Several senators led by Sen. David J. Arnold Jr., (R-Lebanon) are seeking relief for construction firms throughout the state who have largely shuttered their companies and most projects after Gov. Wolf’s business closure order on March 19.
Arnold, along with co-sponsor Sen. Camera Bartolotta, and Senators John DiSanto, and Daniel Laughlin, sent a memo to all Senate members on March 27 asking for support for bill that would require the state Department of Community & Economic Development to issue a waiver to the governor’s order. The waiver would allow all private and public construction activities to continue if workers adhere to social distancing guidelines and other mitigation measures defined by the Centers for Disease Control to protect workers and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Arnold could not say when the bill would be filed since Senate members are unable to meet in person, but was confident it would garner “a lot of support.”
“The premium is on health and safety; we just feel there’s a way to do both,” Arnold said. “We’ve seen in other states that they can get safely back to work, and Pennsylvania should follow suit.”
Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all active public and private construction sites, while issuing some selective waivers on an ad hoc basis, with no consistency, according to the memo. While governors in New Jersey, California, Illinois and New York have issued shelter in place orders, they have all included exemptions for construction personnel and construction activities.
With highway and other infrastructure jobs across Pennsylvania sitting idle, workers still need to complete these jobs in a timely manner. Stopping these projects, which are of an open-air nature, makes no sense, according to the memo.
The response to the proposed bill from other senators has been positive so far, he added.
“We need to continue on with life as best we can,” Arnold said. “I think this is a field where we can accomplish that.”