Forms for Pennsylvania’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program for the 2015 tax year are available at my district office – and my staff is ready to help you file yours for free ! The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians 65 or older, widows and widowers 50 or older, and people with disabilities 18 or older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Half of Social Security income is excluded and the maximum standard rebate is $650. Claimants must reapply for rebates every year because they are based on annual income and property taxes or rent paid each year. Spouses, personal representatives or estates may file rebate claims on behalf of deceased claimants who lived at least one day in 2015 and meet all other eligibility criteria. The oft-extended deadline to apply for a rebate on property taxes or rent paid in 2015 is June 30, 2016, and the rebates normally are distributed by the Deparment of Revenue beginning July 1. So, the sooner you file, the sooner you will receive your money. Read more
PACE, PACENET and PACE plus Medicare are Pennsylvania's prescription assistance programs for older adults, offering low-cost prescription medication to qualified residents, age 65 and older. As of this year, the legislature passed a law excluding Social Security Medicare Part B premiums from being counted towards income levels. Read more
Pennsylvania has a Children's Health Insurance Program that provides free and low-cost health insurance to children. CHIP is not welfare – it covers children of working parents whose employers don't offer coverage and who can't afford private insurance. If you can't afford health insurance for your children, chances are they are eligible for CHIP. Read more
Each year, the Pennsylvania Treasury receives millions of dollars of unclaimed property. It is estimated that roughly one in 10 Pennsylvanians has unclaimed property. Read more
In Pennsylvania, you can choose the company that generates your electricity – also known as your electric supplier. This means that you have the power to switch to a competing supplier who can offer the lowest price, or provide a specific service you want, such as “green” or renewable energy. Read more
HARRISBURG, Dec. 9 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation designed to offer greater transparency regarding how money is spent by the General Assembly and who's donating to its candidates. The first bill (H.B. 1744) would require the state auditor general to audit the General Assembly and its legislative service agencies, rather than hiring a certified public accountant. "The auditor general is the chief watchdog of how state funds are spent," Freeman said. "His office audits the various agencies of state government on a regular basis. Having the auditor general do the legislative audits will make it a more public and transparent process and has the added benefit of saving money since the need for hiring an outside firm would no longer be required." Freeman's bill would require the auditor general to audit all financial accounts of the General Assembly annually, and to provide for special audits if necessary. Copies of the audits would be submitted to House and Senate leaders and be made available to the public. His second bill (H.B. 1745) would require candidates for the General Assembly to follow the same expense report requirements as candidates for statewide office. Currently, both General Assembly and statewide office candidates are required to file a report on the second Friday before an election, but only candidates for statewide office are required to report on or before the sixth Tuesday before Read more
HARRISBURG, Oct. 21 – At a Capitol news conference today, state Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, unveiled his legislative budget package designed to resolve the current stalemate regarding the 2015-16 state budget. "This proposal seeks to explain the nature of the current stalemate in Harrisburg and present a commonsense, compromise plan to pass a budget, increase funding for public education, address the state's structural deficit and deliver meaningful school property tax relief," Freeman said. "I've also addressed how to attain these goals and gain legislative approval on this compromise." Freeman's package includes enacting a stop-gap budget from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2015, and a final budget covering Jan. 1 to June 30, 2016. This compromise, he said, would give legislators and the governor time to properly negotiate a budget. His plan would use a modest increase in the state Personal Income Tax and a 1 percent increase in the Sales and Use Tax to generate revenue to address the structural deficit, pay for enhanced property tax relief, expand the poverty exemption and restore funding for public education cut by the Corbett administration. His proposal would temporarily increase the PIT rate from 3.07 percent to 3.5 percent from Oct. 1, 2015 to March 31, and then drop it to 3.25 percent on April 1. Overall, this would generate an increase of $1.04 billion in new revenue for the current fiscal year and $720 million in new Read more
