Last July, Pennsylvania passed a law that created the Keystone Works program. Under this initiative, unemployed individuals can receive free job training with an employer while continuing to receive unemployment compensation benefits. Although this program is only in its beginning stages, Keystone Works is already proving to be a very successful program that not only benefits unemployed workers, but also businesses and the state.
Keystone Works trainings are for open positions in high priority occupations (HPOs), as determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, which are in demand by employers, usually require higher level skills and are likely to provide family-sustaining wages. These HPO companies may train an employee risk-free for up to 24 hours a week for eight weeks while the resident still receives unemployment benefits. At the conclusion of the training, if a company decides to hire the individual, the business is eligible for a monetary incentive of $375 every four weeks the individual remains employed full-time for a maximum total of $1,500. If a company decides not to hire a worker after the eight-week training course, that person still walks away with nearly 200 hours of training for a new type of job opportunity.
This initiative is a win for citizens and businesses alike. Unemployed individuals not only get training in a new employment field, but also possible job opportunities; and the Keystone Works business gets a trial run on what kind of employee perspective they have as well as a monetary incentive to hire the individual.
It is estimated that 2,000 residents will be trained this year under the Keystone Works program. The state has set aside $2.4 million in anticipation of businesses hiring unemployed workers, which is the same amount Pennsylvania expects to save by having fewer people collecting unemployment benefits.
I supported the measure because we need to support programs to get people back into the workforce. Keystone Works connects people to the industries where there is a clear need for qualified workers as well as provides businesses an advantage of having extra hands to help out during a workforce shortage.
For more information on which businesses in our area have training opportunities available or if you are a company that would like to participate in the Keystone Works program, please visit Keystone Works page on the Department's website.
Fontana Re-Elected Vice Chair of PHEAA Board
Last week I was unanimously re-elected to serve as the Vice Chairman of the board of directors for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). I was first appointed to the PHEAA board of directors in 2008 and began serving as the Vice Chairman in 2011. I am grateful for the support and eager to continue my efforts, working with board members and PHEAA staff to make college education more affordable and accessible. In these challenging economic times, it is more important than ever to provide a viable grant and loan program for our aspiring students.
Throughout my tenure in the Senate, I have fought to strengthen state budget support for PHEAA to increase the access for students wishing to pursue a post-secondary education. In 2011, I stood with my Senate colleagues and fought to restore over $400 million of proposed cuts to higher education from the Governor’s budget proposal. That same year, I, along with other PHEAA board members authorized a $50 million public service contribution by PHEAA to the Commonwealth to supplement the state grant program. After another round of cuts to higher education in last year’s state budget, including a $36 million cut in state support for school grants, we were able to shift $75 million in PHEAA earnings to bolster the state grant program.
PHEAA has an important role to play in providing opportunities to students to further their education and has evolved into one of the nation’s leading student aid organizations since being created in 1963 by the General Assembly. I am looking forward to continuing my role as PHEAA’s Vice Chairman and building on our past successes to continue turning the dream of attending college into a reality for students all across Pennsylvania
Budget Hearings Ongoing
Since Governor Corbett introduced his state budget for the 2013-14 Fiscal Year on February 5th, I have been gathering information from the various departments and attending budget hearings. Budget hearings for state agencies are underway and will continue through the end of next week on the Governor's proposed spending plan for the 2013-14 Fiscal Year.
After witnessing testimony from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) members, it is apparent to me that the current state store system is not antiquated and the proposal to privatize is a solution in search of a problem. Based upon testimony, it is believed privatization will not lower prices, in fact there is strong indication that privatization may lead to increased prices. Consumer convenience will be hindered as locations in outlying communities will disappear with no guarantee those communities will be provided access. Store hours may increase as a result of privatization, but current stores can expand their hours of operation if the Legislature would act. Selection will decrease with privatization so that only the most popular brands are available to consumers. A knowledgeable, well-trained work force may disappear and profits to the state will decrease.
With modernization efforts that have passed in the Senate and stalled in the House, the only explanation for the proposal to privatize is so this administration can give away a profitable asset to big business supporters.
Table Games Revenue Increases
Last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that gross revenue from table games at the state’s casinos increased 12 percent in January, compared with January 2012. Gross revenue from table games last month eclipsed $59 million and generated more than $8.5 million in tax revenue. In January 2012, gross revenue from table games came in just under $53 million.
Overall gross revenue for both table games and slot machines increased just under 2 percent in January, compared with January 2012. Locally, the Rivers Casino saw an increase of nearly 15 percent in gross revenue from table games this January compared with January 2012.
There are 11 casinos operating across the Commonwealth, offering both table games and slot machines, and employing over 16,000 people. These casinos, collectively, generate an average of $4 million per day in tax revenue, which is used for property tax reduction, funding the Commonwealth’s horse racing industry, fire companies, a statewide water and sewer project grant program, and the state’s General Fund, as well establishing a new stream of tax revenue to local governments that host casinos for community projects. You can read more about gaming in Pennsylvania by visiting the PA Gaming Control Board website.
