In this Update:
Local Counties Property Sales Increase During COVID-19 Pandemic
Business closures, job restructures, and health worries have caused more people to relocate to northeastern Pennsylvania, not merely out of choice, but often times out of necessity. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania has completed a report of an analysis of statewide residential property transfer data. From 2019 to 2020, there was a 7 percent increase in rural home sales, and a 6 percent decrease in urban home sales statewide. Data was collected to conduct more in-depth analyses of property transfers in Monroe, Pike, Wayne, Susquehanna, and Somerset counties.
The study reinforces what many local leaders have observed with population changes since the pandemic and a suspected undercount with respect to the census. Elected officials and community leaders in Susquehanna, Wayne and Pike counties have been voicing significant challenges in meeting the increased need for services for everything from water supply and waste disposal, to emergency medical services. In Pike County, Delaware Valley School District estimates 42 percent of its property taxes are paid by non-resident taxpayers. In addition, they have experienced their first increase in enrollment since 2006, and transfer taxes are once again at $1 million per year, after previously leveling off at $100,000 annually over the last decade. In Wayne County, nearly fifty percent of homes are owned by people residing elsewhere.
The report highlights that in general, those out-of-county purchasers who bought property in Pike, Susquehanna and Wayne counties came from a county that had a significantly higher COVID infection rate. If these buyers do take up residency, it is unlikely they were captured in the 2020 Census. The 2020 Census data are meant to reflect residency as of April 1, 2020. If the transfers reflect a change of permanent address after April 1, they will not be included in reapportion counts or in the distribution of state and federal funds that are based on Census data.
While this study cannot determine whether buyers from out of state will prove to be seasonal or permanent residents, either way, the newcomers can be expected to join longtime residents of our region in pushing hard for improvements to both physical and service infrastructure. Our region deserves greater access to healthcare coverage, emergency services, and well maintained roads.
It is also worth recognizing the increased supply chain demand that comes with an influx of residents. A prime example is that from January 2021 to October 2021, the Lake Region IGA in Hawley experienced a 20 percent increase in sales, versus that same period in 2020, when we know the demand for groceries was already at a record high.
Both increased federal and state support will be needed to improve our infrastructure. As we adjust to the trend of population increases within our community, it is paramount that we continue to come together and be a strong voice for rural Pennsylvania receiving our fair share of funding. The report has been shared with all members of the General Assembly, legislative members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Reapportionment Commission and commissioners of the case study counties. The full report, Welcome to Rural PA: COVID-19 and Residential Property Sales, is also available to members of the public online.
Children’s Service Center Groundbreaking
I was honored to take part in the Children’s Service Center groundbreaking ceremony for the 13,000 sq. ft. addition to the Wilkes-Barre Outpatient Clinic.
The Children’s Service Center has a long and vital history of serving our region. Mental health and wellness have become crucial considerations in the workplace, the school, and the home. Unfortunately, in our complicated world, the pressures and stresses on our youth seem to steadily increase. This substantial addition to the Center, will allow the teams of professionals to further the scope of assistance and treatment offered.
Parents and leaders so often speak about what can be done to make the future brighter, safer, and healthier for our children. Thank you to each person who has been involved in the collaborative effort that has turned this promising project into reality!
President Lincoln began his proclamation establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday by writing: “The year that is drawing towards its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies.”
It was October 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, but Lincoln pointed Americans toward developments for which the nation should be thankful.
Today, we can be thankful that, despite often heated divisions and the remnants of the pandemic, we live in peace and relative abundance in 2021. I hope you and your family have a happy Thanksgiving filled with love and gratitude.
Pennsylvania Hunters Provide Food for Neighbors
As families across the commonwealth give thanks, Pennsylvania deer hunters have a way to brighten the holidays for those in need.
Hunters Sharing the Harvest allows hunters to donate their extra venison to food pantries and community assistance centers across Pennsylvania via a statewide network of butchers. Over the last 30 years, the program has distributed nearly 2 million pounds of donated meat.
An average-sized deer will provide enough high-protein, low-fat meat for 200 meals. Hunters Sharing the Harvest is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity funded by public and private sources. Hunters can find the nearest participating meat processor here.
Approving Tax Reform Measure for Small Business Employers
The Senate approved legislation to advance small business tax reform that would help move Pennsylvania out of a pandemic economy and create jobs for Pennsylvanians.
Senate Bill 347 would eliminate a disadvantage faced by Pennsylvania small businesses when competing with those in other states. Under federal tax law, a “like-kind” exchange under the Internal Revenue Code allows for tax deferral when property is exchanged for similar property. This long-standing federal provision allows employers to invest in the job-creating assets businesses need to remain competitive. Every state but Pennsylvania provides for a similar deferral on the state level.
The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. It is part of a Small Business Tax Reform Package to help employers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and mandated shutdowns. Small businesses create 65% of the jobs in the commonwealth.
The Senate previously passed Senate Bill 349 to bring state tax law governing expense deductions in line with federal law, eliminating the unequal treatment of small businesses in Pennsylvania. The increase in limits makes it easier for employers to buy equipment and to invest, which promotes job growth.
Reducing the Hazards and Hassle of Thanksgiving Travel
Travel experts say all types of Thanksgiving travel are projected to rebound to near pre-pandemic levels this week.
One way to get the most current and relevant Pennsylvania traffic information without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel is the 511PA app. 511PA provides real-time, hands-free traffic advisories for every state roadway in Pennsylvania, and for major roadways in neighboring states of New Jersey and West Virginia.
Quick Tip: AAA says that if you’re hitting the road Wednesday, traffic will be lighter after 9 p.m. If heading out on Thanksgiving, it’s best to depart before 11 a.m.