PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says his audit of Gov. Tom Wolf’s business shutdown waiver program is continuing.
DePasquale held a news conference Thursday morning to discuss the ongoing process.
The auditor general says the governor’s administration agreed to the audit of the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
“The Wolf Administration and numerous legislators agreed that this audit is necessary. My audit team looks forward to exploring how waivers were managed and making recommendations for improving the process, should it need to be used again in the future,” DePasquale said in a news release.
In March, Gov. Wolf closed businesses deemed “non-life-sustaining” to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 42,000 businesses applied for exemptions by the April 3 application deadline. Over 6,000 had been approved through the last week of April, while nearly 14,000 applications were denied. Thousands more businesses applied for waivers that didn’t need them to stay open, according to state officials.
DePasquale said numerous business owners “complained that the waiver process lacked transparency, moved too slowly and was inconsistent in granting waivers.”
“Business owners deserve to know if waivers were granted consistently and without undue outside influence. Because COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while, I want to make sure the waiver process truly reflects the delicate balance of protecting lives and livelihoods,” DePasquale said.
“We want to make sure this waiver process is as fair and as transparent as possible,” DePasquale added.
The northern region of the state has now moved to the “Yellow Phase,” meaning some businesses have reopened with restrictions. Much of the southwestern region will join it on Friday.
Emilio Izzazu of Izzazu Salon, Spa & Blowout Bar questions why chiropractors and dentists have resumed operation while he cannot.
“My dentist called me the other day and said to come in. And I’m thinking, ‘Why can’t we do that in the hair salon?’” Izzazu said.
Home sales are down more than 50 percent since the governor ordered that agents could not show houses to clients.
The real estate industry has also been denied a waiver and prospective buyers have been waiting.
But beginning on Friday, they’ll be able to look at houses in person.
“Tomorrow will be like an onslaught because we have 560 appointments for people to look at houses tomorrow and Saturday,” Hoddy Hanna of Howard Hanna Real Estate said.
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