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Dear Governor Wolf,
Thank you for your Administration’s rapid response to my request yesterday to publicly clarify the status of child custody orders under the now statewide stay-at-home order. Inclusion of this information in the Commonwealth’s main public online repository for policy during this disaster emergency will certainly reduce confusion and potential difficulties for countless parents and children across Pennsylvania.
However, I write primarily to bring a more serious concern to your attention, which deserves immediate and serious consideration. Current Administration policy of not publishing the list of non-life sustaining business entities and locations waivered for operation during this disaster emergency poses a threat to the health and safety of Pennsylvania’s citizenry.
It has come to my attention that the waiver letters being issued to business operations are ripe for fraud. These letters can easily be altered and replicated by anyone with a bare minimum of computer hardware, software, and skills. It is only a matter of time before unscrupulous actors discover the potential for profit by creating fraudulent waivers. Such documents could then be used to fraudulently convince idled workers to report back to their place of employment, where proper social distancing and/or elevated health and hygiene protocols may not be observed.
It has also come to my attention that access to waivered business operations information is being provided to the Pennsylvania State Police and other law enforcement agencies through JNET. While this may be useful in enforcing Commonwealth policy after the fact, it is not useful in protecting the people of Pennsylvania from the possibility of exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus in unsafe locations under fraudulent pretenses.
Only a publicly accessible list of waivered business operations can serve this purpose. While getting Pennsylvanians back to work should be a priority, they deserve the opportunity to confirm that any call to resume their employment is legitimate and approved under your business closure order before they report to the workplace.
Further, a publicly accessible list of business operations will reduce or eliminate redundant calls to law enforcement and other strained Commonwealth resources by citizens wishing to report or inquire about suspected violations of your business closure order. I have fielded many inquiries from concerned citizens wanting to know if a specific business operation currently operating is doing so within the guidelines of current Commonwealth policy. My office simply cannot answer them with any certainty at this time.
Both my March 25 letter to you urging transparency in the business waiver process and a subsequent request by House Republican leadership on March 27 have gone unanswered. I again urge you to make public a list of waivered business operations at the earliest possible opportunity, not just for the sake of transparency and public scrutiny, but also to protect Pennsylvania’s workers and families from exposure to the COVID-19 coronavirus in unsafe locations under fraudulent pretenses.
Waivered business operation information deserves to be included and readily available to all Pennsylvanians through the Commonwealth’s online COVID-19 response public portal. It is my hope that your Administration will address this critical health and safety issue as rapidly as it responded yesterday to my request to publish clarity regarding child custody orders.
Representative Russ Diamond
102nd District, Lebanon County
State Rep. Russ Diamond represents the 102nd District, which includes eastern and northern portions of Lebanon County.