Governor Tom Wolf wants state lawmakers to release the $2 billion in American Rescue Plan funds that have been lying in their coffers.
Wolf wants a portion of the money to be placed into Pennsylvanians’ bank accounts. The “Pennsylvania Opportunity Plan” is the name of his plan.
“Working families have been put under a lot of strain.” Their wallets have been strained to the breaking point. “They’ve been pushed to their breaking point by the recent huge price rises,” Wolf added.
The goal, according to the governor’s administration, is to assist families that are still struggling financially as a result of the pandemic.
The subsidies are meant to help households better manage rising living costs, in addition to covering pandemic-related expenses.
Who would get the money from the Pennsylvania stimulus package?
Households with incomes of $80,000 or less would receive up to $2,000 under Wolf’s plan. A one-time payment of $2,000 would be made to households earning $50,000 or less.
Families with salaries ranging from $50,000 to $80,000 would receive $1,500.
If the bill passes, checks would be issued by the Pennsylvania Treasury and would not be taxed as income.
Wolf’s $1.7 billion budget proposal includes $225 million for small companies, $325 million for the state’s healthcare system, $204 million for direct property tax relief,
and $450 million for community conservation, preservation, and revitalization. To put it another way, the stimulus funds will be reinvested in the local economy.
The Governor’s justification
“Pennsylvanians should not have to pick between paying for electricity or groceries, childcare, or petrol,” Wolf said on April 14 at the Pocono Family YMCA. We have the chance and the resources to ensure that kids do not struggle and that they succeed.
I’m urging the General Assembly to work together across party lines on this issue for the sake of all Pennsylvanians because when they succeed, our state succeeds. “Let’s get this money out of our coffers and into Pennsylvanians’ pockets.”
Pennsylvania currently has more than $10.7 billion in its bank account, and state officials anticipate a $2.5 billion income surplus.
It’s understandable that Wolf and his Democratic colleagues believe now is a good moment to help suffering families get through the rest of the pandemic.
Not everyone is on board
Partisanship appears to be a problem in state legislatures just as it is in the federal government. Wolf is a member of the Democratic Party. Republicans control both the Pennsylvania House and Senate.
Republicans, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, are taking their time getting on board. State Treasurer Stacy Garrity, for example, has encouraged lawmakers to look ahead to 2026.
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According to the Independent Fiscal Office, the state would have a $1.4 billion deficit in that year, spending more than it collects in taxes.
Governor Wolf has reminded legislators that states must use American Rescue Plan monies by Dec. 21, 2024, or the cash would be returned to the federal government.
Is there a need for this?
However, 13.6 percent of Pennsylvanians live in poverty today, and the jobless rate was 4.9 percent in March. And these figures ignore those who toil away every day, just scraping by to keep their heads above water.
“This money will help the hardworking folks our organization serves to keep their lights and heat on so they can get ready for work and pay their car maintenance so it passes inspection,” says Kristina Valdez, executive director of the community action group Along the Way.
It will allow them to continue to work at the businesses in our town that we all rely on.”
Pennsylvania clearly has the cash necessary to send another batch of stimulus payments. It’s unclear whether the idea will be supported by the state legislature.