Finance Committee approves Property Tax/Rent Rebate expansion legislation

HARRISBURG, May 23 – Nearly 175,000 additional Pennsylvanians could soon be eligible for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program after action taken by the PA House Finance Committee today.

Taking the first significant step toward increasing income limits for Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program for the first time in 16-plus years, the Finance Committee passed legislation Tuesday to do just that.

House Bill 1100, with Finance Committee Chair Steve Samuelson, D-Northampton, as its primary sponsor, alongside primary co-sponsors Reps. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin/Cumberland, Ismail Smith-Wade-El, D-Lancaster, Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, and Maureen Madden, D-Monroe, plus an additional 81 bipartisan co-sponsors, was approved by a unanimous vote and next heads to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

“House Bill 1100 will increase income limits and will provide larger rebates for those who qualify,” Samuelson said. “We also include a cost-of-living increase so recipients will not lose their rebate in future years when they get a modest increase in their Social Security or pension.”

Income limits for the PT/RR Program last increased in January 2007. Without any increase in the income eligibility since then, the number of recipients of the PT/RR Program has dropped from roughly 600,000 individuals to an estimated 398,000 in the current year.

“Fewer people are eligible for the rebates, and it’s discouraging that while the need continues to grow for thousands of people, the funds are locked away because of an outdated threshold,” said Kim, chair of the House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee. “We are preventing people from getting financial help during these difficult times. Gaming revenue that funds this program is healthy, so let’s make the needed changes to this program so it can do as it was created to do: help families stay in their homes and make ends meet.”

House Bill 1100 would increase the income limits for the PT/RR Program to $45,000 for both homeowners and renters. It’s estimated that under these proposed income limits, an additional 173,000 will qualify.

“My office in York has completed 15% more applications this year than we did in just 2021, and a lot of those increases are coming from those who have only recently heard about our services,” said Hill-Evans, chair of the Central PA Delegation. “We’ve had to turn away too many low-income retired renters who have lost out on a rebate simply because of recent Social Security cost-of-living raises, or seniors who have to work into their late 70s or 80s to cover the normal cost of living. Because of the increase in rent and property tax millage over the past 16 years, with no reflexive change to this program, we should serve our commonwealth’s seniors, widows/widowers and those with disabilities by helping them keep up going forward.”

The legislation passed today matches the proposal from Gov. Josh Shapiro as outlined in his initial budget address earlier this year.

“If elected politicians are not ensuring that the programs we establish, like PT/RR, are serving those desperately in need, are we effectively doing our jobs?” asked Madden, chair of the Northeast Delegation. “It seems to me that during these difficult times coming out of a worldwide pandemic, it’s prudent and timely that we adjust the eligibility requirements for the PT/RR Program. I’m grateful to Chair Samuelson for his leadership on this issue.”

The legislation also includes an annual cost-of-living adjustment so that in future years, the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program will keep pace with inflation, Samuelson said, preventing recipients from missing out on rebates simply because of small increases to Social Security benefits.

“I represent a district that is very diverse and, like much of the commonwealth, we have a growing number of seniors and neighbors with disabilities who deserve support,” said Smith-Wade-El, a first-year legislator from Lancaster County. “Actually, delivering what our neighbors need from the PT/RR will help stabilize our neighborhoods and keep our seniors in their homes.”

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery, began in 1971 to benefit older adults and adults with disabilities. Below is a chart showing current and proposed income limits and rebates. Applicants can exclude half of their Social Security income when determining eligibility:

                                                          Current                   Proposed
Income                                              Max. Rebate          Max. Rebate
0 – 8,000                                            $ 650                      $ 1,000
8,001 – 15,000                                   $ 500                      $    770
15,001 – 18,000                                 $ 300                      $    460
18,001 – 35,000                                 $ 250                      $    380
35,001 – 45,000                                    NA                       $    380