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Wolf’s fund to help businesses welcome, but too little too late

The sentiment is welcome. But it is much too little and much too late.

That’s our reaction to Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposal to spend $145 million in a worker’s compensation fund to help businesses cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The money would go out in the form of grants to businesses that have been most harmed by the pandemic, particularly restaurants, bars and gyms.

“The only thing I can think of is to do what this $145 million is focused on doing,” Wolf said.

We have a suggestion.

How about not closing down the restaurants, bars and gyms in the first place, particularly during the holidays?

In places where health science data has been made available, such as Los Angeles and New York State, where similar shutdowns are in effect, the numbers show these places are among the smallest transmitters of the virus.

That’s because they have instituted safety measures, rearranged seating, put up plexiglass and spent money, usually out of their own pockets, to assure people could eat in safety.

But because the governor has favored draconian measures rather than rewarding personal responsibility, $145 million won’t be nearly enough to help the restaurant industry, according to Melissa Bova, the vice president of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association. To take advantage of the grants, the restaurants first have to be financially capable of reopening.

Bova said about half of the members will close in 2021 without significant financial assistance.

None of this means we don’t think this virus is lethal. The numbers show it is dangerous to many, particularly the elderly, those in nursing homes and those with other health conditions. Our hearts are heavy over the loss of life this year to the virus.

Personal responsibility was not shut down by the virus. Most people are capable of it, particularly those whose livelihoods depend on it. And those who cannot keep businesses open with strict safety measures should not be open.

So, the governor’s proposal is fine. The General Assembly should approve the $145 million fund.

But it’s effectiveness will be undercut by the reality that, from the outset, the governor, bureaucrats and other elected leaders have given no credence to health statistics and personal responsibility. In doing so, they have disproportionately punished the economy of millions of everyday small businesses and their workers.

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