Governor Tom Wolf was joined by Representative Steve Malagari, Senator Maria Collett and community leaders today to discuss Gov. Wolf’s call for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to immediately use a portion of the $1.7 billion in unspent American Rescue Plan Act dollars to help older adults and individuals with disabilities through property tax and rent rebates to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our commonwealth is sitting on billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief money that is meant to help our citizens and it is past time to use that money for its intended purpose – to improve the lives of Pennsylvanians,” said Gov. Wolf. “For Pennsylvanians on a budget or a fixed income, inflation causing costs to go up on everything, can lead to painful decisions. That’s why I want to use some of Pennsylvania’s federal COVID-19 relief funding to provide a boost to this program and legislation has been introduced in support of my plan. Now, I am calling on Republican leaders in the General Assembly to take action to send those bills to my desk.”
In February, Gov. Wolf proposed his $1.7 billion action plan, which includes a proposal to direct $204 million to provide property tax relief to Pennsylvanians by investing in the existing Property Tax Rent Rebate program. This investment would be a one-time bonus rebate to current program users, doubling existing rebates with an estimated 466,000 Pennsylvanians receiving an additional average rebate of $475. Since its inception in 1971, the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program has delivered more than $7.1 billion to older adults and individuals with disabilities.
In Montgomery County, the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefitted 13,442 Pennsylvanians who received a total of $6.4 million. Almost 75% of these recipients were age 65 and older.
“For seniors and many others across the state, they have been affected by rising healthcare and prescription drug costs, and the rising cost of food and utilities and other necessities in life,” said Rep. Malagari. “The proposal to use these funds to mitigate the damages inflicted by the pandemic on financially vulnerable residents is exactly what the federal funds are meant to do.”
Sen. Collett recently introduced S.B. 1187, which supports Gov. Wolf’s proposal to provide the one-time bonus rebate, which was referred to committee in the beginning of April. The bill has set stagnant since.
“As the Democratic Chair of the Senate’s Aging & Youth Committee, I’m pleased to see Governor Wolf supporting initiatives like this to help older and disabled Pennsylvanians,” said Sen. Collett. “My legislation (SB 1187) would double this year’s payments under the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, ensuring our most vulnerable neighbors are able to keep roofs over their heads. With billions of federal ARPA dollars left to spend, there is no excuse not to make this investment.”
In addition to members of the General Assembly, Gov. Wolf was joined by Montgomery County Board of Commissioners Chair Dr. Valerie Arkoosh in support of the proposal and proposed legislation at today’s event. AARP also provided their praise of the proposal.
“Everyone is paying more for nearly everything today – from prescription drugs to gas to housing but, the problem of inflation is hardest for those on fixed incomes,” said AARP Pennsylvania State Director Bill Johnston-Walsh. “The very purpose of the American Rescue Plan Act is to provide flexible, emergency funding for state and local governments to effectively respond to the negative economic impacts created by the pandemic. AARP Pennsylvania is pleased to support this critical investment of American Rescue Plan Act dollars to support Property Tax Rent Rebate Program beneficiaries.”