The fight over which Pennsylvania businesses are essential continues. Now, Republicans in Harrisburg demand Gov. Tom Wolf reclassify residential construction companies as essential businesses.
If the Governor acts as he should, it would mean the many construction companies in Schuylkill County and around Pennsylvania get back to work right away.
Republicans Demand Wolf Reclassify Residential Construction Companies Essential Businesses
Near the beginning of the state’s mitigation efforts against COVID-19 coronavirus, Wolf identified two types of businesses: essential and non-essential. Then, as mitigation efforts intensified, the lists were further narrowed, classified as life-sustaining and non-life-sustaining.
And each time, businesses on the “wrong” side of the argument groused at Wolf’s designations. A lot of them didn’t make any sense. For instance, the governor kept steel mills open but closed coal mines. A solid argument was made that the governor’s list was influenced by politics, not safety.
Things got even more heated when Wolf Home Products, a company once owned by the governor, was allowed to stay open but similar companies were forced to close. Despite reversing his decision to keep his former business open, a Philadelphia Inquirer report indicates the company, as of a day ago, was still operating.
And this entire time, residential construction companies were largely getting ignored as they sat dormant, their thousands of employees out of work and back on the unemployment line and, as of writing this, many still waiting for that first unemployment payment from the state.
Governor Wolf Making Construction Companies Beg
At first, it was just a few brave State Representatives that called on Wolf to amend this decision. People like Rep. Russ Diamond (Lebanon County) didn’t shy from voicing their opinion on this, despite the constant heckling from people who feel we should all just hide in a corner and wait until Wolf says it’s safe to go back to work.
It wasn’t until last week that any of our Schuylkill County representatives started to say something. Reps. Jerry Knowles and Mike Tobash each posted a dish of copypasta to their social media accounts urging Wolf to change his mind. Rep. Neal Goodman, a Democrat, stayed silent.
State Sen. Dave Argall wrote this letter to Wolf last Tuesday. In it, he says even states labeled as “hot spots” for the coronavirus outbreak didn’t bar residential construction companies from working:
(NOTE: Last Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed many of these types of businesses, saying, “Luxury condos will not be built until this is over, office buildings are not going to be built. So that work’s going to end immediately.”)
Now, on Tuesday, Argall issued a follow-up statement on behalf of the state’s “Senate leadership” after going a week without much action from Wolf.
“Maintaining our infrastructure must be a priority as we continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says in a statement released Monday. “Allowing construction employees to begin their work again, in accordance with social distancing guidelines, is critical to ensuring public health and safety in the short term, and will help Pennsylvania bounce back from this crisis stronger than ever.”
The Governor MUST allow these workers to get back on the job to safely continue their life-sustaining work.https://t.co/ySw0dJubza
— Senator David Argall (@SenatorArgall) March 31, 2020
Argall says the US Dept. of Homeland Security backs this move, too. On March 28, DHS announced industries like residential construction are essential, critical to maintaining infrastructure.
Reportedly, Wolf’s office has received more than 25,000 requests to reclassify businesses. Just about 4,000 have been granted waivers. Another 4,400 were rejected. And more than 16,000 haven’t gotten an answer.
The longer unfinished home construction projects sit dormant, the state in which they were left remain exposed to the elements. This likely will mean some of the work done before the mitigation efforts began will have to be torn apart and redone, costing both homeowners and construction companies money they shouldn’t have to spend if the Governor used some common sense in the first place.
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SPECIAL SECTION: Coronavirus in Schuylkill County