How do you decide which businesses are essential and should remain open? Most shutdown areas have lists of essential businesses. The term is dubious, but Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Wolf decided to go his own way with a list of “life-sustaining businesses”.
And it just got worse from there.
Thousands of businesses in Pennsylvania have closed under Gov. Tom Wolf’s unprecedented statewide shutdown to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but not the company that the Democratic governor once owned, or the business now owned by the Senate’s most powerful member.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. There seem to be no meaningful standards for what a life-sustaining business is.
On Thursday, Mr. Wolf’s office said it had rescinded a waiver that had been issued to the governor’s former business, a kitchen and bath cabinet supply company in Central Pennsylvania, after Spotlight PA and PA Post inquired about how it qualified as “life-sustaining.”
But what is life sustaining?
As of Wednesday, the Department of Community and Economic Development said it had received a staggering 24,877 waiver requests. Of those, 4,003 had been approved and 4,439 had been denied. At a news conference that day, Mr. Wolf said he was not personally signing off on any of the waiver decisions.
On Thursday, when asked by Spotlight PA if he would pledge to release a list of all businesses granted and denied waivers, the governor was non-committal, saying he would consider it “if I can be convinced that that’s in the best interest of making sure that we’re doing the right thing.”
There’s absolutely no reason for anyone in the state to have any confidence in this process.
On March 16, he ordered all non-essential businesses to close, but he did not clearly specify which industries were considered non-essential, and also declined to enforce the measure, instead relying on voluntary compliance.
Several days later, on March 19, Mr. Wolf issued a mandatory order for all but “life-sustaining” businesses to close, and this time released a comprehensive list of industries that noted whether they qualified to remain open or not.
Within 24 hours, his administration made its first round of changes, allowing previously prohibited businesses such as laundromats, accountants, and tax preparers to reopen. It also reopened portions of the manufacturing sector, after industry leaders complained the order threatened to block the supply of critical goods.
Also allowed to reopen: specialty food stores, such as chocolate and candy-making retailers. The administration has said that those shops were deemed “life-sustaining” upon review because they often carry essential items, such as water, that are necessary for survival.