PA Auditor General Says Wolf Admin’s Waiver Process ‘Flawed’ and Inconsistent


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy L. Defoor released an audit on Tuesday, criticizing the Wolf administration’s waiver process for businesses that wanted to stay open amid the start of the COVID-19 pandemic .

The report called the administration process “flawed”, adding that it provided inconsistent answers to business owners, causing confusion.

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“While the pandemic has certainly presented unique challenges, the process has been hastily assembled, administered unevenly, and should be reformed before anything like this is used again. “

In March 2020, Governor Wolf ordered the shutdown of Pennsylvania businesses that were not classified as “life support” in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Under the exemption program, businesses could request an exemption from the Ministry of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to remain open.

But according to Defoor, a number of business owners and lawmakers have complained about the lack of transparency in the waiver process and have provided inconsistent or shifting answers. The Auditor General himself now describes the process as imperfect, lacking in transparency and uneven administration. “I think that checks out what a lot of us already knew that this was a whole cluster, the whole process, and that it was completely unfair to our local businesses,” said the State Representative Brad Roae (R-Crawford, Erie).

More than 42,000 have requested exemptions. About seven thousand have been granted. But a third of them were unnecessary, showing the confusion in the business world. The Auditor General does not know how many have closed for good, but some certainly have. “A lot of people have been forced to watch their dreams die, to see their life’s work taken for nothing and that cannot last,” said David Taylor, president of the Pa. Manufacturer’s Association.

DeFoor says the definition of running a “life sustaining” business has been changed at least nine times, and a “frequently asked questions” document intended to guide businesses has been revised 14 times, contributing ultimately to confusion.

Another major finding of the report is that “questionable decisions by DCED for some exemption requests have potentially had adverse effects on businesses and an unnecessarily increased risk to public health.”

We do not know what remedies the injured companies may have and we do not know who decided which companies could remain open. DeFoor said the ministry had acted in good faith, but added: “For business entities that would use, say a lobbyist or contact a lawmaker, they got quicker answers to their questions,” Auditor General Tim DeFoor said. .

In a statement, DCED said employees were working tirelessly to implement a new program during an unprecedented pandemic. Adding, “It can’t be overstated how much this team of reviewers has redefined what it means to be a public servant. “

It’s a catch. This is the Auditor General’s. “This process should be reformed before such a thing is used again,” DeFoor said.

Importantly, the Wolf administration chose to create its own waiver process even though the federal government had its own standards for what is essential and what is not. Most states have followed these guidelines.

In response to its findings, the PA Auditor General’s Department said the governor’s office should re-evaluate its process for determining vital and non-vital industry groups, attempting to limit the number of changes to guidelines for operation and have all decisions reviewed and approved by a second reviewer before responses are issued.

To read the full report, click here.


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