Governor Tom Wolf wants state lawmakers to release the $2 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds that have been sitting idle in their coffers. Wolf desires that a portion of the funds be deposited into the bank accounts of Pennsylvanians. His proposal is called the “Pennsylvania Opportunity Plan.”
“Families with working members have experienced tension. Their finances have reached the breaking point. Recent substantial price increases have pushed them to the brink of insolvency, Wolf said.
According to the administration of the governor, the objective is to assist families who are still recovering financially from the epidemic. In addition to covering pandemic-related expenses, the subsidies are intended to help families better manage rising living costs.
Under Wolf’s proposal, households with incomes of $80,000 or less would receive up to $2,000. Families earning $50,000 or less would receive a one-time payment of $2,000. Households earning between $50,000 and $80,000 qualify for $1,500.
If the measure passes, the Pennsylvania Treasury would issue checks that would not be taxed as income.
The $1.7 billion budget plan proposed by Governor Wolf includes $225 million for small businesses, $325 million for the state’s healthcare system, $204 million for direct property tax relief, and $450 million for community conservation, preservation, and revitalization. In other words, the funds will be invested back into the local economy.
The Governor’s rationale
Wolf stated on April 14 at the Pocono Family YMCA, “Pennsylvanians should not be forced to choose between paying for electricity and food, daycare, or gas.” We have the opportunity and the means to ensure that children do not struggle and succeed. I urge the General Assembly to collaborate across party lines on this issue for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians, because when they succeed, so does our state. “Let’s get this money out of our hands and into the pockets of Pennsylvanians.”
Pennsylvania has a bank balance of over $10.7 billion, and state officials anticipate a $2.5 billion income surplus. While the epidemic persists, Wolf and his Democratic colleagues believe now is an ideal time to assist families in need.
State legislatures appear to have the same problem with partisanship as the federal government. Wolf is an official Democrat. The Pennsylvania House and Senate are both held by Republicans.
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, some Republicans are hesitant to join. State Treasurer Stacy Garrity, for instance, defers to the General Assembly on specific budget proposals, but has requested that legislators consider spending plans beyond 2026 when making decisions. According to the Independent Fiscal Office, the state would incur a deficit of $1.4 billion, spending more than it collects in taxes, in that year.
Governor Wolf has warned legislators that American Rescue Plan funds must be used by December 21, 2024, or they will be returned to the federal government.
However, 13.6% of Pennsylvanians currently live in poverty, and the unemployment rate in March was 4.9%. And these numbers do not account for those who labor day after day just to keep their heads above water.
Kristina Valdez, executive director of the community action organization Along the Way, explains, “This money will help the hardworking people our organization serves keep their lights and heat on so they can get ready for work and pay for vehicle maintenance so it passes inspection.” It will allow them to continue working at the businesses on which our entire town depends.”
Pennsylvania possesses the necessary funds to provide another round of stimulus payments. It is unclear if the state legislature will support the proposal.
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Since more than two decades ago, Dana has specialized in loans, debt management, investments, and business.
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