WILKES-BARRE — Some elderly and disabled residents of a high-rise in the city learned Friday that they could see their rent reimbursements doubled this year. But, unless they take action, they might not get the bonus.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging Robert Torres visited the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority’s Lincoln Plaza to promote part of Governor Tom Wolf’s action plan for the use of unspent portion from the Commonwealth of federal funding related to the pandemic.
“We are here today to support the Governor’s call for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to immediately approve (dedicate) a portion of the $1.7 billion unspent American Rescue Plan Act to help older people and people with disabilities recover from the impacts of COVID-19[feminine]
pandemic through property tax and rent refunds,” Torres said.
Wolf’s action plan includes a proposal to allocate $204 million in ARPA funding for property tax and rent relief to eligible Pennsylvanians through the existing property tax/rent rebate program. An estimated 466,000 Pennsylvanians would receive an additional average rebate of $475 under the proposal, Torres said.
“If you normally get $650, you’ll get $1,300. That would be double the amount,” Torres said. consider that we pay so much for almost everything these days. Right?”
“After all,” Torres added, “the purpose of the American Rescue Plan Act is to provide flexible emergency funding to state and local governments to respond to the negative economic impacts created by the pandemic. So let’s use this fund for its intended purpose and help people who would benefit from the increased discount now.
Since Wolf’s announcement, representatives from the Department of Aging have visited communities across Pennsylvania to raise awareness and support the proposal.
While visiting Bucks County last week, Torres said he met with State Senator Maria Collett, minority chair of the Senate Committee on Aging and Youth, who introduced Senate Bill 1187 to support the expenditure proposal. And on Thursday, state Representative Steve Samuelson, minority chairman of the House Aging and Older Adults Services Committee, introduced House Bill 2560, which also supports the proposal, he said.
State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121, Wilkes-Barre, told the few dozen residents gathered in the community hall that their help was needed to pass the legislation.
“The way we embrace that is when the people, you — you have the power, you are the voters — when you call that senator, when you call that state representative and say, ‘If you please vote for it, we need that money because… “Now it’s up to us to spend it,” Pashinski said. “You can’t sit and complain and not make that call. You can’t sit and complain and not register and vote.
“That extra $475 is going to help you … put food on the table, maybe pay for that particular prescription,” he said.
Pat Acker, 68, a resident of Lincoln Plaza, said after the meeting that financially “times are tough” and the bonus giveaway would help her pay her bills.
“It would help all seniors,” Acker said. “Everything is skyrocketing. I just heard that corn is skyrocketing, soybeans are skyrocketing. We’re going to have a hard time this year because the fertilizer comes from Ukraine and they don’t ship it. So it’s going to hurt everyone’s pockets.
“And for seniors like me on a budget, it’s going to hurt all around,” Acker added. “Like they said, it’s either paying for your meds or paying your rent or going without, and I don’t think any of us should have to go without. “