The Portland City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to approve a program that will provide tax relief to nearly 900 low-income seniors in Portland.

The Portland Senior Tax Equity Program, or P-STEP, will provide tax rebates to residents 62 and older who already qualify for the State of Maine Property Tax Fairness Program, which provides similar rebates at the state level, according to information released by the mayor’s office.

The program was proposed by Mayor Ethan Strimling and endorsed by the City Council’s Finance Committee.

Portland tried a similar program in 2003, but it was deemed unconstitutional by the courts because there was no state law allowing municipalities to create such a program. The Legislature has since passed enabling legislation.

To participate in the local program, seniors must already be eligible for the state program. That program is open to people with a maximum adjusted gross income of between $33,333 and $53,000, depending on the size of the household. Property taxes paid must be more than 6 percent of the household income, while rents must exceed 40 percent of household income.

P-STEP will provide tax rebates of up to $600 for residents between the ages of 62 and 65, while those over 65 could receive up to $900. Those maximum amounts match what is available under the state program.

The mayor’s office estimates the average benefit to qualified Portland seniors would be $197 per renter and $324 per household. The first tax rebates will be sent out no later than Sept. 30, 2019.

The program will cost about $250,000 a year. That estimate assumes that 90 percent of the 889 eligible seniors apply for and receive the benefit.

Similar tax relief programs exist in South Portland, Scarborough, Cumberland, Kennebunkport, Berwick, Harpswell, Kittery and York, according to the mayor’s office.

Cara DeRose can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

[email protected]