Aug. 30 (UPI) — Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is calling on the Republican-led General Assembly to pass legislation that would send $2,000 checks to residents in the state hard hit by inflation.
The Democratic governor made his appeal Monday during a speech at Roots of Faith ministries in Sharpsburg, located 5 miles northeast of downtown Pittsburgh, stating they have the opportunity to put “money back into the pockets of Pennsylvanians.”
“I want to give Pennsylvanians the step up they need to survive inflation and higher prices,” he said.
According to a statement from his office, the money would come through the state’s Opportunity Program to households that earn $80,000 a year or less.
Wolf said they estimate 250,000 families will apply for this opportunity, which will equal about $500 million — funds he says that are available.
According to the governor, that state has $15 billion in general funds available, which does not include what is in its so-called rainy day fund.
“Luckily, we have the ability to do this financially. We can actually help families get life-saving medicine, out of state funds. We can help families stay in their homes. We can help families afford to eat. Why on earth wouldn’t we do it, especially now, again, when when have the money sitting in the bank,” he said.
The governor’s office said the program was introduced in February in order to use American Rescue Plan Act funds, but will now use general funds while having the support of the state’s Democratic members of both houses.
Wolf said he is asking his Republican colleagues to send a bill to his desk to give those in need the $2,000 checks after the General Assembly did not allocate funding for the program during recent budget negotiations.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey and state Rep. Sara Innamorato were among those present at the Roots of Faith ministers to show support for the idea.
Innamorato said in a statement that the state’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has been unbalanced and slower for working families and low-income earners, and these direct money transfers would help to alleviate that stress.
“The PA Opportunity Program would help complete Pennsylvania’s recovery,” she said. “Working people and families would greatly benefit form this much-needed support to cover costs of childcare, groceries, back-to-school materials and other basic household needs.”
Gainey similarly backed the bill, stating it will support thousands in his city.
“It will help a family stay in their home, put food on their table or help cover the costs of their prescriptions,” he said. “We need to act urgently to get this money into the hands of families who need it.”
State Republicans, however, have pushed back against the legislation, with Senate Republican spokesperson Erica Clayton Wright describing the plan in a statement to WTAE as a “government handout” and an “illogical idea” that will only lead to higher costs.
“The fact is Gov. Wolf abandoned this irrational idea during budget negotiations because it lacked commonsense,” Wright said. “The resurrection of this concept is disingenuous on the part of Gov. Wolf and says more about his political calculus and willingness to crease a false sense of hope for Pennsylvanians instead of providing clarity for Pennsylvanians.”