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Help Wanted!

There are definite signs of our economy’s improvement - both literally and figuratively - if the number of help wanted signs in the area are any indication. This past week, the Pittsburgh Business Times published an article about the continued need for workers by the region’s employers. The newspaper asked the region’s 50 largest employers how many employees they are currently looking to hire - and the numbers were significant - over 4,200. Pittsburgh’s job growth continues to exceed the growth in other areas, and in the United States as a whole. It’s exactly that trend that we want to continue to build upon.

There are many things that the Pittsburgh region does well when it comes to job growth. We understand and grasp the importance of small business, know what resources and programs are crucial to job growth, and focus on those sectors that perform well. I firmly believe that we need to continue to support those efforts that work and that we should be making many of our decisions related to the current budget challenges, by looking at them through a job creation “lens.”

This past week, I announced my intent to fight to restore separate line items for the Small Business Development Centers, Local Development Districts, Industrial Resource Centers and Industrial Development Corporations within the state budget, rather than seeing the programs collapsed into the proposed Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance, or PREP. While I can appreciate what the Department of Community & Economic Development is attempting to accomplish with the program, I have serious concerns about whether they can meet their goals in such a short time period.

More importantly, I believe that in order to insure that our businesses receive the services that they need from these programs and to continue to see the kind of job growth that has been seen these past few months, the line items should be preserved for the coming fiscal year. This action and additional time will allow the program to be developed and details to be worked out in a manner that best benefits our Commonwealth without rushing through the process. I can certainly respect how aggressive the Department is being to this idea, but I think that economic development and these programs are far too important to our Commonwealth to fast track everything.

While we certainly are happy to see the job growth in this region, the unemployment rate in the Commonwealth remains at 7.5% (the Pittsburgh region’s numbers are below 6.4%). April’s numbers (the most recent available) reflect that there are 477,000 residents still looking for work. Of that group, the number of long-term unemployed (unemployed for six months or more) has increased from 37% of all the unemployed to 45%. A total of 120,000 individuals have exhausted all available state and federal unemployment compensation benefits under current law.

The Senate acted last week to pass Senate Bill 1030 (SB 1030) that amends the Unemployment Compensation Law to update its provisions, require certain actions by individuals seeking benefits and allows for extended unemployment benefits through 2011. Career LinkThe bill’s language would allow for the federal funding of extended benefits through 2011. Under current law, unemployment compensation benefits are scheduled to end in July. The bill passed the Senate by a unanimous vote and now goes to the House for consideration.

SB 1030 will also require individuals collecting benefits to be active in a job search, including registration for employment services offered by PA CareerLink and the posting of a resume in the system’s database. The legislation also included components of the Senate Democrat’s PA Works Plan that authorizes a Shared Work plan. The plan would reduce unemployment by requiring that employees share the work remaining after reduction in their normal weekly hours of work - and the difference would be offset by unemployment compensation benefits.

IGA Market on Broadway Job Fair

IGAAnd speaking of jobs… I am pleased to announce the IGA Market on Broadway Job Fair which is being held on Thursday, June 9th, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the store site (1616 Broadway Avenue). This is just the next step in this exciting development that continues to move forward with support from Mayor Ravensthal and the URA.

Individuals interested in a job with the IGA Market on Broadway should bring a resume to the job fair for consideration and plan to complete an application while there. Review of resumes and applications will occur after the job fair ends, with management making decisions about interviews after that based on their needs.

The operator of the Market is continuing to make purchases for the store and improvements to the building as they move towards their target date. The IGA Market on Broadway will be a very energy-efficient building in its uses - including lighting, HVAC and refrigeration. They are making great strides and I am looking forward to sharing more of their plans with you as the work continues.

Free Assistance for Homebuyers

A home buying seminar is being offered next week to those who are interested in buying a home, but are having trouble due to poor credit. The free seminar is being held on Wednesday, June 8th from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Mount Washington Senior Center (122 Virginia Avenue). Specifically, participants will learn how to improve their credit scores, receive a free analysis of their credit report, and learn how to select the home that is right for them. Anyone can attend the seminar and refreshments will be provided. For additional information or to reserve a seat, contact Paul Ritter by phone at 412-242-2733, or by email at paulritter@creditinvestigationservice.com.

Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council Grant Program

Artists can get financial assistance for their next project by applying for a grant from PA Partners in the Arts. Applicants can receive up to $3,000 for a community art project. The grant program is being offered by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and is administered locally by the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council. For program guidelines and examples of previously-funded projects, visit the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council website. The deadline to apply is June 17th.

Individual artists, associations, and nonprofit organizations are encouraged to apply. Projects can be from any genre including visual art, dance, theatre, and music, and must be open to the general public. If you have additional questions, wish to discuss your idea, or need help writing an application, you may contact Alicia White, Grants Coordinator by phone at 412-391-2060 ext. 224 or by email at grants@pittsburghartscouncil.org.

SBDC Outreach Day is June 7th in Kennedy Office

I am pleased to announce this month’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Outreach Day is being held Tuesday, June 7th in my Kennedy Township Office (Kenmawr Plaza). I have hosted this monthly event in my office because I believe in the program that gives entrepreneurs reliable assistance, whether it involves starting a small business or improving an existing one. Client Services Liaison John Dobransky will be available between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Although not required, appointments are encouraged by calling John at 412-624-2290. The next SBDC Outreach Day is scheduled for Tuesday, July 5th.

Around the District

This past Monday, the Senate Appropriations Committee began moving many of its bills related to the 2011-12 budget, while waiting for House action on the actual budget. We expect the next few weeks to be busy with movement of the legislation, proposed amendments, and other action as we try to form a budget that protects our most vulnerable while providing needed services and programs to our residents and businesses. Also on Monday, representatives of the PA Association of Housing & Redevelopment Agencies were in my office to discuss their policy and legislative issues for the coming year.

On Tuesday morning, I was proud to attend the Senate Aging & Youth Committee meeting and present information on Senate Bill 549 (SB 549), my legislation that addresses suspected child abuse by school employees. Unlike anyone else, school employees are treated differently under the current Child Protective Services Law (Subchapter C.1) - reporting and investigation only occurs if the injury is a serious bodily injury, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation. My bill would lower the threshold for when suspected child abuse by a school employee must be reported and investigated by including “serious physical injury.”

This is the fourth legislative session that I have worked on this bill - and I have made numerous changes to the bill, even since last session, to try to address concerns and interests of the stakeholders in this process. I thank my colleagues for their support and interest. The bill was unanimously reported out of committee and received first consideration.

Also on Tuesday, the Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee held a hearing on the PREP Program. As I mentioned above and in last week’s press release on the subject, I was very disappointed by the answers provided by the Department and believe that there are now even more questions about how this program is expected to work.

Once back in the district, I had several meetings that included an update on a development project in the west corridor, information on our library initiatives, and legislative/platform updates. On Saturday, I also had the honor of participating in Beechview’s Annual Memorial Day Service which also honored John Weinhold, a resident of Beechview who had recently passed away. On Saturday, Monday, and every day, we remember and honor all Americans who lost their lives serving in a war. For us, they made the ultimate sacrifice.

Andy WarholFontana Fact

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) is known for a variety of art forms, but the pieces he created using the process of silk screening helped boost his status as one of the most influential pop artists of all-time. This technique allowed the Steel City native to create similar patterns multiple times, such as his Campbell Soup Can series in the early 1960’s. He also created several “mass-produced” images from photographs of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe. Warhol would use this distinctive style for the rest of his life.


Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

 
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