HARRISBURG, June 10 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced a bill that would let public housing authorities form their own police force. "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh housing authorities already have this ability under current law, but smaller cities in the state face the same problems with criminal activity that larger cities do," Freeman said. "All public housing authorities should have the ability to set up their own police force in order to better combat crime. "A public housing police force also would greatly enhance community policing efforts, making public housing projects safer for their residents and their families, especially children." Under Freeman's bill, the housing authority police officers would patrol public housing projects. They would be required to complete the same course of instruction and accreditation as is required for municipal police officers under state law. Funding for these police forces would come from public housing authority budgets. While every housing authority would have the option to form a police force under Freeman’s bill, they would not be required to do so. "Some authorities may choose to simply hire a detective rather than create a full-blown police force," Freeman said. "Either way, they could determine what would be the most appropriate approach to enhancing law enforcement efforts." Besides reducing crime and enhancing public safety, Freeman Read more
Education, minimum wage increase keys to reducing income inequality We have all heard the political rhetoric that has been used against unions, painting them as standing in the way of economic growth and as a drag on the freewheeling economics of recent years. However, history portrays a different picture. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes it was during the 1940s and 1950s when union membership was at its highest that America experienced its greatest period of economic growth and prosperity. It was a prosperity that was shared by the vast majority of Americans and created a healthy, robust middle class whose rising wages purchased the goods and services of American companies to ensure the continued success of those companies as well. Kristof’s column from Feb. 19, " The Cost of a Decline in Unions ," points out how the decline of union membership has mirrored the rise in inequality. He said most studies suggest that anywhere from one-fifth to as much as one-third of the increase in income inequality among workers today is the result of the decline of unions in the private sector. The greatest economic problem we face today is the ever-growing inequality in incomes. We live at a time where the wealthiest 1 percent amass great fortunes and continue to get wealthier, while the middle class continues to shrink as it falls behind in income growth, and more and more families slip into a state of poverty where the door to economic Read more
GUEST COLUMN by Rep. Robert Freeman: Education, minimum wage increase keys to reducing income inequality Read more
Rep. Robert Freeman reports that the Commonwealth Financing Authority has approved a $200,000 state grant for infrastructure improvements to the Easton Public Market, a multivendor, indoor food market scheduled to open this fall. Read more
Are you or do you know someone who served in the first Gulf War? Those who served on active duty between Aug. 2, 1990 and Aug. 31, 1991, may qualify for a bonus from the state. The deadline to apply is Aug. 31. The program pays $75 per month for qualifying, active-duty service members, up to a $525 maximum. For those whose death was related to illness or injury received in the line of duty in the operations, an additional $5,000 is available to the surviving family. Service members who were declared prisoners of war also may be eligible for an additional $5,000. I co-sponsored and voted for this law back in 2006 because I believed it was important to recognize those military men and women who sacrificed for us. Now the program is coming to a close and I want to make sure everyone who qualifies knows about this program and applies. To qualify, the service member must have: Served with the U.S. Armed Forces, a reserve component of the U.S. Armed Forces or the Pennsylvania National Guard. Served on active duty in the Persian Gulf Theater of Operations between Aug. 2, 1990 and Aug. 31, 1991, and received the Southwest Asia Service Medal. Been a legal resident of Pennsylvania at the time of active duty service. Been discharged from active duty under honorable conditions, if not currently on active duty. For detailed instructions on how to apply, please visit www.persiangulfbonus.state.pa.us . Pennsylvania’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Read more
HARRISBURG, April 23 – State Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, voted Wednesday to extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program through Dec. 31, 2017. "CHIP is a valuable program for many low-income families," Freeman said. "This bill ensures that all children eligible for CHIP continue to have access to the coverage they need, when they need it." Currently, 148,137 children are enrolled in CHIP statewide. In Northampton County, 3,395 are enrolled. CHIP provides free and low-cost health insurance to children from birth through 18 in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to buy private insurance. It covers immunizations, check-ups, diagnostic testing, prescriptions, dental, vision and hearing services, emergency care, mental health benefits, hospitalization and substance abuse rehabilitation, among other services. The cost of the insurance depends on a family's income. Freeman said that when it was created, CHIP was a one-of-a-kind program, the first in the nation, and the federal government used Pennsylvania's program as the model for its State Children's Health Insurance Program. He voted for the original legislation that created the state program in 1992. Freeman voted to expand CHIP and cover additional families in 2006, and since then the legislature has periodically voted to reauthorize CHIP every few years. Freeman also supported ending the requirement that children go without Read more
Rep. Robert Freeman reads to children at Northampton Community College's Reibman Hall Children's Center as part of Week of the Young Child. He read "Number One Sam" by Greg Pizzoli.
