DiSanto: Governor Wolf’s Lack of Leadership on COVID-19 Has Devastated Businesses and Workers

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania employers and workers endured the second-highest percentage of mandated business closures in the nation, a direct result of Governor Wolf’s failed pandemic leadership, according to Senator John DiSanto (Dauphin/Perry).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 30 percent of Pennsylvania businesses were forced to close during the pandemic. Only Michigan had a higher percentage of business closures (32 percent). The national rate was just 19 percent.

Despite the large number of business closures, Pennsylvania ranked outside the top 20 in terms of the percentage of businesses that received a loan or grant tied to payroll during the pandemic. Instead of continuing to collect a paycheck, displaced employees were forced into an outdated and unprepared Unemployment Compensation system that was unable to handle the volume of new claims.

“The statistics underscore what Pennsylvania employers and workers have known for some time: Governor Wolf has mismanaged the response to this pandemic, and his unilateral approach to governing caused damage not seen in other states,” DiSanto said.

Governor Wolf’s mandated business closure orders shuttered several industries that were permitted to safely operate in most other states during the pandemic, including outdoor construction and real estate. As a result, the state’s unemployment rate of 7.3 percent still lags the national average of 6.9 percent.

            The draconian shutdowns did not result in a corresponding benefit to public health, as Pennsylvania still has the seventh-highest number of total coronavirus deaths in the country and has the 15th-highest death rate in the U.S. as a percentage of population.

Earlier this year, I took part in Senate Majority Policy Committee workshops to examine the steps local businesses could take to safely reopen. The discussions included detailed testimony from various stakeholders regarding extensive mitigation efforts that businesses were taking to protect employees and customers in accordance with recommendations of national health experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The testimony was largely ignored by the Wolf Administration.

I also co-sponsored a Constitutional amendment that was passed by the General Assembly to limit future disaster declarations and prevent emergency powers from being extended beyond 21 days without legislative approval. As a constitutional amendment, the bill must pass again during the 2021-22 Legislative Session and be approved by voters via referendum. The legislation is expected to be a top priority for lawmakers in 2021.

“The first round of Governor Wolf’s business closures went on much longer than public health required, leaving surviving businesses and the economy in a weak position to respond to his latest round of restrictions,” DiSanto said. “And despite these extreme and inconsistent restrictions, Pennsylvania still ranks among the worst states in the number of COVID-19 deaths. We must continue our efforts in 2021 to prevent the governor from causing more damage through his unilateral actions.”

 

CONTACT: Chuck Erdman cerdman@pasen.gov (717) 787-6801