This letter to the public was submitted to LebTown. Read our submission policy here.

Citizens upset with Gov. Wolf for denying Lebanon County much needed federal funds designed to blunt the effects of COVID-19 on businesses, nonprofits and local government agencies would do well to direct their anger to where it truly belongs – at County Commissioners Bob Phillips and Bill Ames and the elected officials who urged them to ignore the governor’s executive orders to combat the COVID-19 virus in Pennsylvania.

Our Republican majority county commissioners voted on May 15 to ignore the governor’s directives and prematurely open the county, unilaterally moving it from ‘red’ to less-restrictive ‘yellow’ at a time when COVID-19 cases were rising, not falling.

Phillips and Ames were encouraged and supported by fellow Republicans Frank Ryan, Russ Diamond, and Sue Helm. They were joined by state Sen. Dave Arnold, and District Attorney Pier Hess Graf who publicly stated that she would not prosecute any business or citizen for not following the state regulations. Their statements and actions lead most people to believe that the county was open and there would be no consequences for whatever regulation they chose to ignore.

Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser joined our Republican county officials on June 5, at a restaurant in Palmyra to publicly broadcast their open defiance of the governors orders. They supported and encouraged local businesses to open their establishments ignoring CDC guidelines and Pennsylvania’s regulations despite the fact they were fully aware that counties would need to follow guidelines in order to receive future funding. The business owner is now facing fines and legal costs for all of their actions.

Such ill-advised defiance now comes at a high cost – some $13 million in federal funds that could have gone to help Lebanon County small businesses is now gone because our elected officials chose to turn a health crisis into a political war for their own personal gain and benefit. Once again it is the local taxpayers who will suffer due to the misguided actions of our Republican officials.

The citizens of Lebanon county are hard-working, honest, and caring people. Through this difficult time, they have shown great kindness for each other. They have donated meals, shopped for their neighbors, supported small businesses in new ways, and come together to support each other when it truly mattered. The people of Lebanon have exemplified all that is considerate and compassionate. Yet, they have also struggled. People lost jobs and businesses suffered.

This is why we ask that despite the open defiance, vengeful attacks, and attempts to undermine our state government’s constitution by our county leaders that Gov. Wolf will overlook the acts of our officials and release the $13 million so that our small businesses and organizations can receive the funding that they need with an assurance that it will go to the business and individuals that most truly need the help.

It has never been clearer that our current leadership has failed the citizens of Lebanon County. This will only change when the people vote for new leaders with an honest interest in the welfare of their constituents.

Dan Sidelnick is chairman of the Lebanon County Democratic Committee.

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