The Week of the Young Child is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. Read more
HARRISBURG, April 2 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, announced the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has awarded over $14,000 in funds to two historical institutes within his legislative district. The National Canal Museum will receive $5,784 and the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society will receive $8,373. "Supporting the wealth of historic and cultural information in the commonwealth helps encourage Pennsylvanians to educate themselves and grow as citizens," Freeman said. "I’m especially pleased for the National Canal Museum in Easton and the Northampton County Historical and Genealogical Society, for both of which provide an abundance of historical knowledge to Northampton County." In all, the PHMC provided more than $1.9 million in grants to 120 eligible museums and official county historical societies in Pennsylvania that met necessary guidelines. To qualify, interested establishments must have been either Pennsylvania museums with at least one full-time professional staff person and have an annual operating budget of over $100,000 (excluding capital and in-kind services) or the official historical society for the county. Award amounts were determined using an equation based on a percentage of the eligible museum’s previous year’s operating budget. Any museum could have received a maximum amount of $65,000. The maximum for historical societies was $4,000. This PHMC-funded grant Read more
I am pleased to announce that the deadline for Pennsylvania's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, also known as LIHEAP, has been extended to May 1. This year's previous deadline was April 3. LIHEAP helps income-eligible households pay for heat during the winter months and is administered by the state Department of Human Services. A family of four with an annual income of up to $35,775 can qualify for this assistance. Extending the deadline of this program will allow us to ensure that Pennsylvania families can more easily heat their homes, bringing much relief to the many families who continue to struggle to make ends meet. Please call my district office to learn more about the LIHEAP program. You may apply at the Northampton County Assistance Office at 610-250-1785 or online. Read more
HARRISBURG, March 11 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, applauded Gov. Wolf's efforts to sustain the Main and Elm street programs within the state Department of Community and Economic Development in his proposed 2015-16 budget. The governor has proposed to restore $15 million to the Keystone Communities program, which includes the Main and Elm street programs. Former Gov. Corbett had cut $21 million from the Keystone programs. "It is encouraging to see how the administration values these programs," Freeman said. "In the last four years, the Keystone programs suffered devastating budget cuts, leaving insufficient funding to help rebuild communities. "DCED Acting Secretary Dennis Davin today touted these programs during his participation in the House Appropriations Committee budget hearings and said it was important for Pennsylvania to rebuild these programs to allow businesses and communities to work together to help communities thrive. "As Secretary Davin noted, these targeted investments can spur economic development and job creation," he said. Freeman has been a supporter of the Main Street program, a program that provides grants to help revitalize downtown commercial districts, and is the author of the corresponding Elm Street program, which focuses on revitalizing older, neighboring residential areas adjacent to downtowns. He also is Democratic chairman of the House Local Government Committee. "It's Read more
HARRISBURG, March 4 – State Rep. Robert Freeman, D-Northampton, has introduced legislation to create a tutoring program where 11th- and 12th-graders could tutor elementary school-aged children for academic credit. "This proposal could be a valuable resource for every one of Pennsylvania's school districts, not only because it is designed to boost student achievement at little-to-no cost to taxpayers, but also because it would get students to succeed by helping each other," Freeman said. "The one-on-one tutoring can help both sets of students. High school students serve as positive role models for the younger students who receive help with their studies. While the older students receive academic credit for helping the young students to achieve, they also hone their own understanding of academic subjects by taking on the responsibilities of being a tutor." Freeman's plan also includes a provision that would encourage 11th- and 12th-grade students who are not meeting their academic potential to participate as tutors. He said that students who become tutors improve their own academic performance because they begin to take their own studies more seriously in order to help the young students they are tutoring. "Helping someone by sharing your expertise, can, in turn, bring out the best in yourself. That's a wonderful gift to share with others," Freeman said. The bill (H.B. 723) is expected to be referred to the House Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton has introduced two bills to help small towns. The first bill (H.B. 659) would let communities extend their participation in the Main Street Program for up to five years. The second bill (H.B. 660) would make more small cities eligible for the state's City Revitalization and Improvement Zone program. "Our small towns and cities face many of the same challenges of larger, urban areas, but sometimes they get overlooked," Freeman said. "My legislation would help ensure their success by assisting them with downtown revitalization and stimulating economic development and job creation." The state's Main Street Program provides grants to help revitalize downtown districts and pay for a full-time Main Street manager who works with local officials and merchants to implement a downtown revitalization plan. Current involvement in the program is limited to five years. Freeman's bill would provide administrative support funding for up to an additional five years with approval by the Department of Community and Economic Development, which funds the program. "Unfortunately, we have seen in numerous cases that the current five-year time frame to turn around a traditional downtown is too short. A community just begins to see the progress brought on by Main Street initiatives only to see the plug pulled prematurely, often causing the downtown's success to suffer," Freeman Read more
HARRISBURG, Jan. 7 – State Rep. Bob Freeman, D-Northampton, began his 15th term representing the 136th Legislative District in the state House of Representatives Tuesday after taking the oath of office. The swearing-in ceremony at the state Capitol marked the beginning of the 199th session of the General Assembly. The oath of office was administered by Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Judith Ference Olson. "I'm pleased to once again be able to serve the needs and interests of the people of my district," Freeman said. Freeman is the longest-serving member in the current Lehigh Valley delegation. He served as a state representative from 1982 to 1994, and was re-elected again in 1998 and has served since. He was reappointed Democratic chairman of the House Local Government Committee Monday. "This is a committee that is important to my district as it deals with land use planning, development and urban revitalization efforts, all issues impacting the Lehigh Valley," Freeman said. "Government at the local level is closest to the people. The committee can be instrumental in assisting local governments to fulfill their responsibilities to the community." Freeman's district includes the city of Easton, parts of the townships of Lower Saucon, Palmer and all of Williams, and the boroughs of Freemansburg, Glendon, Hellertown, West Easton and Wilson. Read more
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