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Coronavirus in Pennsylvania

Wolf Still Refuses to Release Coronavirus Business Waiver List

publish the waiver list diamond
(Photo: State Rep. Russ Diamond)

Way back when the coronavirus pandemic response started here in Pennsylvania, there’s been a controversy over the life sustaining business waiver list.

This is the list Gov. Tom Wolf released showing which industries could stay open and others that had to shut down.

And from the start, the process by which Wolf selected these businesses remained a mystery.

It still does, even though pressure mounts for Wolf to release the list.

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Pennsylvania Coronavirus Business Waivers Process Shrouded in Mystery, Politics

Despite pleas from Republicans in the state legislature and thousands of business owners and Constitution defenders across the commonwealth, Wolf keeps the selection process a secret.

One of the first head-scratchers was why the governor allowed steel mills to operate but not coal mines. Now, the governor changed his mind on that decision but many other industries have been denied or ignored.

Calls for “Release the Waiver List” have been ignored. Right to Know requests have been ignored. The governor says there’s not enough time and manpower to honor the requests.

Reportedly, more than 30,000 businesses requested a waiver to remain functional during the coronavirus pandemic response. These businesses believe they’re able to function safely following social distance guidelines handed down by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About half got responses and others sit on a pile that likely will never be answered.

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Governor Wolf: Release the Waiver List

The demands of the Release the Waiver List camp are simple: disclose what businesses requested waivers and explain why they were denied or ignored.

Wolf refuses. He keeps the process a mystery and more business owners feel they’re victimized by a governor playing politics during a situation that threatens their livelihoods going forward.

A state representative from Lebanon County took it another step earlier this week. State Rep. Russ Diamond (who represents Annville) sported a face mask with “PUBLISH THE WAIVER LIST” written across the front. He posted this image to his Facebook page on April 7:

The mask was only his latest attempt at attention to get Wolf to publish this list:

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Diamond’s reasoning for making this list public is simple: not doing so opens up the possibility of fraud.

Though we’ve yet to see one of the letters a business gets informing them if they can stay open or not, Diamond says the letters can be easily faked.

In a letter published by LebTown.com, he writes:

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“It has come to my attention that the waiver letters being issued to business operations are ripe for fraud. These letters can easily be altered and replicated by anyone with a bare minimum of computer hardware, software, and skills. It is only a matter of time before unscrupulous actors discover the potential for profit by creating fraudulent waivers.”

That’s a good argument but he obviously wants this letter published for another reason.

Why are some businesses within an industry cluster allowed to stay open while similar businesses are forced to stay closed? That was the case with Gov. Wolf’s former business, Wolf Home Products, which stayed open while others were forced to close. And even after it was learned that company was supposed to close, it stayed operational, according to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Is the governor playing politics with this list? Is that why he initially shut down coal mining but left steel mills open?

Releasing this list wouldn’t be difficult as it already exists, allegedly. Reports suggest Pennsylvania State Police possess a list of the businesses allowed to operate during the coronavirus pandemic response. But Wolf won’t release the list to the public.

Diamond writes:

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“Further, a publicly accessible list of business operations will reduce or eliminate redundant calls to law enforcement and other strained Commonwealth resources by citizens wishing to report or inquire about suspected violations of your business closure order. I have fielded many inquiries from concerned citizens wanting to know if a specific business operation currently operating is doing so within the guidelines of current Commonwealth policy. My office simply cannot answer them with any certainty at this time.”

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