For a year the Republican-led General Assembly has failed to use American Rescue Plan funds to help the people of our state. It’s time to do so. It’s time to help families and small businesses afford the higher costs of food, housing, child care and gas that are result of temporary conditions including Russia’s war on Ukraine, the quicker than expected economic recovery from the pandemic, and the corporations that are. That’s why we are calling on the General Assembly to use ARP dollars to fund critical elements of the Brighter PA plan along with rebate checks to offset higher gas taxes. Doing so will help our families deal with rising prices and also ensure that the economic recovery continues, creating more jobs and higher wages.
The best way to do that is to send Pennsylvania families and small businesses checks to offset higher costs. The worst way is to embrace Republican plans to give wealthy corporations hand-outs with the hope that those funds will trickle-down to Pennsylvanian families. As PBPC has shown in a recent paper, cutting the gas tax will provide unneeded and unfair benefits to wealthy corporations rather than focusing state funds on helping Pennsylvania’s families.
The American Rescue Plan was enacted by Congress on March 11, 2021. Since then we have been advocating for the General Assembly to use the over $7 billion in state funding—and the growing state budget surplus—to help those who are facing temporary higher prices as the economy returns to normal. Among other things, we have called for help for:
- Those with low- and moderate-incomes are still suffering from a loss of income and jobs as well as the spike in prices.
- The small businesses suffering because they too face higher prices and are operating at limited capacity due lack of customers or inability to find staff.
- The homeowners and renters who are having trouble making mortgage and rental payments.
In the last year the Republican that control the General Assembly have failed to act. They dumped the majority of American Rescue Plan funds—our tax dollars—into the state’s General Fund even though it was unnecessary to balance the budget. We fear that doing so is an attempt to launder rescue plan funds designed for working people and middle class families to pay for corporate tax cuts already enacted and those they plan to enact later.
We call on the General Assembly to help Pennsylvania families by enacting some of the critical provisions in the Brighter PA plan put forward by Governor Wolf and House and Senate Democratic leaders in December and adding a rebate on higher gas prices as well. We can a Brighter PA by investing:
- $200 million in the Property Tax Rebate program which would give a one-time bonus to both renters and homeowners those with low incomes. This program will give an estimated 466,000 Pennsylvanians an average additional rebate of $475
- $500 million in a PA Opportunity program to provide a family of four with an average of $700 to about 3 million low-and moderate income Pennsylvania families.
- An additional $225 million for the Covid Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program which will provide grants, ranging from $5000 to $50,000 to 11,000 small businesses that have been hurt by pandemic. Businesses can use these grants to cover operating expenses and access technical assistance, including training and guidance to stabilize and relaunch their businesses. The program would prioritize women- and minority-owned businesses and rural communities.
- About $1.8 billion to send $250 to the owner of every car and light truck registered to an individual Pennsylvania family or small business. Government and corporate fleet vehicles will be excluded from the program.
The total, $3.2 billion, should come from ARP funds, including those uncommitted and those that were unnecessarily added to the General Fund which at the end of this fiscal year will have a surplus of over $4.7 billion.
The political opportunism that has led the Republican leaders of the General Assembly to wake up to the problems of Pennsylvania families gives us a moral opportunity to address not just the high price of gas but the high price of housing, child care, food and other necessities by enacting a broader program that uses ARP dollars to help Pennsylvanian families.
After a year of delays, the time to act is now.