Pennsylvania Governor Wolf Under Continued Scrutiny Over “Lockdown” Essential Business Waiver Process


Late Friday, May 8th, following weeks of pressure from small business owners, Pennsylvania released a list of all the waivers granted during Wolf’s lockdown of “non-essential businesses.” That list puzzled many who wondered how, during a pandemic, these businesses would top the list of businesses considered “essential:” A martial arts dojo, a custom-sign maker, and an events planner.

While the waivers approved for some businesses seemed inexplicable what is more interesting is that is now reporting that the Wolf administration apparently “scrubbed” the list of waivers prior to its release.

The timing has raised suspicions among business owners and some GOP lawmakers. Just hours before the administration disclosed the first details about which businesses received waivers, state officials were still revoking exemptions without explanation, according to several interviews with business owners.

As a result, the names of those businesses weren’t on a list of recipients that the administration eventually made public late Friday afternoon, just after the deadline set by Republican lawmakers who had subpoenaed the information. Other businesses said the state revoked their waivers after the list was published, and also without explanation.

In yet another case, a trucking company that had been denied a waiver weeks earlier was notified just after 9:30 p.m. Thursday that it was suddenly allowed to operate.

“I was like huh, backpedal a little bit? … Fixing what went wrong?” said Stacy White, who together with her husband owns a trucking company north of Scranton that transports logs.

Wolf’s administration has been under immense pressure to release the list of granted waivers and has received numerous complaints and inquiries into the fairness of the waiver process.

Two PA Republican senators, in a letter to Wolf on 28 April, called for Wolf’s administration to” release emails, letters and other documents related” to the awarding of those waivers. The senators also sought a list of the waivers granted and denied and the justification for those decisions. They also suggested they would seek a subpoena to force the release of this information.

Wolf rejected the subpoena which PA lawmakers made for the information, instead opting to release a list of waivers granted instead.

In a letter to State Senator Mike Regan (R, York) – the signer of the subpoena request – Wolf wrote:

“This information should be sufficient to address your committee’s concerns,”

The information published online did not include the list of criteria on which the exemptions were made – a condition of the subpoena request signed by PA Republicans.

Wolf stated that the audit being conducted by the state’s Auditor General’s Office would results in the release of a “plethora of communications from legislative members to the Governor’s Office about the exemption” and implied that perhaps a separate inquiry into legislators’ attempts to influence the waiver process might be warranted.