Department of Aging Calls on General Assembly to Invest in Older Pennsylvanians, Individuals with Disabilities Through Property Tax Relief Program
WILKES-BARRE, April 29 – Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres was joined by Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski and community leaders today to echo Governor Tom 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.
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. While Democratic leaders in the Senate and House have introduced legislation, Senate Bill 1187 and House Bill 2560, to support Gov. Wolf's plan to invest in the existing program, the General Assembly has been slow to act.
"Older Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly want to age in their homes and communities for as long as they are able. While the Department of Aging provides services and supports to help them achieve this goal, programs like the Department of Revenue's Property Tax/Rent Rebate offers seniors an additional benefit," said Secretary Torres. "Many older adults live on fixed incomes and when it comes to their finances, paying their rent or mortgage is a top priority. Governor Wolf's proposed one time increase in the rebate amount will help seniors to meet some of their needs during these difficult times."
Sec. Torres noted that in Luzerne County, the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefitted 15,966 Pennsylvanians who received almost $7.8 million, according to the most recent available data from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. Almost 65 percent of these recipients were age 65 and older.
"As the cost of everything from gas to groceries continue to increase due to historic challenges across the globe, we must do everything possible to provide relief for those hurting most, including low-income seniors and disabled Pennsylvanians," said Rep. Pashinski. "Using our extra federal dollars to increase the extremely successful Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefit is a simple and direct way to get Pennsylvanians the help they need to stay in their homes."
Secretary Torres, joined by the director of the Luzerne/Wyoming Area Agency on Aging and the executive director of the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority, called for immediate action by the General Assembly to get money out to Pennsylvanians who are hurting right now.
"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 pandemic. AARP Pennsylvania is pleased to support this critical investment of American Rescue Plan Act dollars to support Property Tax Rent Rebate Program beneficiaries."
"The governor's proposal is a simple plan to execute. Claimants won't have to take any additional action to receive their one-time bonus rebates," said Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell, who heads the agency that administers the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. "Claimants should fill out their rebate applications as they normally do, and we will automatically calculate and distribute the additional rebates to them. If anyone needs help with their rebate application, filing assistance is available at the Department of Revenue's district offices, local Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers and state legislators' offices."
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.