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Lebanon County sues Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf over withheld disaster aid

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf addresses reporters about the ongoing protests in Philadelphia on June 1, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – Lebanon County officials want the court’s help accessing their share of federal disaster aid sitting untouched in state coffers after Gov. Tom Wolf withheld the funds for their decision to lift pandemic restrictions ahead of schedule.

In a complaint filed with the Commonwealth Court on Wednesday, county commissioners said the governor lacks the authority to hold the county’s $12.8 million in CARES Act funding hostage because it was originally appropriated by the Legislature.

The county’s Republican commissioners voted to progress to the green stage of the administration’s phased economic reopening plan in mid-May, despite warnings from Wolf that such action would come with consequences – forfeiting disaster aid chief among them. Six more weeks would pass before the Department of Health gave county officials permission to go green.

Wolf told reporters last week he followed through on his promise.

“Don’t come and say you want something from the state when you haven’t followed the rules,” he said. “There are consequences. These are the consequences.”

The comments enraged Republican legislators, long fed up with the administration’s perceived power grabs since declaring a disaster declaration in March. Lebanon County Republican Rep. Frank Ryan applauded the lawsuit and derided Wolf’s actions as “petty” and “cruel.”

“A pandemic is not a good time to be playing politics with public resources that could be providing a lifeline to Lebanon County and residents in need,” he said. “The governor retaliated against Lebanon County for reopening county offices and county-run facilities ahead of the governor’s schedule, but state offices were closed, and citizens had nowhere else to go for assistance.”

“For this, the governor punished Lebanon County’s 140,000 residents and businesses by making the county the last in Pennsylvania to enter the ‘green’ phase of reopening. Now he is withholding much-needed federal funding from the county,” he added.

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