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Inflation is causing price hikes all around Pennsylvania, but the new state budget is looking to ease one cost for the elderly and people living with disabilities.
The $45.2 billion state budget that Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law last week, providing a $140 million increase to the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, an action that will expand payments by 70 percent for one year.
Pennsylvanians living with a disability, widows who are aged 50 and older and general residents 65 or older can qualify. The program has income limits, excluding half of Social Security income, for homeowners with an annual income under $35,000 or renters that earn under $15,000 annually.
Jeffrey Johnson, communications director for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, said that there are no extra steps to qualify for the funding, even if someone has already filled out the application. The department will handle it on their end to “ensure they receive the appropriate amount,” he said.
Anyone that claims their bonus rebate will receive it the same way that they chose in their application, whether that be through check in the mail or direct deposit to their bank account.
Johnson couldn’t say exactly when the rebate will be distributed, but he said that the department is working to get the funds to the people as soon as they can.
“As Governor Wolf said when he introduced this proposal earlier this year, this was designed to quickly deliver financial support to older and disabled Pennsylvanians,” Johnson said. “The Governor and the department recognize the importance of moving quickly to help some of our most vulnerable residents in the commonwealth.”
The program currently has a sliding scale for the maximum rebate a Pennsylvanian can qualify for, based on income and whether someone is a renter or homeowner. Maximum rebates for renters range from $500 to $650, while the maximum for homeowners ranges between $250 and $650.
The Property Tax/Rental Rebate Program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery. More than 440,000 applicants received payment for the 2020 year, which totaled more than $200 million, according to the program’s 2020 Statistical Report.
With rents rising around the state, especially in Philadelphia, the rebate boost was welcomed by officials and organizations alike.
“The increased funds for the Property Tax and Rent Rebate Program in the recently approved state budget is a much needed boost to senior citizens and those on fixed incomes,” Sen. Judy Ward, a Republican from Blair County and chair of the Senate Aging & Youth Committee, said. “With inflation and the cost of goods, services, and living going up at rates we haven’t seen in decades, this funding will help our seniors stay in the homes they love.”
State Sen. Maria Collett, of Montgomery County, the committee’s ranking Democrat, said in a statement that she approves of the budget proving, “long overdue assistance for our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians.”
Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director for AARP Pennsylvania, said that his organization is excited for older Pennsylvanians, specifically those on fixed incomes, to have access to these funds.
He added that, although this boost in the program is only a one-time payment, he hopes the state will continue to increase funding in the future.
“We’re not upset by this one time piece because it’s needed now,” Johnston-Walsh said. “The General Assembly, the legislators, the governor, really worked together to make sure that individuals that are hurting during this time period are able to stay in their homes.”
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