State Creates System to Increase Accountability for Licensing Processes

By Kim Shindle | Nov. 6, 2023 | 4 min. read

Pennsylvania launched a new online system last week designed to bring increased accountability and transparency to the state’s licensing, permitting and certification processes, which includes real estate licenses issued through the State Real Estate Commission. is the result of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s efforts to evaluate the state’s processing times for all permits, licenses and certifications.

Shapiro signed an executive order in his first month in office directing all state agencies to standardize timeframes for how they issue permits, licenses and certifications and directed his administration to create this money-back guarantee tool to request refunds when the commonwealth does not meet those timeframes. Those who have applied for a license through PALS can enter their name in to see the standard processing time for each application, and they can request a refund if their application is not processed within that timeframe.

Within 90 days after Shapiro issued the executive order, every commonwealth agency under the governor’s jurisdiction cataloged all 2,400 total permits, licenses and certifications issued for the first time ever. The Office of Transformation and Opportunity and the Office of General Counsel reviewed, analyzed and established efficient application processing times for all permits, licenses and certifications based on agency recommendations. The administration has set standard processing timelines for permits, licenses, and certifications – so Pennsylvania workers and businesses can plan ahead and know with certainty how long it will take to process their application, or they’ll get their money back.

In coordination with the OTO, the CODE PA team designed and created PAyback to modernize the commonwealth’s application platforms and services to better serve Pennsylvanians and to publish the recommended application processing times.

Approximately 70% of commonwealth-issued permits, licenses and certifications are eligible for a refund through PAyback. Certain permits, licenses and certifications that don’t charge application fees or are set by legislation will not be eligible for a refund. PAyback will only apply for completed applications starting November 1, 2023. Pennsylvanians cannot retroactively apply for a refund using PAyback.

Pennsylvania workers and businesses will now be able to use the PAyback application to select the specific permit, license or certification to determine if their application is eligible for a refund. Once a resident or business completes their refund application on PAyback, the application will go directly to the commonwealth agency issuing the permit, license or certification. If an application is approved, Pennsylvanians will be notified within three business days and receive their refund via check within 45 days.

“When I took office in January, I made a promise to the good people of Pennsylvania that my administration would work at the speed of business and respond in a timely manner. With the launch of PAyback, we are delivering on that promise, increasing transparency and accountability in the application process and giving Pennsylvanians the certainty they need to be successful,” Shapiro said. “My administration has made significant progress already to improve our processing timelines – eliminating backlogs and reducing the time it takes to do business with the commonwealth. Now, thanks to the work of our teams at the Office of Transformation and Opportunity, the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Administration and CODE PA, Pennsylvanians will have certainty – they will know how long it will take for agencies to respond, and if an agency doesn’t live up to that promise, they will get their money back.”

In addition to supporting Pennsylvanians who want to start new businesses or renew their existing permits, licenses and certifications, PAyback will make it easier for companies who are looking to establish operations and expand in Pennsylvania.

To check your eligibility for a refund of permits, licenses, or certification application fees, visit

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