|Senator Fontana spoke at a meeting of the Allegheny County Pharmacists Association on Thursday, Feb. 6 at Duquesne University. He spoke about legislation of interest to pharmacists and answered questions from those in attendance.
2020-2021 Fiscal Spending Proposal
Last week, Governor Wolf proposed a $36 billion budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 in Pennsylvania. This budget plan holds the line on taxes while stoking investment in education, job training and business expansion. I was particularly pleased that the governor voiced his support for several of my legislative initiatives.
For example, the governor is seeking more dollars for public school funding, early education programs and grant support for college students. I have authored a plan to require full-day kindergarten programs in the Commonwealth for the last several sessions and am pleased the governor made the plan part of his proposal.
As Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) board of directors, I applaud the governor for his proposed $29 million increase for college grant and loan funding. The 9.33 percent state funding hike would be the second largest in the past 20 years. Coupled with an additional $30 million in PHEAA reserve dollars, this extra $59 million would pump up the maximum grant award from $4,123 to $4,700.
I am also encouraged by the governor’s determination to stem the rising tide of gun violence. Along with calling for universal background checks, a ban on so-called ‘ghost guns’ (firearms without serial numbers) and safer gun storage, the governor said he supports my ‘red flag’ bill (Senate Bill 293) that would empower loved ones and police officers to petition a county judge to temporarily take guns away from those who are a danger to themselves or others.
The governor is also pledging $1 billion to help eradicate dangerous levels of lead, asbestos and other contaminants from our state’s aging infrastructure. I have worked for years with state and Allegheny County officials to step up efforts to replace deteriorating lead pipes and paint from local homes and schools. In fact, I wrote about my efforts and the governor’s proposals in last week’s edition of my News & Views which can be found by clicking here.
Finally, I commend the governor for his persistent call to raise the state’s minimum wage, which hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in over a decade. Even a small increase in the minimum wage would lift thousands of working people out of poverty, save taxpayers millions of dollars and stir greater economic activity. We need to get that done this year.
Now that the governor’s plan has been announced, it is now time for the legislature to closely examine his proposal and see where it can be improved. I am hopeful Democrats and Republicans will take a cooperative approach as we work to finalize the state’s 2020-21 spending plan.
For more detailed information on the budget proposal, including specific line item funding, please visit: https://www.pasenate.com/budget/.
All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, Feb. 17 in observance of Presidents’ Day. My offices will re-open as scheduled on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
County Assistance Offices Closure
All County Assistance Offices (CAO), processing centers, and customer service centers will be closed to the public this Friday, Feb. 14, in order to install a statewide system update. The offices will remain closed as scheduled on Monday, Feb. 17 in observance of Presidents’ Day and will reopen on Tuesday, Feb. 18. The closure also will affect the COMPASS benefits application system.
During the closure CAO workers will not be able to access case information, print new EBT cards, or process applications, renewals, or document uploads. The COMPASS website and the myCOMPASS PA mobile app will also be offline during the closure. Benefit recipients and applicants who need to provide important documents are encouraged to talk with their caseworker and to furnish documents prior to the Feb. 14 closure.
This closure will not affect EBT payments scheduled for Feb. 14 and activated EBT cards can still be used as usual at ATMs and in stores at point-of-sale machines if the client has a balance. Balance and transaction inquiries as well as EBT card replacements can be requested from DHS’s EBT contractor, Conduent, at 1-888-328-7366.
Managed Care Organizations (MCO) providing Medicaid coverage will be available to address claims and coverage issues with clients, and Medicaid Access cards can still be used at participating medical facilities to obtain care.
LIHEAP Crisis, which assists households who are without or are in danger of being without heat, will still be available to clients via phone. Clients should call the Crisis Hotline at 1-866-452-6152, which will be operating to serve individuals in crisis situations during the office closure from Feb. 14-17.
REAL ID Reminder
I want to remind anyone interested in getting a REAL ID how to go about it. In March 2019, PennDOT began issuing REAL IDs to customers for the first time.
If you received your first Pennsylvania driver's license, learner's permit or photo ID card AFTER September 2003, PennDOT may already have your required REAL ID documentation on file.
