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Governor Tom Wolf renews disaster declaration as General Assembly receives new powers to dismantle it

Gov. Tom Wolf renewed the state’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency on Thursday. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Gov. Tom Wolf renewed the state’s 90-day Proclamation of Disaster Emergency on Thursday for the fifth time since the pandemic began last year.

The renewed proclamation comes just two days after Pennsylvanians voted to limit gubernatorial disaster emergency declaration powers through two ballot questions on Pennsylvania’s primary election day.

The Wolf administration still plans to lift all mitigation measures on Memorial Day, but needs more time under the current disaster declaration, Wolf said in a press release on Thursday.

“We will continue to monitor vaccination rates and adjust mitigation orders accordingly,” he said. “I have been in touch with the General Assembly regarding this extension, and we will continue to collaborate on the future of this disaster declaration and any future declarations that become necessary to help Pennsylvanians in the midst of an emergency.”

Renewing the declaration allows the state to continue its increased support for state agencies and allows for waivers and extensions to be given to Pennsylvanians and businesses, including the ability to waive the one-week waiting period to receive unemployment compensation.

While the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency has been signed for another 90 days, it is expected to end much sooner thanks to new powers granted to the General Assembly by way of this week’s primary elections.

On Tuesday, Pennsylvanians voted in favor of proposed constitutional amendments One and Two by 52% each. Amendment One concerns the termination or extension of a disaster emergency declaration and Two deals with disaster emergency declaration and management.

Because of the yes vote on both proposals, the General Assembly will be able to either terminate or extend a disaster declaration issued by the governor.

The Wolf administration’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts have been a point of contention in the General Assembly, with many saying that the governor’s efforts to limit the spread of the pandemic harmed the state’s economy more than it helped limit exposure.

Leaders of the General Assembly are currently in talks with Wolf to discuss next steps, said Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland). Ward said that talks between the assembly’s leaders and Wolf started with a review of the emergency declaration.

“Moving forward, the General Assembly will operate under the framework established with the recent constitutional changes approved by the voters on Tuesday, and will apply these changes to the governor’s renewal of the emergency declaration as we transition the state out of emergency status without jeopardizing federal dollars and to expedite the vaccine rollout,” said Ward.

Ioannis Pashakis
Ioannis Pashakis covers health care, the gig economy, cannabis and technology. Email him at [email protected].

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