Sen. Joseph Scarnati

Sen. Joseph Scarnati

Any company that believes it should be considered a life-sustaining business can apply for a waiver that exempts them from Gov. Tom Wolf's COVID-19 emergency order to close physical operations.

Business owners can apply for waivers at this email address: RA-dcexemption@pa.gov. In addition, business owners can address questions about whether they need to close by emailing ra-dcedcs@pa.gov.

Senate Repubicans called on Wolf to provide a way for businesses to appeal their non-life-sustaining designation Thursday night after his order.

On Friday, Wolf provided that waiver process.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, Senate Majority Whip John Gordner and Senate Appropriations Chairman Pat Browne on Thursday issued a response to the Wolf's order that “non-life-sustaining” employers in Pennsylvania close their physical locations.

"The governor and the secretaries of Labor and Industry and Community and Economic Development need to become transparent about their decision-making process and publicly answer the many questions this has raised," the senators' statement read.

“We understand the dire health crisis COVID-19 presents in the commonwealth. We understand that we are in uncharted territory as we try to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. At the same time, we know that every business is life-sustaining to someone – whether employers or employees. The economic devastation that is being caused will last long into the future, especially for small-business owners. Because of the manner in which the governor released this information, we have more questions about his unilateral decision than there are answers."

Wolf limited restaurant service to takeout only on Monday and urged retailers to close, but after business hours on Thursday, he expanded the closures and said his order is in effect were "until further notice."

According to the Senate Republicans, there needed to be a balance of concern for public health with concern for employers' ability to function into the future.

“We remain committed to working cooperatively with the governor and state agencies to slow the spread of this dangerous virus and ease the impact of this crisis on individuals, families and employers. While at the same time, we will stand with our small-business owners who now face challenges that seemed unfathomable just a few weeks ago,” their statement read.

Employers and nonprofits who have suffered economic losses during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak may also consider applying for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Loans are available through SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which helps businesses that are unable to meet financial obligations and operating expenses during an emergency situation. Loan amounts are calculated based on the actual economic injury and a company’s financial needs.

Russ O'Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.

 

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