HARRISBURG – Nearly a month into the state’s closure of non-life-sustaining business due to the spread of COVID-19, Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) today voted in support of legislation aimed at restoring balance and consistency for the state’s workers and employers.
“Public health is always our top priority, and we all must continue to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously,” Causer said. “But we cannot remain locked down in our homes, with many of our citizens out of work, forever. A devastated economy with more than a million people awaiting unemployment benefits in our Commonwealth alone, many of them struggling to make ends meet and put food on their tables, is also a threat to public health.
“We need to find balance and give our business owners and the people they employ the opportunity to go back to work, as long as they can do so safely,” he added.
Senate Bill 613
aims to bring consistency and clarity to the governor’s closure order by requiring him to develop a specific mitigation plan for businesses that encompasses guidance for mitigating exposure to COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conforms to guidance from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The plan would have to be posted publicly on the Department of Community and Economic Development’s website within seven days, and any business that complies with requirements of the plan would be permitted to operate.
“Many employers and the workers who rely on the jobs they provide have been frustrated by the haphazard manner in which the governor’s business closure order and waiver process were implemented,” Causer said. “It was never made clear to business owners, or frankly to lawmakers, what factors were considered in granting a waiver. But there are many examples of some businesses receiving waivers while others that perform the same function are being denied. And the governor’s refusal to release the list of waivers raises further questions about the fairness of the process.
“There is no question these are challenging times and circumstances none of us have faced before, but we need to correct our course now to ensure a healthy future for our Commonwealth,” he added.
The bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, builds on other recent legislative efforts to develop a path forward for the Commonwealth. Senate Bill 327
seeks to create the COVID-19 Cost and Recovery Task Force, which would include all three branches of government in the process of developing a plan to resume mission-critical functions, including the restoration of housing, transportation, education and other public services, and economic activity to levels equal to or better than their pre-disaster conditions.
The bill would also establish a debt reduction review process directing all state agencies responsible for any level of borrowing to examine existing debts and determine if refinancing with current interest rates would be in the best interest of taxpayers. The Commonwealth is facing a significant loss of revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with interest rates dropping, this may be an opportunity to save some much-needed money for critical programs and services.
Senate Bill 327 is also pending action in the Senate.
Representative Martin T. Causer
Pennsylvania House of Representatives