This State's Governor Is Pushing for $2,000 Stimulus Checks -- but He Faces Strong Opposition

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KEY POINTS

  • PA's Governor Tom Wolf is pushing for $2,000 direct stimulus checks using ARPA funds.
  • States have until the end of 2024 to use ARPA funds or they have to be returned to the federal government.
  • State Republicans think stimulus checks are a poor use of the funds and are holding up legislation.


State legislators are arguing over how to spend free money and residents may pay the price.

In the middle of alarming inflation and record-high gas prices, many folks are looking to lawmakers for help. But while some are trying hard to put more money in their constituents' pockets, others are opposed to more direct stimulus payments.

This battle is easily seen in Pennsylvania, where Governor Tom Wolf has been pushing for direct stimulus checks to be sent to Pennsylvania residents. His plan, which would make use of uncommitted federal funds from Biden's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), would send up to $2,000 to Pennsylvania citizens with household incomes of $80,000 or less.

If approved, the stimulus could help millions of families struggling to deal with the skyrocketing cost of living. But there's strong opposition to the move from Pennsylvania's Republican lawmakers. 

ARPA funds are use them or lose them by 2024

Pennsylvania currently has more than $2 billion in uncommitted ARPA funds. State's have until the end of 2024 to put those dollars to good use -- or they have to return them to the federal government. Wolf is staunchly opposed to the lost opportunity, an opinion he reiterated again this week in an address in West View, Pennsylvania. 

"I'm talking about $2 billion that's sitting in a checking account out in Harrisburg that if we don't use it by the end of 2024, we have to send it back to Washington," he argued, adding, "Do you want to do that? I don't."

The stimulus payments would use $500 million in ARPA funds as a part of Governor Wolf's PA Opportunity Program. This is part of Wolf's larger $1.7 billion plan to use remaining ARPA funds. In addition to stimulus payments, the plan includes $225 million for Small Business Support, $325 million for healthcare investment, and $204 million in property tax relief. 

The plan has Democratic support, but Republicans have other ideas

Many state Democrats have also spoken out in favor of stimulus checks. Rep. Emily Kinkead, who was with Wolf in West View, echoed his plea that legislators use the money to help Pennsylvania residents.

"Our state residents are experiencing historic price increases because of massive inflation and unchecked corporate greed," she said. "A $2,000 check has the power to transform the lives of so many Pennsylvanians and we need to spend the American Rescue Plan dollars soon or return it to the federal government. Why wouldn’t we spend that money as intended – helping the people who need it most?"

While Wolf's plan may seem worthwhile, many state Republicans disagree. Several members of the General Assembly have said they feel there are better ways to spend the ARPA funds than giving it to residents. State Senator Devlin Robinson, who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been a vocal objector to the idea of direct stimulus checks.

"If people are waiting for $2,000 to come into their bank account, I wouldn't have a plan to spend that money just yet," he said. "'s right that if we don't use the money, we lose it. But there's better ways to spend the money."

Some alternatives put forward by Republicans so far have included city works projects, such as bridge work on Pittsburgh's interstate. It's also been suggested the funds could be used toward future budget deficits.

Unfortunately for Wolf and his supporters, Pennsylvania has a Republican-majority General Assembly. Unless they get on board, the $1.7 billion spending plan -- including the $500 million for stimulus checks -- is unlikely to see the light of day.

Rep. Kinkead called out her Republican colleagues this week and urged them to act quickly. 

"Our Republican majority has refused to work with us on initiatives that would clearly benefit the people – like raising the minimum wage – but they could help Pennsylvanians who have taken a massive pay cut due to inflation by sending out ARPA funds directly to support working families. The time to act is now."

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