Turzai Says House Bill 2400 Headed to Committee, Needs to Become Law
Nearly 1 million PA unemployment claims filed in less than two and a half weeks
as business shutdown continues and waivers remain inconsistent
HARRISBURG – The number of Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation claims since March 15 are the highest in the nation. To help address this, Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) announced that House Bill 2400, with nearly 100 co-sponsors, will be assigned to the House State Government Committee with an expected committee vote next week. The bill would allow all public and private construction activities to be undertaken that adhere to mitigation measures set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect workers and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“Our policies are aimed to save lives from coronavirus and beat back this scourge. We also need to make sure our economy does not collapse, causing severe public health issues like family disintegration, increased alcoholism and drug addiction, and higher prevalence of mental illness. Folks need purpose and hope. They need jobs to take care of themselves and their families,” Turzai said. “We need to allow economic activity that can be safely done following CDC protocols for mitigation to move forward. Let’s start with construction. Projects started, small and large, need to continue. Mitigation efforts are or can be put in place.”
Pennsylvania is the only state to shut down all active public and private construction sites, while other states have issued shelter-in-place orders, they have all included exemptions for construction personnel and construction activities.
Turzai noted that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency issued its “Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce: Ensuring Community and National Resilience in COVID-19 Response Version 2.0,” which cites under its “Public Works and Infrastructure Support Service” section, that “workers such as plumbers, electricians, exterminators, builders, contractors, HVAC technicians, landscapers, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, businesses and buildings such as hospitals, senior living facilities, any temporary construction required to support COVID-19 response.”
Industries have already prepared CDC compliance protocols for members and employees, such as “Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Plan for Construction: Recommended Safety & Health Response Plan for COVID-19 Exposure Mitigation – March 29, 2020.” Published by the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania, with a lead role by the Master Builders’ Association of Western Pennsylvania aimed to assist construction projects with implementing an effective COVID-19 response plan for jobsites.
Halting partially completed construction projects poses risks to public health and safety of communities and residents.
As of today, the state Department of Labor and Industry reported 982,000 Pennsylvanians have applied for unemployment compensation benefits during the past two weeks – and the number is expected to continue to rise.