Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said over 40,000 businesses impacted by the COVID-19 shutdown sought a waiver from the Department of Community and Economic Development.
"What raises the initial alarm is when one business seems similar was closed and another business that seems similar was granted a waiver. And we want to explore how some of the discrepancies took place,” he explained.
And making sure the waiver process reflects the balance between protecting lives and livelihoods is important, he adds.
But he said it's not easy to determine whether similar businesses received equal treatment.
"You may have a neighborhood furniture store that stayed closed, and some people brought up Walmart and Target because they have the grocery store aspect of it, but also they sell furniture at their stores versus a neighborhood grocery store. That is a challenge, because those bigger stores have different aspects to their store that obviously get people in the door. Whether that is fair or not is certainly a broader question,” he said.
He said May 21 has been set as the date of his department's official audit meeting with the DCED.
Regardless of whether or not businesses can open before that date, all Pennsylvanians deserve to know if waivers were granted consistently without undue outside influence, he said.
"But certainly, if we ever have to do this again, I want to make sure that the state has a fair system moving forward,” he added.