Governor Tom Wolf suggested “$ 1.7 billion plans to help Pennsylvania recover completely from the pandemic and pave the way for a successful future” in February. Part of his proposal included $ 500 million for the PA Opportunity Program, which would send households in Keystone State with an income of $ 80,000 or less a direct payment of up to $ 2,000.
Legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and the House by Democratic lawmakers, but the “Republican-led General Assembly has been slow to act” on his plan or provide one of their own to use federal stimulus funding from the U.S. Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) ). The state sits on $ 2 billion in federal ARPA funds to be spent by December 31, 2024, otherwise they will be sent back.
“Pennsylvanians need our support even more today”
Earlier this month, Governor Wolf was joined by Representative Patty Kim in Harrisburg to urge GOP state lawmakers to pass the PA Opportunity Program to help Pennsylvania residents, who are burdened by rising prices. “A lot has changed since then, from inflation to price rises to a war in Ukraine. The Pennsylvania people need our support even more today than they did in February,” Governor Wolf said.
The governor has proclaimed his plan as a way to help workers and families still affected by economic hardship caused by the pandemic. The direct payments would increase household income for many, who “still cover pandemic-related expenses, stabilize their budgets and rebuild their savings.”
The funds would provide much-needed relief to cover expensive childcare and household expenses. In addition, give Pennsylvania residents opportunities to complete education and training courses to “strengthen their skills and increase income – all of which lead to a better quality of life.”
Governor Wolf has previously said that residents “should not choose between paying for supplies or groceries, childcare or gas. We have the opportunity and the means to ensure that they do not struggle, to ensure their success.”
Governor Wolf wants to raise the minimum wage
“The price increases we are seeing right now are particularly painful because wages have not kept pace with rising living costs for many years,” Governor Wolf said. In addition to the direct payments of $ 2,000, he proposes an increase in the minimum wage to $ 12 per hour by July 1, 2022. It would also come with a roadmap to $ 15 per hour in 2028.
“This reality of unchanged wages and rising living costs has stretched the resources of working Pennsylvanians and their families to the extreme, and with the recent dramatic price increases beyond that,” Governor Wolf added. Pennsylvania is one of twenty states and the only one among all its neighbors that still has not raised its minimum wage above the federal $ 7.25 per hour.
The federal rate has not changed since 2009, meaning families are losing purchasing power, especially with the fierce post-pandemic inflation. The Keystone Research Center estimates that if it had kept pace with productivity growth since the late 1960s, the minimum wage would now be above $ 24 an hour today.
According to MIT Living Wage calculator, to support himself, a single adult in Pennsylvania must earn $ 16.93 an hour. Just to support their family, that amount jumps to $ 32.83 an hour for a single parent with a child.