Lead Service Line Replacement Proposal
Last week the governor proposed a series of initiatives that would spend $1.1 billion to reduce our risk of exposure to lead and asbestos. One part of this proposal allows PENNVEST to provide grants totaling up to $90 million to address lead in drinking water by replacing lead service lines statewide. While progress has been made, the issue of lead exposure remains prevalent and I am pleased to see the governor take steps to address it.
In 2017, I wrote legislation that passed the Senate unanimously that amended the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority Act to give municipalities or municipal authorities the ability to choose to include private lateral rehabilitation or replacement in PENNVEST funding applications when determined by the municipality that it is the most cost effective approach to reduce wet weather sewer overflows. The bill also allowed municipalities or municipal authorities to include projects for the improvement, extension, repair or rehabilitation of private water service lines connected to public water systems, where the governmental unit determines that those activities will benefit the public water system in PENNVEST applications.
Another bill I authored became law in 2017. That piece of legislation, worked into the budget that year, gave local governments the ability to tap government funding sources to help citizens fund sewer and waterline repairs, especially when public health or safety are at risk. It didn’t force any municipality to participate, rather it enabled them to do so if they wished.
Just last week, the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA) was approved by PENNVEST for $65 million in low interest loans for the first phase of a comprehensive infrastructure replacement program. The award will support the first phase of a small diameter main replacement plan for the PWSA service area, which will total more than $326 million upon completion. Initial improvements financed by this award include the replacement of just under 80,000 linear feet of aging water distribution mains, along with the publicly owned portions of more than 2,000 water service lines, including approximately 850 lead public service lines. Where the private portion of the service line is also lead, it will be replaced as well.
The cost of replacing aging infrastructure that leaves us vulnerable to lead exposure is significant. But, the cost of doing nothing is even greater. I am pleased that we are in the process of making these crucial investments and I will continue supporting efforts that provide the necessary resources to allow public and private lines to become lead free.
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 will soon be 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.
Did You Know…
Did you know that more than $255 million in property tax and rent rebates were sent to almost 532,000 homeowners and renters across the state for property taxes and rent paid in 2017?
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) began accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) on Nov 1. The program helps low income families pay their heating bills. You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website (www.compass.state.pa.us). You can also pick up an application in my district offices or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website. Completed paper applications should be returned to the Allegheny County Assistance Office, located at 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines. The income limits for this season are as follows:
After your application is received you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive. Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel provider and will be credited to your heating account. Crisis grants may also be available if you have an emergency situation and are in jeopardy of losing your heat. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
In light of the recent outbreak of coronavirus in China, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has put together information on the virus for anyone who has a fear that they’ve been exposed. People most at-risk to contracting a coronavirus are those who have traveled to places where the virus is occurring. In the case of the novel coronavirus, that location is the Wuhan area of China.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common throughout the world. They can make people and animals, such as camels, cats and bats, sick. These viruses, at times, can evolve and infect people, then spread through human to human contact. Human coronaviruses spread just like the flu or a cold—through the air by coughing or sneezing; through close personal contact, like touching or shaking hands; by touching an object or surface with the viruses on it; and occasionally, through fecal contamination. This has occurred previously with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreaks.
The Department of Health frequently exercises and prepares for a potential infectious disease outbreak. They have been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in China using information from federal and local partners and are preparing their response teams in case of an outbreak here. They have talked with clinicians about the potential spread of the coronavirus into the United States and specifically, Pennsylvania, and on how to ship lab specimens of potential coronavirus cases.
The department has put together a resource page that provides more information about the virus, symptoms, and how to protect yourself. Please click here or visit https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Pages/Coronavirus.aspx.
Black History Month
February is Black History Month in Pennsylvania and throughout the country. This designation recognizes the many individuals who have contributed greatly to the quality of life not only for the residents of our state but also our nation. These prominent African American residents include scientists, inventors, farmers, educators, homemakers, explorers, judges and countless other professions that have impacted our lives.
Pittsburgh has always played a significant role in black history dating back to the anti-slavery movement. The significant accomplishments that have been made by African Americans just in our region alone are boundless. We are blessed to have terrific resources locally that help tell the story of African American life through the years, the struggles, the achievements, and most importantly the people.
I am very proud of the significant accomplishments and invaluable contributions to society that have been made by my African American neighbors and friends. I encourage everyone to commemorate the struggles and victories of African Americans in both our state’s history and our nation’s by visiting the various activities and events that will be conducted throughout this important month.
Student Art Competition to Raise Awareness of Ticks, Lyme Disease
As the number of Lyme disease cases in the state and across the nation continues to rise, officials from the departments of Health and Education recently announced a new initiative to help educate students on the prevalence of ticks and the types of diseases they carry.
There were approximately 10,000 cases of Lyme disease reported in Pennsylvania in 2018. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. However, if the infection is left untreated, it can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
Ticks are usually found in shrubs, weeds, leaf litter, and tall grasses, but can be found anywhere there is grass, so it is important to take the proper steps to decrease your chances of getting bitten. When outside, cover exposed skin, wear light colors to help see if ticks are on you, and use insect repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET. After being outside, check yourself, your kids and your pets thoroughly for ticks and remove any that are attached. Then, take a shower to help remove any ticks that you may have missed. You can also throw your clothes in the dryer using high heat to help kill any ticks that might still be left.
To help increase education surrounding ticks and Lyme disease, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has partnered with the Department of Education to create an art contest that seeks to educate children and their peers about where ticks are found and how to prevent encountering ticks in their habitat.
The art contest is open to children in first grade through sixth. Entries must be received by March 6, 2020 by 5 p.m. Finalists will be notified by mail and will be invited to an award ceremony in Harrisburg. Contest materials can be found on the Department of Health’s website.
For more information on Lyme disease, visit the Department of Health's website at www.health.pa.gov.
It was on this day in 1789 that the first electoral college selected George Washington as President and John Adams as Vice-President.
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