Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf suggested funding could be slashed for counties that move to the yellow phase of his color-coded reopening plan before they are given the approval to do so.
Wolf made his first public comments on the topic Monday morning after a weekend that saw multiple county commissioners or politicians, including Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, say that their area wouldn’t wait for Wolf’s go-ahead and would instead decide themselves when to reach the aggressive mitigation phase.
“We Pennsylvanians have sacrificed in ways we could never have imagined, we’ve separated ourselves from our families, we’ve isolated ourselves in our homes, we have shuttered our businesses, we have closed our schools,” Wolf said. “These heroic acts deserve to be met, not by surrendering, but by staying the course, and that’s what I intend to do.
“To those politicians who decide to cave in to this coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act. The funding we have put aside to help with fighting this crisis will go to the folks who are doing their part, and that includes our CARES Act funding, which will be used to support counties that are following the orders to prevent the spread in the medical communities who are treating patients.
“However, other discretionary funding won’t go to counties that put us all at risk by operating illegally. To the politicians urging businesses to risk their lives, and risk of the lives of their customers or their employees by opening prematurely, they need to understand that they are engaging in behavior that is both selfish and unsafe.”
Wolf later said he could stop counties from reopening before his timeline says they can. He did not offer specifics about how funding would be cut or how he would stop any county or town that does, however, and said he wouldn’t sue counties who don’t follow his order.
Twenty-four counties moved to the yellow phase last Friday, and 13 more will do so this Friday.
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“You business owners, these politicians put you at risk of losing your health department’s certificate, they put you business owners at risk of losing your liquor license, they put you business owners at risk of losing your certificate of occupancy,” Wolf said. “All these depend upon you’re doing everything you can to keep your patrons safe, and by opening before the evidence suggests you should, you’re taking undue risks with the safety of your customers.
“Businesses that do follow the whims of local politicians and ignore the law and the welfare of their customers who probably find themselves uninsured, because insurance does not cover things that happen to businesses breaking the law. And, let me be clear: Employees that fear for their safety because a business has opened illegally, they don’t have to go to work. Instead, they can stay at home, stay safe, and collect their unemployment benefits. Finally, the politicians who are encouraging the people they were elected to lead to quit the fight, are acting in a most cowardly way. This is not the time to give up. This is not the time to surrender. This is the time to rededicate ourselves to the task of beating this virus.”
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