Senator Bob Mensch E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Survey Question
  • Inflation Accelerates in Philadelphia Metro Region
  • Pennsylvanians Encouraged to File Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Applications Online
  • Senate Passes Package to Strengthen Cybersecurity, Protect Victims of Data Breaches
  • Federal Government Launches Website to Provide Home COVID Tests
  • Transition to 5G Service Will Cause 3G Cell Phones to Stop Operating in 2022
  • Tax Form Arriving Soon for Pennsylvanians Who Claimed Unemployment Benefits in 2021
  • Applications Being Accepted for PennDOT Summer Employment Program

Survey Question

As we begin this year’s legislative session, please take the time to answer the following question on Voter Identification.

Inflation Accelerates in Philadelphia Metro Region

Pennsylvania in general, and our region in particular, continue to suffer due to the economic policies of the Wolf Administration. In the biggest jump in 31 years, inflation in the Philadelphia metro region increased by 6.6% in December from the same time the year before, the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) reports.

The graph above shows Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) for All Items and two other CPI series for the metro region. The CPI Less Shelter series excludes three components related to housing, including rent of a primary residence (up 3.6%) and lodging away from home (up roughly 12%). The CPI Less Shelter series grew 7.7% in December and is the best measure of real-time consumer inflation.

The CPI Shelter series (33.0% of CPI) is a combination of those three components, and the annual growth was +4.3% in December. This series is known to lag trends in the broader economy due to the way data are collected and the fact that rental agreements are generally renewed only on an annual basis. This lag and the relative size of the Shelter component suggests that inflation will remain elevated in the near term.

Inflation will Continue

According to the IFO, since the spring, the rapid acceleration of consumer inflation has been notable. This is due to massive government spending.

Less than one year ago, the February 2021 annual growth rate for the Philadelphia All Items CPI-U was +1.0%. Since then, $21 billion of Economic Impact Payments were injected into the state economy by the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act and American Rescue Plan. A second round of PPP loans injected another $10 billion, expanded unemployment compensation $16.1 billion and advance child tax credits $3.4 billion. Analysts expect that demand-driven inflation will continue until these excess savings are reduced further or higher interest rates begin to restrain economic growth. 

In addition to this burden, Pennsylvanians are paying the highest gas prices of anywhere east of the Rocky Mountains. The Wolf Administration’s constant push for more spending, higher taxes, and even tolling interstate bridges ignores the reality of what everyday citizens are going through The next administration must bring wiser fiscal policies to the table.

Pennsylvanians Encouraged to File Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Applications Online

Eligible Pennsylvanians Can Visit mypath.pa.gov to File Rebate Applications for Property Taxes, Rent Paid in 2021 

Harrisburg, PA — Older and disabled Pennsylvanians can now apply for rebates on property taxes or rent paid in 2021, the Department of Revenue announced today. This assistance is available through the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, which has delivered more than $7.1 billion to eligible Pennsylvanians since the program’s inception in 1971.

Eligible applicants are encouraged to visit mypath.pa.gov to electronically submit their applications. The Department of Revenue launched this online option last year to make it easier for the nearly 500,000 Pennsylvanians who annually benefit from the program to submit their applications.

“Last year, we saw thousands of eligible residents take advantage of the easy-to-use myPATH filing option to submit their rebate applications,” Revenue Secretary Dan Hassell said. “Filing online saves you a trip to the mailbox and the costs of mailing in a paper application. If you know anyone who might be eligible, please encourage them to visit mypath.pa.gov to fill out an application. We want to do everything that we can to ensure that everyone who is eligible receives this vital assistance.”  

How to Apply         

After checking eligibility requirements, you can file your rebate application online by visiting mypath.pa.gov. Submitting your application through myPATH is easy and does not require you to sign up for an account.

Applicants will be asked to provide specific information on their income and rent/property taxes. Applicants should check the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program instruction booklet to learn which information they will need to input/upload to complete the process.

Using the electronic option available through mypath.pa.gov offers many benefits, including:

  • Fast processing and direct deposit options
  • The Where’s My Rebate? tool to track the status of a claim online
  • Error-reducing automatic calculators
  • Instant confirmation that your application has been filed
  • Security features to ensure your sensitive information is safe

Applicants must reapply for rebates every year because rebates are based on annual income and property taxes or rent paid in each year. Spouses, personal representatives or estates may file rebate claims on behalf of claimants who lived at least one day in 2021 and meet all other eligibility criteria.

