Pa. General Assembly at Odds Over Wolf's Business Shutdown Order, Fight Over Exemptions Expected
Pennsylvania's General Assembly seems to be at odds over Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's business closure order issued more than three weeks ago. That disagreement was made public on Monday, as House Republicans and Democrats sparred over a legislative plan announced by GOP leadership to scale back the governor's orders to close the physical locations of non-life-sustaining businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the House and Senate returning to session this week, both conducting business remotely under new rules put in place to allow the General Assembly to operate during the COVID-19 outbreak, Republicans announced a plan to safely open up Pennsylvania businesses during the outbreak. The proposal would require the administration to create an emergency plan for businesses in Pennsylvanian to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, and businesses that adhere to the emergency plan would automatically be allowed to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, House Republicans supported two measures that were advanced out of the House State Government Committee on Monday relating to the governor's closure order. The committee kicked out House Bill 2400, introduced by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, that would allow for a blanket exemption to the governor's order for all public and private construction activities if they adhere to mitigation measures set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The committee also passed House Bill 2376, introduced by Rep. Brad Roae, that would allow small businesses to serve their customers in a way that complies with public health officials’ recommendations for social distancing.

Republican members said they have been inundated with calls and emails about the negative impact that the governor's closure order has had on businesses and communities across the state.

Democratic leaders in the House pushed back against the GOP-supported plan, saying it would create an immediate public health threat to thousands of working Pennsylvanians. Democrats said it would force workers back on the job, increasing their exposure to the virus and spreading it to coworkers. Instead, House Democrats called for the General Assembly to address proposals, first introduced by their peers in the Senate, that would increase paid sick leave, enhance health care access, assist workers on the front line of the pandemic, and other measures to protect working families.

The fight over how best to proceed in these unprecedented times resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic may come to a head this week. As many businesses struggle with the governor's orders and are frustrated and confused about the shutdown, the state is in the midst of a surge in positive tests and experts believe that Pennsylvania has not yet seen its peak of COVID-19 cases.
Daily COVID-19 update for Pennsylvania

Since Saturday, Pennsylvania has seen nearly 3,000 new positive confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 12,980. In addition, 162 Pennsylvanians have died directly from complications from the virus. To date, there have been nearly 71,000 negative cases across the state.

Gov. Tom Wolf asked all Pennsylvanians who must leave their homes for life-essential reasons to wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus . The state Department of Health has provided guidance on how individuals can create homemade masks for their use in order to preserve high quality personal protection equipment for health care workers. The Centers for Disease Control also announced recommendations for people to wear face masks in public .

The Department of Health also reminds people that the best way to protect themselves from contracting the virus is to wash their hands for 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice. Here is an infograph to show the proper way to wash your hands:
Other News...
Additional programs for businesses contained in the federal CARES Act. With guidance from the federal government regarding the CARES Act changing daily, and with some additional guidance forthcoming, many businesses are struggling to understand their options under the Act. Attorneys with the McNees Corporate and Tax Practice Group provided information on other relief options contained in the Act for businesses , some of which can be used in conjunction with other programs.

DCED creates "Manufacturing Call to Action" portal. The Pa. Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) announced last week the creation of the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Call to Action portal , which will mobilize manufacturers that are producing COVID-19-related products and supplies, or can pivot to producing COVID-19-related supplies. DCED Sec. Dennis Davin said the portal will help f acilitate businesses producing critical COVID-19-related products to get their products to market or help companies retrofit their operations to produce vital materials.

Pa. Department of Health provides guidance on business safety measures during COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvania Sec. of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an order Sunday providing direction for maintaining and cleaning buildings for businesses able to operate under the state’s life-sustaining business orders. The new order states that cleaning and disinfecting performed by building service employees are critical to protecting the public health by reducing COVID-19 infections.

Small Pa. shoemaker shifts to making fabric masks. In an attempt to keep its doors open while serving the community in which they reside, the Kepner Scott Shoe Co. is retooling its production from children shoes to fabric masks . The company was forced to close its doors for the first time in 132 years when Gov. Wolf issued the business shutdown order in March, but reopened less than a week later when it received a waiver from the governor's office to produce the masks.

Nonprofits face difficult times as they work to help those impacted by COVID-19. Pennsylvania's nonprofit community is facing significant financial affects caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak hitting communities throughout the Commonwealth. But even as these entities face layoffs and funding issues, they are still trying to fulfill their missions that are at the core of their existence.

Pa. Health Department to offer more support for long-term care. The Commonwealth has entered into a contract with ECRI, an independent, nonprofit health services research organization based in suburban Philadelphia, to help with the state's response to long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unprecedented times, but McNees is here to help
The situation surrounding COVID-19 is changing by the hour. Capitol Buzz will do its best to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible as to local, state and federal actions relating to the virus.

As we have stated in previous editions, for those businesses seeking guidance or assistance on how to proceed during this unprecedented time, please contact the McNees Labor and Employment Practice Group , or for government relations assistance please contact the McNees Strategic Solutions Group (MSSG) .

For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and others, check out the CDC's coronavirus information page or visit .

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