HARRISBURG – The House on Monday unanimously approved a bill sponsored by state Senator Lisa Baker (R-20) that will help a greater number of military families who have fallen on hard times. The Senate approved the bill in December 48-0. It now heads to the desk of Governor Tom Corbett to be signed into law.
Baker, who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said Senate Bill 923 will expand the eligibility guidelines for grants from the state’s Military Family Relief Assistance Program (MFRAP) to include more service members and their families in need.
“The current program guidelines were so narrowly drawn that too often those in need were walking away empty-handed,” Baker said. “The MFRAP has a healthy fund balance of more than $1 million thanks to the generosity of so many Pennsylvanians who recognized this program as a patriotic way to help this commonwealth’s bravest men and women when they find themselves in need.”
The program is funded through a voluntary check-off on the Pennsylvania Personal Income Tax refund. Grants are awarded in amounts up to $3,500 for service members and their families.
To provide additional flexibility, the bill will allow service members to receive aid for any pressing financial need beyond their control, not just those needs directly resulting from military service. It also extends the time limit during which service members can apply, from one year to three years after release from active duty for reservists and for former members of the armed forces, its reserve, or the National Guard. It extends the time limit from two years to four years if the member was injured in the line of duty and received a medical discharge.
“Too often, many of our active-duty military are coming home from combat to face new battles, many having to do with finances,” Baker said. “By expanding the eligibility requirements for the program, I’m hopeful more service members will be aided by these funds.”
From the time the grant program began in 2005 through fiscal year 2012 (the most recent information available), $340,760.37 has been awarded.
Andrew M. Seder email@example.com