The General Assembly ended 2023 with passage of code bills that enact the budget. After months of stalled negotiations, and almost halfway through the fiscal year, the final bill passed with significant bipartisan support and was signed immediately by Gov. Shapiro. “I think it’s important to note that we learned how to work together, and that is critically important,” Shapiro said.
Among the most significant programs funded by the Fiscal Code, HB1300, is an increase to the childcare and dependent tax credit – from 30 percent of the federal amount to 100 percent. This will result in thousands of dollars in savings for families that are spending up to $14,000 per year on childcare.
HB1300 also included $7.5 million in state funding for indigent legal defense, a cost currently borne by individual counties. Though this is not nearly total coverage of costs, it is a good first step to making sure all are able to have their constitutional right to legal representation honored and enacted justly.
Other programs funded in the final bill include money for school building upgrades, subsidies and added transparency measures for private schools, and expanding state Medicaid programs to include preventative dental care.
Unfortunately, in last-minute negotiations, two programs LAMPa has advocated for were dropped from the bill. The Whole-Home Repairs Act aids homeowners across the commonwealth in making necessary repairs that they cannot afford, both to houses they live in, and to ones they rent out to tenants. These repairs can range from relatively minor fixes such as weatherproofing to major renovations that could keep older homes inhabitable, reduce energy use and save on future health and utility costs. In its first year, the demand for this program outstripped availability, with counties creating long waiting lists for services. While $50 million for Whole-Home Repairs was originally included in the budget, it did not make the final cut. We hope that this important program will be fully funded in the coming year. You can write to your lawmakers to make sure they know Whole-Home Repairs should be a priority in 2024!
Similarly, the Medical Debt Relief Act was stripped from the bill’s final form. Despite being passed by the House both in its budget proposals and as a standalone bill, the Senate has yet to take action. This program would reduce red tape, increase transparency and awareness and create a streamlined process for accessing health coverage and free or discounted care. For Pennsylvanians already struggling with medical debt, the program would provide relief and reduce predatory practices by collection agencies. While it was removed from HB1300, the original bill can still be passed. Write to your senators and urge them to pass HB78 early in the new year.