the importance of transparency and accountability and said the Governor and agencies are working diligently to provide Pennsylvania with additional information on the handling of the business waiver process. They also explained that they share the concern of the business community over the continuously rising unemployment rate but believe putting people back to work too soon will lead to further damage on many levels.
“Today’s hearing was an affirmation of our shared commitment to protect the health and welfare of our fellow Pennsylvanians and safely restart our economy,” stated Killion. “I’m grateful to the representatives of Pennsylvania’s business community and the administration officials who offered testimony.”
While much of the focus was on the economy and allowing business owners to reopen, Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President Gene Barr noted the “human cost” of the current closures and unemployment situation. Barr stated that every one-percent increase in unemployment results in a one-percent increase in suicide and a 3.3-percent increase in drug overdose deaths.
“President Barr’s statistics emphasize that this is not just about reopening the economy for the sake of business owners and their livelihood but to get people back to work and reduce the chance of those statistics becoming a reality,” said Regan.
Killion added, “COVID-19 is a public health and economic emergency, the scope of which our state has not faced during our lifetime. The decision to reopen the commonwealth affects the lives and long-term economic well-being of our citizens. I am encouraged that such a decision will be made collaboratively and with the highest degree of transparency.”
Today’s hearing was a bi-partisan effort to bring to light issues that Senators have been hearing from their constituents since the Governor’s business closure order.
Regan concluded the hearing stating, “While today’s hearing may not solve all of the problems being faced within the business community immediately, I am pleased that some areas of business are on track to reopen, albeit in a modified way – including construction and auto sales – and I certainly hope we will see the same for the real estate industry, garden centers, and all of the small businesses that have been put on hold but could operate safely utilizing CDC guidelines.”
Bruce McLanahan (Sen. Regan), firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Rader (Sen. Killion), email@example.com