Legislation has been introduced by Pennsylvania State Representatives this week that will equalize income levels, increase rebate amounts, and raise the highest income bracket for senior and vulnerable homeowners and renters.
Seeking to expand Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate (PTRR) Program, State Reps. Izzy Smith-Wade-El (D-Lancaster) and Carol Hill-Evans (D-York) introduced the legislation on Monday.
“It has become too hard to afford a home in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Smith-Wade-El said in a statement. “For many of our senior homeowners and renters, the place in which they live is a legacy of work, life, and love, and we have an obligation to protect them and that legacy by helping them stay in their homes.”
Smith-Wade-El added that older Pennsylvanians are struggling to pay for necessities such as food and rent.
“Despite rising inflation and cost-of-living increases,” Smith-Wade-El said, “PTRR’s income limits, rebate amounts, and other provisions have not been modified to correspond to these economic changes, resulting in fewer people qualifying for the program and the program rebates failing to provide the necessary financial assistance.”
Smith-Wade-El stated that the PTRR has long discriminated against renters, stating that they deserve less support than homeowners. Expanding the PTRR will provide the needed support to allow seniors and individuals with disabilities to remain living in their homes.
“If we act now to expand PTRR,” Smith-Wade-El said, “we can preserve this crucial support for thousands of seniors who would otherwise lose eligibility next year because their Social Security cost-of-living adjustments will push them above the eligibility threshold.”
The highest available current rebate is $650 for homeowners and renters with up to $8,000 in household income, with lower rebates available for those with higher incomes; while homeowners with income up to $35,000 qualify for a property tax rebate, renters can only receive a rent rebate if their income does not exceed $15,000.
The reforms sought by Smith-Wade-El and Hill-Evans in their legislation would have the same income brackets and increase the rebate amounts for homeowners and renters: those with income below $15,000 would be eligible for a $1,300 rebate; those with an income of $15,001-$25,000 would be eligible for a $975 rebate, and those with an income of $25,001-$45,000 would be eligible for a $650 rebate.
“Significantly, the legislation would extend the highest income bracket from $35,000 to $45,000 to match today’s cost of living and so provide thousands more Pennsylvanians the support they deserve from the PTRR,” Smith-Wade-El said.
Hill-Evans urged legislators to act quickly to expand the housing protections to protect Pennsylvania residents who are in danger of losing their homes.
“None of our vulnerable neighbors deserve to lose the roof over their head,” Hill-Evans said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do, especially when you consider the current economic climate and how long it’s been since we’ve adjusted the program’s income parameters.”
Smith-Wade-El wondered how many Pennsylvania grandmothers and grandfathers are being pushed out of their homes by rising living costs. The legislation introduced by him and Hill-Evans, Smith-Wade-El said, will “help expand the safety net so that senior and disabled members of our community can keep their roofs over their heads.”
A sense of urgency to reform the PTRR program is shared by Gov. Josh Shapiro, Smith-Wade El said. In his inaugural budget address Shapiro proposed expanding the PTRR Program by raising income eligibility caps to $45,000 for both homeowners and renters, indexing eligibility caps to inflation, and increasing maximum rebates to $1,000.
The first major update since 2006, these changes would expand program eligibility to 173,000 individuals and increase assistance to an additional 398,000 people.
Smith-Wade-El and Hill-Evans said they look forward to partnering with Shapiro to expand PTRR so that vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities in Pennsylvania can stay in their homes.