Are you a Pa. business affected by Gov. Wolf’s shutdown order? Here’s how to apply for a waiver and ask questions

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    On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that hundreds of businesses, ranging from laundromats, performing arts venues, recreation centers, entertainment venues, and general merchandise stores, had to shut down by 8 p.m. on Thursday.

    But companies that believe they’re considered “life-sustaining” can apply for a waiver at [email protected]. Business owners can also ask questions about whether they need to close by emailing [email protected], according to statements issued by a major business trade group and the office of state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne.

    State agencies including the Pennsylvania State Police are set to begin enforcing the order at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, and businesses that don’t comply could face fines, citations, license revocations, or criminal prosecution, Wolf said.

    The order also affects many office workplaces, including accounting businesses, law firms, real estate offices and certain administrative support services, according to a list of business classifications that accompanied the administration’s announcement.

    Grocery stores, auto-repair shops, pharmacies, newspaper offices and hospitals are allowed to remain open. Restaurants must close their dining areas, but may continue offering take-out services.

    Wolf orders all ‘non-life-sustaining’ businesses to close; face state police action if they don’t

    Business leaders and legislative Republicans have pushed back against the order, describing it as overly broad and too restrictive.

    “While we understand the need for strong measures to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many of the industries listed as ‘non-life-sustaining businesses’ in the governor’s order are in fact part of the supply chain for other businesses listed as being a ‘life-sustaining’ business,” Gene Barr, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Business and Industry said in a statement.

    Barr said the chamber, the state’s biggest business trade group is “working with the administration to seek further clarification and modification of the order and will be providing updates to the state’s broad-based business community as we receive them.

    Matthew Brouillette, the president and CEO of the pro-business Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, said that while his group shares Wolf’s “commitment to saving lives and protecting the health of all Pennsylvanians,” the shutdown order “does not effectively achieve this end.”

    “In times of uncertainty and crisis, operations that protect and sustain our supply chain are particularly essential. The governor’s list of mandated closures appears not to take this into account, instead shuttering some operations while allowing others to continue,” Brouillette said. “We are not aware of how he compiled his list, as none of Pennsylvania’s statewide associations representing thousands of businesses and employees were consulted.”

    John L. Micek
    John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. He's been covering Pennsylvania politics for more than 20 years and most recently served as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Micek's commentary is syndicated to more than 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. And he's a regular contributor to a host of broadcast outlets in Pennsylvania and abroad.