HARRISBURG, Pa. — The Pennsylvania House voted on June 8 to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s COVID emergency disaster declaration, bringing the state closer to ending the declaration originally declared on March 20, 2020 and since renewed five times.
The move comes weeks after Pennsylvania voters on May 18 approved a constitutional amendment allowing the General Assembly to end or extend emergency declarations. The amendment’s passage was largely seen as a rebuke of Gov. Tom Wolf’s handling of the pandemic.
“It is clear to the Caucus that this emergency is over, that COVID-19 mitigation orders have ended. The mask mandate will be lifted in days,” House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) said at a press conference.
HR 106 passed in the House 113-90 along party lines.
House Democrats wrote in a statement Tuesday evening,
“Today, House Republicans again declared the COVID-19 pandemic over and immediately ended the protections and waivers in the disaster declaration that have helped so many Pennsylvanians access the services they need. Republicans choose to throw Pennsylvanians out of their homes and apartments, take food away from needy children, shut off utilities to thousands of families, remove the national guard from long-term care facilities, and send away doctors and nurses who have come out of retirement to help us battle the virus. They didn’t consider delaying ending the declaration or even ending it in stages to make sure doing so was done in a way that protected the people.”
Republicans said they will preserve parts of the emergency declaration, like expanded access to telemedicine and tax collection flexibility for businesses.
“We will continue to work with the governor to ensure that our Commonwealth rebuilds and recovers,” said Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster).
Gov. Tom Wolf’s office wrote in a statement,
“It's irrefutable that the COVID disaster declaration was critical in Pennsylvania’s fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. The COVID disaster declaration has allowed for waivers and extensions to continue to provide for Pennsylvanians and businesses under the unprecedented circumstances. It allows more medical professionals to administer vaccines, ensures families harmed financially by the pandemic have access to healthy food through SNAP benefits and ensures Pennsylvania counties and businesses remain eligible for federal disaster recovery dollars.
It’s unfortunate that the House Republicans are willing to eliminate the suspension of certain provisions of regulations and regulatory statutes that help Pennsylvanians, and is willing to forgo valuable resources that will help Pennsylvanians recover from the pandemic.”
The resolution is expected to pass in the Republican-controlled state Senate.