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Approximately $500 million in federal funding continues to idle in Harrisburg amid clashing party-line visions.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf renewed his call for legislators to approve the PA Opportunity Program. This proposal would send direct payments of $2,000 to Pennsylvania households with annual incomes of $80,000 or less.
“Now is the time to act, and the bill has already been introduced in the General Assembly,” Wolf said in a press statement. “To the Republican leaders in the General Assembly, I say let’s pass this bill now.”
According to Wolf's office, the $500 million proposed for the PA Opportunity Program is part of federal American Rescue Plan Act funding that will have to be returned to the U.S. government if not used by Dec. 31, 2024.
But the GOP majority in Harrisburg hasn't been receptive to Democrat-led efforts in Senate Bill 1204 and House Bill 2531 to release direct payments. Jason Gottesman -- House Republican Caucus spokesperson and press secretary to House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin) -- said Wolf's plan would only contribute to rising inflation for basic goods and utilities.
"Gov. Wolf in his proposal is trying to give Pennsylvanians the same pill that makes them ill," he said.
"We could face a budget deficit as soon as the next fiscal year. (It's time to) plan for the coming economic uncertainty without increasing taxes or decreasing services."
According to Gottesman, the General Assembly has already spent approximately $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said Republicans are leery of using the rest, citing a potential recession in the U.S.
"We need to use the federal dollars and any surplus we have to plan for the future."
Gottesman noted that the December 2024 deadline is still 30 months away.
Note: This version of the article has been updated to correct the number of months between now and the deadline.
Bruce Siwy is a reporter with the USA Today Network's Pennsylvania state capital bureau. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on The Daily American: PA Opportunity Program stalls amid disagreement between Wolf, GOP