(The Center Square) – Seniors across Pennsylvania can officially look forward to 2024.

That’s because Gov. Josh Shapiro will finally sign a $134 million expansion of the state’s property tax and rent rebate program for low-income seniors and disabled residents that will go into effect in the new year.

The bill would qualify more than 150,000 new people who make $45,000 or less annually, as explained previously by The Center Square

It had sat on the Senate desk for more than a month after gridlock over the budget brought legislative activity to a standstill.

The standoff broke Thursday when the upper chamber returned to session to officially send the spending plan and other outstanding bills to Gov. Josh Shapiro.

Brittany Buzzelli, program supervisor of the Butler County Agency on Aging, looks forward to the bill being signed into law because it will allow previously excluded seniors and individuals with disabilities to qualify for the rebate program. 

She said it also ensures that individuals who previously qualified for the program will continue to qualify, even with an increased income from social security in 2023. 

“So much has financially changed for seniors since the program’s inception in 2006 and especially in the past three years with inflation,” Buzzelli said. “The increased cap will be welcomed news to PA Seniors.”

The economy has changed plenty since 2006, but the program’s cost limits have not. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, thousands of seniors are priced out of the program yearly because of economic factors out of their control, like inflation.

 “In fact, at its peak, the program at one time delivered roughly 605,000 rebates in a single year,” Karen Gray, the department’s spokeswoman, told The Center Square. “We’ve now reached a point where we anticipate that fewer than 430,000 rebates will be distributed for the most recent claim year.”

Under the revised program, “those income limits will also be tied to the cost of living moving forward, which means that the people who receive a rebate won’t have to worry about losing their eligibility through no fault of their own in the years to come,” Gray said.

The bill also benefits individuals with disabilities who are 18 and older, as mentioned by Buzzeli, and widows and widowers who are 50 and older, according to the department.

“Ultimately, the Governor’s proposal will result in nearly 175,000 additional Pennsylvanians qualifying for a property tax or rent rebate,” Gray said. “At the same time, we estimate that 86 percent of the 430,000 claimants who already qualify will see their rebates increase. This is incredibly meaningful change for a program that has a long history of delivering essential support to people in need.”

Grace David is a photojournalism-focused intern reporter based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

This article was republished with permission from The Center Square.

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