Governor Wolf has ordered all Pennsylvanians to stay at home except when necessary to engage in “tasks essential to maintain…the health and safety of their family and household members;” to get “necessary services or supplies for themselves or their family or household members….or to those in need;” to engage in ”outdoor activities” or to “perform work providing essential products and services at life-sustaining businesses….”
This order has required the closure of most businesses in the Commonwealth. And that has placed a great burden on the owners of businesses large and small as well as on the employees of those businesses. The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center has recommended, along with many others, that the Commonwealth and the federal government take many steps to help sustain businesses and their employees during this time. Both the federal and state governments have taken such steps. We will be making other such recommendations and expect additional efforts to sustain businesses that have been forced to close and the employees who have temporarily or permanently lost their jobs, as well as others who are suffering economically from the crisis.
An amendment to SB327 (printer’s number 1436) expected to be offered by Republican legislators next week is a well-meaning but misguided effort to limit the governor’s authority under the emergency law by requiring him to develop a “plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 for businesses in the Commonwealth” and then allow businesses that comply with the requirements of the mitigation plan to operate in the Commonwealth.
While this proposal seeks to address the serious concerns everyone has for the businesses that have been forced to close and the employees who have lost their jobs, it is based on a number of fantasies: 1) There is a safe way for most such businesses to operate in the Commonwealth; 2) employers will place the health and safety of their employees above their own profits; and 3) the actions of individual businesses and their employees will not have broader consequences for the community as a whole. If we were to base public policy on these fantasies, we would risk the health and safety of not only business owners and their employees but everyone who lives in Pennsylvania.