Today the Republicans in the Pa. House attempted to override Governor Wolf’s veto of House Resolution 836, the bill that would end Pennsylvania’s 6-month long state of emergency and the Governor’s broad powers to restrict the economy. The effort failed to garner the required 60% of votes (118 to 84), but lawmakers’ quest to safely reopen the economy is not over.
There are many ongoing efforts to reopen the economy, like a proposal from Sen. Pat Stefano to eliminate the 25% capacity restriction on restaurants, or House Bill 2513 proposed by Rep. Garth Everett to increase capacity to 50%, or Rep. Matt Dowling’s House Bill 2832 to allow event centers to house up to 50% of capacity instead of the current limit of 25%. This targeted approach reopened the construction industry, real estate, and car dealerships earlier this summer.
However, there is another way to help employers without costing taxpayers a dime. House Bill 1603 and Senate Bill 202 would permit small business owners to deduct net operating losses in future tax years—something big corporations can already do. Given many businesses will see immense losses this year, this is critical to their long-term survival.
(Graph: Pennsylvania Small Business Revenue)
The COVID-19 restrictions in Pennsylvania remain some of the strictest in the nation despite hospitalization and new case figures that show we are long past flattening the curve. Wallethub ranks Pennsylvania the second most restricted state in the nation, only California has more restrictions on businesses, travel, and individual restrictions like mask mandates. Now we’re seeing near record unemployment (13.7% in July) ravage the economy with certain sectors especially damaged. For instance, leisure and hospitality are still reporting a 29% drop in jobs compared to last July.
As my colleague Michael Torres summarized, about half of the 600,000 Pennsylvanians who work in the restaurant industry have lost their jobs, either temporarily or permanently.
The popular app Yelp reports Pennsylvania has the seventh highest number of permanent business closures in the country. Reservation data from OpenTable shows restaurants on that platform are seating just 61% of the customers they seated one year ago. In contrast, Ohio restaurants are down 34% and Florida just 31%.
Food service isn’t the only industry struggling. A recent report by Penn State found about 280 or 4% of childcare centers have permanently closed since the beginning of the pandemic.
States bashed by the media for opening to soon, like Florida and Texas, have still reported fewer deaths per 1,000 than Pennsylvania. And in Pennsylvania, the majority of those deaths occurred in nursing homes.
It’s no longer a question of whether the cure is worse than the disease. It is clear that we’re deploying the wrong cure and, in the process, creating a new disease.
Instead of Governor Wolf’s broad and unjustified restrictions on businesses, more federal bailouts, and extended unemployment bonuses, lawmakers can and should continue to pass bills that enable Pennsylvanians to safely return to work.