Enforcing PA’s Closure of ‘Non-life Sustaining’ Businesses

A sign at a barbershop in southern York County references Gov. Tom Wolf’s March 19 order to close “non-life sustaining” businesses. (Ed Mahon / PA Post)

44 warnings issued by State Police over 2 days

Ed Mahon

For the past few days I’ve been covering the impact of Gov. Tom Wolf’s order to close more than 100 types of businessesEnforcement began Monday and Wolf’s powers remain intact despite legal challenges, as Angela Couloumbis describes for Spotlight PA.

Here’s a by-the-numbers guide to the issue:

  • Between $25 and $300:  One of the fines a business could receive for violating Wolf’s order to close its physical locations. Wolf’s guidance to law enforcement also told them they could issue a $10 to $50 fine under a different state law — the guidance didn’t go into detail on when to issue which fine. Pennsylvania State Police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski told WHYY’s Katie Meyer that costs could add up and police could eventually get a court order to shut someone down.

  • 30: Maximum number of days a business owner could go to jail for not paying one of those fines.

  • 44: That’s how many warnings Pennsylvania State Police issued on Monday and Tuesday of this week.

  • 0: The number of citations troopers issued those days. Wolf told law enforcement officers to issue a warning first.

  • 400: About how many businesses that investigators working for the City of York contacted as they enforced the ban. Philip Given, the acting director of economic and community development for the city, told me yesterday afternoon that the city planned to issue its first citation to a retail electronics business that failed to comply after a warning. He declined to name the business. “We’re not looking to put any individual establishment on blast,” Given told me.

  • 10: Counties under a stay-at-home order until April 6. They are: Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia. Businesses considered “life-sustaining” can continue to operate there, despite the increased restrictions.

  • 1,127: Coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania, the department reported yesterday.

  • 11: Coronavirus deaths in Pennsylvania.

  • 2nd: The constitutional amendment some firearms enthusiasts credited for getting the governor to remove gun shops from the closure order. On Tuesday, Wolf’s office modified its list of “non-life sustaining” businesses, allowing gun shops to sell to customers, but with restrictions. In an email, a Lancaster County firearms dealer celebrated the news in the subject line: “Trop Gun Shop WON!” The gun shop challenged Wolf’s emergency declaration power in court, lost, but then took credit for putting pressure on the governor. With the victory in hand, Trop Gun Shop told potential customers that its range would be closed and the store would operate for only limited hours. It plans to sell guns through a wait list system. Customers can check in with a greeter and then receive a text message when they are allowed to come inside.

  • New primary date: The Pennsylvania General Assembly voted to push back the primary to June 2 (which, come to think of it, is only a few days after the Josh Ritter concert in York. So maybe there is hope that I can attend that concert in-person.) The bill now moves to the governor, who has said he supports the planned five-week delay.

  • Remote voting: Senators voted remotely yesterday. Many participated by video, and Elizabeth Hardison of Pennsylvania Capital-Star covered the day’s news, technology adjustments and the interesting backdrops. So did Spotlight PA’s Sarah Anne Hughes.

  • Education changes: The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation to eliminate the state mandate of 180 instructional school days, Jan Murphy reports for PennLive. The measure also ensures teachers and other school employees will be paid as they would have if the pandemic had not led schools to close, although there are not the same guarantees for people who work for firms with district contracts.

  • Grocery store changes: WESA’s Katie Blackley has this guide on increased protections at Aldi, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other stores.

  • In the richest nation on earth: This Post-Gazette headline is a blaring indictment of our health care system: Woman who died of COVID-19 refused to go to hospital, worried about bills, her son says.

Stimulated

Overnight, the U.S. Senate passed the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus plan. Payments to individuals are included, but not everyone will qualify. The breakdown (from CNN.com):

  • $1,200: Most Americans will get this much; $2,400 for married couples.

  • $500: Parents with kids 17 and younger will get this amount per child.

  • $75,000: The government payment starts to go down for people making between $75,001 and $99,000.

  • $0: Individuals with incomes of $99,001 and above will not get a payment.

  • “Married couples are eligible for a $2,400 check as long as their adjusted gross income is under $150,000 a year,” The Washington Post reports. “Reduced checks, on a sliding scale, will go out to married couples who earned up to $198,000.” At the same link, The Post has a calculator that let’s you see how much you qualify for.

  • Politico reports the government may use debit cards to speed the money to taxpayers.

Sewing skills:

Continued reports that medical staff are unable to obtain even basic cloth face masks are driving volunteers across Pennsylvania (and the nation) to fire up their sewing machines and get to work.

Coronavirus must-reads

PA Post is an independent, nonpartisan newsroom covering politics and policy in Pennsylvania. For more, go to PaPost.org.
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