PA 2-1-1 Southwest Launches Website
In July 2011, the United Way began operating a telephone hotline, 2-1-1 that provides human services support to those in need of assistance. Residents in Allegheny County can dial 2-1-1 and be connected with the appropriate human services resources within their communities. Whether you have a utility emergency, are in need of food or clothing, or need housing assistance, 2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help.
Just recently, PA 2-1-1 Southwest launched a new website that allows residents to search the PA 2-1-1 Southwest database which contains more than 5,000 human services programs. Simply visit www.pa211sw.org to begin a search. Visitors can search by entering a keyword such as food, housing, or utilities or conduct a search by entering a specific agency name or location.
In addition to Allegheny County, PA 2-1-1 Southwest also serves residents in Armstrong, Butler, Fayette, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland counties. If at any time, you are in need of assistance, or you have friends or relatives who are in need, consider calling the 2-1-1 human services hotline or visit www.pa211sw.org.
Did You Know…
Did you know that PA 2-1-1 Southwest fielded 31,694 calls in 2012 and in Allegheny County, call volume increased 27 percent in 2012 compared to the previous year?
In light of the recent National Donor Day, which took place on February 14th, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has begun a new initiative at Driver’s License Centers across the Commonwealth, educating Pennsylvanians on organ and tissue donation. Video monitors are being installed at Centers, including the Bridgeville, downtown Pittsburgh and Penn Hills Centers that features a video highlighting the facts and benefits of organ and tissue donation. This video was produced by Donate Life-Pennsylvania which is a joint partnership between PennDOT and the Pennsylvania Department of Health that builds awareness about the importance of organ and tissue donation, and seeks to increase the number of people who sign up to become donors on their driver's license, learner’s permit or state identification card.
This video attempts to address misconceptions about organ and tissue donation and reminds all Pennsylvanians that they can register to become a donor when renewing their license or ID card. There are currently 116,000 Americans awaiting life-saving organ transplants with 8,300 residing in Pennsylvania and the number of donors is not keeping pace with the growing list of individuals needing transplants. For more information on organ donation please visit www.donatelife-pa.org. You can become an organ donor by visiting the site or when renewing a driver’s license or ID card at any PennDOT Driver’s License Center.
Nominations Sought for Supportive Housing Award
The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) and the Departments of Aging and Public Welfare are accepting nominations for the state’s 2013 Supportive Housing Award. This award is given to individuals and organizations that create quality housing opportunities for older Pennsylvanians and have shown leadership and innovation in creating new housing models and strategies that help older Pennsylvanians maintain their independence by staying in their homes.
Any individual or organization, private or public including: builders; architects; planners; public housing authorities; municipal governments; financial institutions; and non-profits can apply for the Supportive Housing Award. Nomination forms are available on the Department of Aging’s website at www.aging.state.pa.us and nominations are due by March 29th. For more information about the award or the nominations, please email RAfirstname.lastname@example.org. The winner will be announced on May 3rd during the PHFA’s 2013 Commonwealth Housing Forum in Harrisburg.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate
I again want to remind constituents that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2012 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. If you received a rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail. If you have not received an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, the applications can be obtained from any of my district offices and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a maximum yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible for a rebate. The maximum standard rebate is $650 and the deadline to apply is June 30th.
High School Basketball Update
Several local high school basketball teams are still chasing a championship in their respective W.P.I.A.L. classifications.
The Chartiers Valley girls’ basketball team has advanced to the semifinals in Class AAAA after defeating Shaler and Upper St. Clair in early round contests. Chartiers Valley plays Mt. Lebanon tonight in a semifinal game. In Class AA, both Seton-LaSalle and Bishop Canevin have advanced to the girls’ semifinals. Seton-LaSalle defeated Washington and Greensburg Central Catholic to advance and Bishop Canevin reached the semifinals after defeating Neshannock and Mohawk. Seton-LaSalle faces Jeanette a semifinal game tonight and Bishop Canevin plays Burrell in the other semifinal this evening.
On the boys’ side, Chartiers Valley and Montour have advanced to the semifinals in Class AAA. Chartiers Valley defeated Knoch and South Fayette to reach the semifinals. The Colts play Beaver in one semifinal tonight. Montour reached the semifinals by defeating Ambridge and Thomas Jefferson. The Spartans face Mars in the other semifinal tonight.
Best of luck to all the teams still competing!
The Monongahela River is 128 miles in length and forms at the West Fork and Tygart Rivers in Fairmont, West Virginia. It flows through West Virginia into Pennsylvania before meeting the Allegheny River in Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River. At a time when steel production was at its peak in western Pennsylvania, 58 steel mills once operated along the “Mon.” Earlier this month, the Monongahela River was named Pennsylvania’s River of the Year for 2013 as voted online by Pennsylvanians participating in the River of the Year Program which is administered annually by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Organization for Watersheds and Rivers.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216