If you fall into this category and would like PennDOT to verify that your required REAL ID documentation is on file, please click here to begin the REAL ID Online Pre-Verification application process. Once PennDOT has reviewed your record, you will receive an email stating whether your documentation is on file with the department. If you did not provide an email address, once PennDOT has reviewed your record, you will receive a postcard stating whether your documentation is on file with the department. If your documentation is on file with PennDOT, you will be able to order your REAL ID online without visiting a driver's license center at www.dmv.pa.gov and your REAL ID will be sent through the mail.
Individuals who wish to obtain a REAL ID and received their first product BEFORE September 2003 must visit a PennDOT Driver License Center with the required documentation to pre-verify in person. Required documentation includes the following:
- Proof of Identity (original or certified copy of a birth certificate with a raised seal, issued by an authorized government agency, or a valid U.S. Passport)
- Social Security card
- Proof of all legal name changes (marriage certificate, court order or divorce decree)
- Two proofs of current, physical PA address (examples include a current PA license or ID and no more than a 90-day old bank statement or utility bill with the same name and address)
For additional information about REAL ID in Pennsylvania please visit www.penndot.gov/REALID or http://www.pasenate.com/RealID/.
Getting a REAL ID is optional for Pennsylvania residents but as a reminder, beginning October 1, 2020, Pennsylvanians will need a REAL ID-compliant driver's license, photo ID card, or another form of federally-acceptable identification (such as a valid passport or military ID) to board a domestic commercial flight or enter a federal building or military installation that requires ID.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is now accepting applications for the 2019 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail. Applications are available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30 and rebates will be distributed beginning July 1. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Education Department Seeks Sponsors for Summer Meals and Nutrition Programs
The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) is encouraging organizations across the state to help provide nutritious meals to children in low-income areas during the summer months through PDE’s Summer Food Service Program. To reach more children and narrow the hunger gap that summer may bring, more organizations and meal sites are needed throughout the state, especially in rural areas.
The Summer Food Service Program, which began in 1976, is a federally funded child nutrition program designed to reach youths who are age 18 or younger in economically disadvantaged areas. People over 18 who are mentally or physically handicapped and participate in public or non-profit private programs established for the disabled are also able to receive free meals at the program sites.
Participating organizations are reimbursed for meals served to children who live in areas in which at least 50 percent of the children qualify for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program. Nearly 61 million breakfast meals and 115 million lunch meals were served to free and reduced-price eligible children in Pennsylvania during the 2018- 2019 school year under the School Nutrition Program. However, only 14 out of every 100 students receiving free and reduced-price meals during the school year accessed nutritious summer meals.
Participating organizations must be year-round, not-for-profit entities, which include schools, local, municipal, or county governments, libraries, churches, fire and police stations, summer camps, and national youth sports programs. Organizations approved to sponsor the Summer Food Service Program are responsible for managing the feeding sites that provide the meals to children.
Most participating organizations may be reimbursed for up to two meals a day: lunch or dinner, and breakfast or a snack. Those serving primarily migrant children may be reimbursed for up to three meals a day. Camps may serve up to three meals a day, but they are reimbursed only for meals served to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Program.
For more information on becoming a participating organization or a meal site for the Summer Food Service Program, view the website at www.education.pa.gov/sfsp or call 1-800-331-0129. The deadline to apply is June 15, 2020.
Did You Know…
Did you know that nearly 300 organizations participated during the summer of 2019, providing nutritious meals to children at over 2,400 locations throughout Pennsylvania?
The Carnegie, Green Tree, and Scott Substance Addiction Ministry is hosting a Narcan Workshop next Wednesday, Feb. 19 from 7 – 8 p.m. The event will take place in the grade school cafeteria at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, located at 310 Mansfield Avenue.
The workshop will provide attendees with hands-on training performed by local EMS on how to distribute Narcan to someone in need. Attendees will also learn how to obtain and use Narcan, how to spot an overdose and what to do before the ambulance arrives and will hear experiences from local EMS about how Narcan has played a role in their job.
For more information on the workshop please visit www.cgscatholic.org or call 412-276-1011.
There were four presidents born in February including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, William Harrison and Ronald Reagan.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
524 Pine Hollow Road
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
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1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216