Harrisburg, PA — Today the We The People PA Action campaign held a press conference with PA House and Senate members, and partners Make the Road and For Our Future. They called on the legislature to use American Rescue Plan Funds to help Pennsylvania’s families including through the issuance of property tax rebates, opportunity grants, small business relief, and gas rebate checks to offset spiking gas prices. A video of the event can be found here.
The following are quotes from the press conference:
Representative Austin Davis: “The Shapiro-Davis Administration will send every Pennsylvanian a $250 gas tax refund, putting money back in their pockets to help pay for the rising cost of gas. Pennsylvania is sitting on billions of dollars in unused American Rescue Plan funds – money that has to be spent by the end of 2024, and more than enough to cover all of the personal passenger vehicles registered in the Commonwealth. We can and must use this money to give families a hand up.”
Marc Stier, Director, PA Budget and Policy Center: “We have been waiting a year for Republicans to use American Rescue Plans to help Pennsylvanians deal with the economic fall out of the pandemic, including the inflation resulting from a faster than expected economic recovery and Russia’s war against Ukraine. They have said no to helping families secure food, child care, and housing and to helping small businesses. Now, all of a sudden they want to use ARP funding to cut the gas taxes paid multi-national oil companies, which will not lead to lower gas prices but will lead to slower repair of our roads and bridges. The best way to help Pennsylvanians with higher prices is to use ARP funds to send them checks to help with gas and other expenses.”
We The People PA Campaign Director, Nick Pressley: “For the past year the Republican-led General Assembly has failed to use American Rescue Plan funds to help the people of Pennsylvania. 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. After a year of delays, the time to act is NOW”
Representative Emily Kinkead: “Pennsylvanians are struggling and suffering while we have billions of dollars in the bank account that are supposed to be used to help them – to help renters, to help parents, to help our farmers, to put people back to work. Instead, our majority leadership is sitting on these funds and waiting for a rainy day, like it isn’t a monsoon outside. It is shameful. Pennsylvanians need help now. It’s time to free these funds.”
Representative Chris Rabb: “The Republican majority in Harrisburg continues to hold billions of taxpayer dollars hostage in the Rainy Day Fund amid a once in a lifetime monsoon! We, as state legislators, have a moral responsibility to liberate these funds for the benefit of Pennsylvanians with the greatest need.”
Representative Joe Hohenstein: “Our neighbors are in need of help after enduring two years of a pandemic. Our representatives in Washington have given us rescue funds to get money directly into the hands of the people and small businesses that are the key to economic recovery. I and my colleagues in Harrisburg have the obligation to accept the help that has been offered and get increased tax rebates, support for childcare, vocational education tuition assistance, and small business assistance grants to the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
Background: 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.
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