Applicants who still wish to file a paper application form may obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information on the Department of Revenue’s website or by calling 1-888-222-9190.

It’s free to apply for a rebate, and applicants are reminded that free assistance is available at hundreds of locations across the state, including Department of Revenue district officeslocal Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers and state legislators’ offices.

Visit the Property/Tax Rent Rebate page on the Department of Revenue’s website for further information on the program and how to apply for a rebate.

Senate Passes Package to Strengthen Cybersecurity, Protect Victims of Data Breaches

Strengthening Cybersecurity

The Senate approved a package of bills this week to improve cybersecurity in Pennsylvania and require timely notifications to citizens of government data breaches. The bills were sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 482 consolidates administration and management of the Commonwealth’s information technology operations under a new Office of Information Technology.

The measure would replace the current, uncoordinated approach that led to cases of costly mismanagement, including delayed implementation of a statewide police radio system and bungled upgrades to Unemployment Compensation Call Centers. Other problems included data breaches experienced by the departments of Human Services, Corrections, and Education, which exposed the names and personal information of thousands of individuals, including citizens and state employees.

Senate Bill 726 ensures Commonwealth agencies have strong safeguards in place to discourage, combat and recover from ransomware attacks.

Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until money is paid. Senate Bill 726 would set state penalties for the possession, use, or threatened use of ransomware and prohibit state agencies from paying ransom. 

When data breaches do occur, Senate Bill 696 would require state and local governments to notify potential victims within seven days. The requirement applies to any state agency, county, school district, municipality or third-party vendor experiencing a breach.

Federal Government Launches Website to Provide Home COVID Tests

Home Covid test

The federal government has launched a website to order at-home rapid COVID-19 testing kits.

Each household is eligible to order four tests. According to the website, orders will usually ship in 7-12 days and there is no cost.

These are rapid antigen at-home tests, also referred to as self-tests or over the counter (OTC) tests. They produce results within 30 minutes and no lab drop-off is required.

To place an order, provide your name and residential address. You don’t have to provide ID, credit card or health insurance information. You can find answers to frequently asked questions here.

Transition to 5G Service Will Cause 3G Cell Phones to Stop Operating in 2022

3G Phones

Residents with older cell phones are being urged by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and Pennsylvania State Police to prepare for the phase-out of 3G cellular networks and service, which could come as early as next month.

If your mobile phone is more than a few years old, you may need to upgrade your device before your provider shuts down its 3G network and you lose service – including the ability to call 911. You should contact your cellular service provider to determine if your devices are compliant to ensure you don’t lose connectivity.

The nation’s three major wireless carriers (AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile) have announced plans to shut down their 3G networks to accommodate more advanced services, including 5G, as early as February. That will cause many older phones to be unable to make or receive calls and text messages or use data services. It could also affect other devices that rely on 3G connectivity, such as medical alert devices, tablets, smart watches, home security systems, and in-vehicle safety, security and roadside assistance systems.

Low-income individuals concerned their 911-only phones will no longer be supported can apply for service through the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program.

Tax Form Arriving Soon for Pennsylvanians Who Claimed Unemployment Benefits in 2021

2021 Unemployment Benefits

According to the Department of Labor and Industry, 1099 tax forms will be mailed no later than Jan. 31 to Pennsylvanians who claimed unemployment benefits in 2021 and need the form to file their federal income taxes.

Claimants of all unemployment programs offered during 2021 will receive a 1099 tax form detailing their benefit payments. This form will be available online soon and viewable in the same system where claimants file their weekly claims. All claimants also have the option to view 1099 tax forms from previous years, if applicable.

The receipt of a 1099 form by a person who didn’t file for unemployment may indicate a case of identity fraud. If someone who didn’t file for unemployment receives what looks to be a 1099 tax form in the mail, they should report this suspected fraud immediately so the department can correct their income with the IRS and prevent any issues with the victim’s taxes.

Applications Being Accepted for PennDOT Summer Employment Program

PennDOT Summer Jobs

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) offers a summer employment program for students who are registered as full-time college students for the Fall 2022 semester. 

The deadline for receiving summer applications is Feb. 18, so I encourage anyone interested in the program to contact my office. 

In addition to contacting my office, those interested must also fill out an online application with the PennDOT College Student Summer Worker posting under the open summer jobs section of the website.

The hourly rate is $14.61. Applicants must be enrolled as a full-time college student for the Fall 2022 semester, have a valid PA driver’s license and be 18 years of age before beginning work.

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