State legislators in Pennsylvania have been holding onto $2 billion in American Rescue Plan funds, and Governor Tom Wolf wants them to release the funds. Wolf wants a portion of the money to be placed directly into the bank accounts of Pennsylvanians. He calls it the “Pennsylvania Opportunity Plan.”
‘Working families have been strained to their limit. Their wallets are bursting at the seams. “They’ve truly been pressed past their boundaries,” Wolf added, citing recent price rises.
There is a strategy to support families that are still healing from the epidemic, says the governor’s administration. Additionally, the monies are meant to assist families in better cope with the growing costs of everyday life.
Those earning less than $80,000 a year would get up to $2,000 under Wolf’s idea. People in families earning $50,000 or less would get a one-time payment of $2,000 from the program. People earning between $50,000 and $80,000 will get $1,500 in federal aid.
Checks drawn from the Pennsylvania Treasury would be exempt from federal income tax if the measure is passed by the legislature.
$1.7 billion in funding includes $225 million in small-business assistance and $450 million in community preservation and revitalization, as well as $325 million for the state’s healthcare system. Another $204 million is earmarked for direct property tax relief. The stimulus money will thus be reinvested in the local economy.
Justifications for the Governor’s actions
Wolf stated, “Pennsylvanians should not have to pick between paying for electricity or food, daycare, or petrol,” at the Pocono Family YMCA on April 14. We have the potential and resources to make certain they don’t struggle and succeed. For the benefit of all Pennsylvanians, I’m urging the General Assembly to work together across party lines on this issue. Get this money into the hands of Pennsylvanians instead of our wallets.”
Now that Pennsylvania’s bank account now stands at more than $10 billion, governors are expecting a revenue surplus of $2.5 billion shortly. Understandably, Wolf and his Democratic colleagues believe that now is a good moment to assist families in need while the epidemic continues.
State legislatures seem to be as political as the federal government. There’s no doubt about it: Wolf is a Democrat. The Republican Party has control of both the House and Senate in Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that several Republicans are lagging. For example, Stacy Garrity, the state’s treasurer, has encouraged the General Assembly to look farther down the road to 2026 as it evaluates the state’s budgetary needs. That’s when the state’s Independent Fiscal Office expects a $1.4 billion deficit, which means that the state is spending more money than it collects in revenue.
Legislators have been warned by Governor Wolf that states must utilize American Rescue Plan monies by December 21, 2024, or return them to the federal government.
As of March, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania was 4.9 percent, with 13.6 percent of the state’s population living in poverty. Furthermore, these figures do not account for individuals who toil day in and day out, barely scraping by on the few wages they can earn.
“This money will assist the hardworking folks our organization serves to keep their lights and heat on so they can get ready for work and pay their vehicle maintenance, so it passes inspection,” says Kristina Valdez, executive director of the community action group Along the Way. They will be allowed to continue to come up for work at the companies on which our town depends.”
A round of stimulus checks is well within Pennsylvania’s reach. The question is whether the state legislature will support the idea.
In her more than two decades of personal finance writing, Dana has honed her skills in the areas of loans, debt management, investments, and small business.
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