Various programs can help seniors stay warm during winter
District 20 News: State Rep. Kinkead
With winter nearly upon us, I want to remind friends and neighbors in our corner of Allegheny County about available state programs my office can help connect you with. Whether it’s paying an overdue heating bill or getting money back on your property taxes, there are many resources available from the state to assist you throughout these colder months, especially for our seniors and families living on low incomes.
It’s hard to imagine living without heat during a western Pennsylvania winter. If your furnace has ever died or if you’ve lost power in January, you know what a challenge those few days or even a few hours can be like. For those struggling to make ends meet, this is a very real concern. Thankfully, there is a long-running, successful program to help with this issue. The state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, helps folks who are experiencing a heating crisis or are falling behind on those steep winter energy bills.
The federally funded program offers cash grants to help with home heating bills and crisis grants to help with emergency situations, such as a broken furnace or an unexpected fuel shortage. You can visit the state Department of Human Services’ website or contact my office to see if you qualify for LIHEAP.
While many aspects of our lives move slower in the winter, very few of them stop completely! If you know anyone over the age of 65, let them know they can access free public transit throughout all of Pennsylvania with a Senior Citizen ConnectCard from Pittsburgh Regional Transit. My office helps seniors 65 or older receive ConnectCards. All they need to do is bring a form of identification indicating their birthday to my district office at 658 Lincoln Ave. in Bellevue and we can process their application. ConnectCards expire every four years, so if you already have one, you may need to reapply.
Another well-received state program that seniors may qualify for is the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, which offers income-eligible Pennsylvanians over 65 and people with disabilities to apply for money back on their property taxes or rent paid the previous year. There is still time to apply for a rebate on property taxes and rent paid in 2022. I want to help as many eligible residents and their relatives as possible get their applications submitted by the deadline of Dec. 31. Contact my office today to see if you’re eligible.
If you haven’t qualified for PTRR in previous years, you may be eligible next year, as eligibility and rebate amounts for the program are expanding in 2024. Next year, nearly 175,000 more Pennsylvanians will be able to qualify for the program. About 16,500 of those individuals live here in Allegheny County. Additionally, a majority of the 430,000 claimants who already qualify will see larger refunds.
I was proud to vote for expanding this critical program, which Gov. Josh Shapiro signed into law over the summer. Starting in January, the maximum standard rebate will increase from $650 to $1,000. The income limits for renters and homeowners will also be made equal and both increase to $45,000 — the first increase to income limits since 2006.
Working to help pass this legislation was a priority for me. The program had not been updated in more than 17 years, while seniors and residents with disabilities have continued to struggle with increasing housing costs. The PTRR expansion is an important way we can make life more affordable for them. Moving forward, the income limits will also be tied to the cost of living, which means people who receive a rebate now will not lose their eligibility due to Social Security COLAs.
These changes will increase access to the program for more of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable residents and provide relief that will allow them to stay in their homes.
The programs above are just a few of the many services my staff and I can help you and your loved ones access. You can contact my office for assistance with any state-related matter. Just email Rep-Kinkead@pahouse.net or call my district office at (412) 321-5523. Please don’t hesitate to reach out — my team and I are eager to help you in any way we can.