Department Of Aging Calls On General Assembly To Invest In Older Pennsylvanians, Individuals With Disabilities Through Property Tax Relief Program

Pittsburgh, PA – Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres, joined by Rep. Sara Innamorato, the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging and other community leaders, today echoed Gov. Tom Wolf's call for the Pennsylvania General Assembly to immediately use a portion of the $1.7 billion in unspent American Rescue Plan Act dollars to help older adults and individuals with disabilities through property tax and rent rebates to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In February, Gov. Wolf proposed his $1.7 billion action plan, which includes a proposal to direct $204 million to provide property tax relief to Pennsylvanians by investing in the existing Property Tax Rent Rebate program. This investment would be a one-time bonus rebate to current program users, doubling existing rebates with an estimated 466,000 Pennsylvanians receiving an additional average rebate of $475.

"Older Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly want to age in their homes and communities for as long as they are able. While the Department of Aging provides services and supports to help them achieve that, programs like the Department of Revenue's Property Tax/Rent Rebate offers seniors an additional benefit," said Secretary Torres. "Many older adults live on fixed incomes and when it comes to their finances, paying their rent or mortgage is a top priority. Governor Wolf's proposed one-time increase in the rebate amount will help seniors to meet some of their needs during these difficult times." 

Sec. Torres noted that in Allegheny County, the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefitted 43,840 Pennsylvanians who received a total of $20.9 million, according to the most recent available data from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue. Almost 65% of these recipients were age 65 and older. Since the program's inception in 1971, the program has delivered more than $7.1 billion to older adults and Pennsylvanians with disabilities.     

"The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program helps some of our most vulnerable residents pay their bills and stay in their homes. The governor's plan to issue a double bonus to program recipients using available American Rescue Plan funds would go a long way to help seniors, and folks with disabilities see a bit more stability coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Rep. Innamorato. "We in the General Assembly need to advance this plan and do the job we were sent to Harrisburg to do — help the people of Pennsylvania."

Secretary Torres was joined in his call for immediate action by the General Assembly to get money out to Pennsylvanians who are hurting right now by newly appointed Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging director Shannah Tharp Gilliam.

"We are honored that Secretary Torres chose Allegheny County to promote this plan. This is an incredible opportunity to shine a light on the needs of older adults here and across the Commonwealth and show the impact that additional funding can have," said Gilliam.

"Everyone is paying more for nearly everything today – from prescription drugs to gas to housing but, the problem of inflation is hardest for those on fixed incomes," said AARP Pennsylvania State Director Bill Johnston-Walsh. "The very purpose of the American Rescue Plan Act is to provide flexible, emergency funding for state and local governments to effectively respond to the negative economic impacts created by the pandemic. AARP Pennsylvania is pleased to support this critical investment of American Rescue Plan Act dollars to support Property Tax Rent Rebate Program beneficiaries." 

"The governor's proposal is a simple plan to execute. Claimants won't have to take any additional action to receive their one-time bonus rebates," said Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell, who heads the agency that administers the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. "Claimants should fill out their rebate applications as they normally do, and we will automatically calculate and distribute the additional rebates to them. If anyone needs help with their rebate application, filing assistance is available at the Department of Revenue's district offices, local Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers and state legislators' offices."