Fifty-eight Adams County businesses received exemptions to provide or offer life-sustaining services during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to information released Friday by the Department of Community and Economic Development.
More than 6,000 businesses statewide were granted exemptions after being identified by the DCED as offering life-sustaining services or necessary to assist life-sustaining functions, notwithstanding the general closure of the industry in which they operate.
On March 19, Gov. Tom Wolf issued an order along with the Secretary of Health’s Rachel Levine’s order indicating that all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania must close their physical locations to slow the spread of COVID-19.
During the past month and a half, a team of nearly 50 DCED employees reviewed more than 42,000 exemption requests. Of those requests, 6,060 were approved, 12,826 were denied and 11,635 were notified that their request did not require an exemption, according to information released Friday night.
Another 11,619 submitted applications have since become subject to guidance that is specific to their industries, such as construction projects, golf courses and auto dealers. Quality control measures have been taking place throughout the process to ensure consistency across industries, DCED stated.
Businesses that received exemptions, according to DCED are: Alexander’s Well Drilling, Alleghany Solid Surface Technologies, Allen L. Jeffcoat, Arctic Aire, Blue Collar Restoration Services LLC, C. Minter’s Sealcoating, Cleveland Industrial Recycling, CST Bearing Co. DCI Fulfillment, Dreamscape Outdoors LLC, DRI Machine and Fab, Foster General Construction Co., Gettysburg Performance Gym, Glass Lockshop and Property Maintenance, Greenridge Glazing Applications, Harringtons Equipment Company, Hawk Industries Inc., JA Myers Homes, Jacobs Took and MFG, Jerry’s Taxidermy, John W. Bosserman Inc., JZ Lawn Care, Keyser Consulting Group LLC, KPI Technology, Len Dick Signs, Martin’s Renovation and Remodeling, Michael Simmers, Northeast Pallett LL, O’Malley Wood Products, PA Roof Revival, Pennwood Products Inc., Penn Ridge Campground, PWI Incorporated, Rebel’s Construction, Rossville Carwash, Rowland Tree Service, Sanderson’s Coal Service, Sew’n Place, Signify North America Corporation, Simply Willow Plant, Spartan Equipment, Spectra Kote Coporation, The Flower Boutique, The Natural Food Company, Timberline Recreational Enterprises, TNT Underground Contracting, Tripwire Operations Group, Tucker Industrial Liquid Coatings Inc., Ultra Care Floor Systems Inc., Vista Machines Inc., Whispering Cree Tree Removal, Wilke Enginuity, WM. F. Hill & Assoc. Inc., Wolfe Industrial Auctions Inc., WYElectric LLC.
“Pennsylvania is home to nearly one million small businesses, and while protecting public health and safety was our number one priority throughout this process, the administration recognized that businesses not identified as life-sustaining warranted the opportunity to operate in some capacity if they could offer life-sustaining services,” Dennis Davin, DCED secretary, stated in a news release. “Throughout this process, our primary focus was on reviewing exemption applications and assisting businesses with their questions and concerns, all in service of the goal of protecting public health in the face of an unprecedented and quickly evolving public health emergency.”
Meanwhile, Senate GOP leaders responded Friday evening by claiming Wolf “failed” to comply with a subpoena filed by the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee for the release of documents associated with mandated business closures
Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, (R-25), Majority Leader Jake Corman, (R-34), and Senator Mike Regan, (R-31), who chairs the committee, said the records are being sought to in order to examine if legislative action would be necessary to correct inequities, both as part of the ongoing pandemic as well as for any future emergencies.
In a letter addressed to Regan on Friday, Wolf said he cannot release the information to the Senate due to executive privilege and an audit being conducted by the state’s Auditor General at the request of the Senate.
“It is well established that our Constitution is one of divided powers, in which each branch of government is constitutionally committed to its particular sphere. Under this system of separate powers, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recognized that a governor — and agents and officials acting under his authority — are exempt from subpoenas relating to the exercise of such authority,” Wolf wrote in the letter.
Citing a previous case involving former Gov. Tom Corbett and the League of Women Voters, Wolf said requiring a governor to respond to a subpoena relating to his exercise of gubernatorial duties would have “unconstitutionally interfered with his exercise of constitutional duties.”
“Therefore, to preserve these constitutional boundaries, my office will not be substantively responding to your subpoena,” he wrote in the letter.
After sending the letter, the list of all businesses granted exemptions was posted to the DCED’s website.
The Senate GOP leaders argue that the list covers only one of 14 areas of information requested by the Senate Republicans, who are now “weighing” their next steps.
Those options, they said, include asking the Commonwealth Court to intervene and force the administration to comply with the subpoena.
“As an equal branch of government, we are looking at our legal options to further getting the information out to the public,” Scarnati said. “The public has a right to understand the methods behind granting waivers to some employers and not others.”
Corman added, “Gov. Wolf continues to play games with providing clarity about his decision-making process that shuttered employers and put hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians out of work. I can’t help but ask – why is the administration going to such great lengths to keep this information from the General Assembly and the public?”
“The founding fathers established a system with checks and balances,” Regan remarked. “Even in an emergency, the General Assembly has a responsibility to provide oversight so that power during the time of an emergency is kept in check.”
Larry Deklinski of The (Shamokin) News-Item contributed to this report.