Pennsylvania’s businesses, workers and residents would lose a bevy of protections if the state’s disaster declaration were ended by a resolution passed by the state General Assembly, according to Gov. Tom Wolf.
Both the Senate and House passed resolutions Tuesday to end the disaster declaration Wolf issued in March to quicken the pace of the state’s reopening.
During a press conference after the votes, Wolf said ending the disaster declaration would not end the state’s business guideline orders, but would instead remove protections and regulatory rollbacks granted to the state through the declaration.
“It wouldn’t reopen a single business that was closed and wouldn’t make anyone safer,” he said. “Ending the declaration would not reopen anything and anyone that says anything differently is wrong.”
According to the Wolf Administration, ending the disaster declaration would:
- Force hospitals and alternative care sites to stop adding capacity or repurposing facilities without abiding by a 60-day notice requirement.
- End utility assistance.
- Reinstate a number of eligibility requirements for unemployment compensation claims.
- Reinstate requirements on telehealth lifted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which would stop Medicare reimbursements for telehealth services for most health care providers.
- Stop schools from offering food distribution networks.
- Stop the moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions.
The Senate passed the resolution 31-19, with the House passing the resolution 121-81.
Wolf said he intends to keep his declaration in place, noting that he understood the frustrations of business owners still unable to fully open, but highlighting the importance of reopening slowly.
“We are doing it as quickly as we can and we have a plan. For some it’s too cautious and I get that,” Wolf said. “The disaster declaration is in place. It stays in place. The choice we have is whether we prioritize safety by opening carefully with precautions in place, or whether we just create chaos and confusion through carelessness.”
The General Assembly could override Wolf’s decision to decline the resolution, but it would need a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, Bill Patton, a spokesman for the House Democratic Caucus told the PA Post.