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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Larger State Grants Available for Students

PHEAA pheaa In my role as Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) Board of Directors, I am proud of the work PHEAA does in creating access to higher education.  Last week, our Board took action and approved a revised formula for the distribution of state grants that will raise the maximum and average grant awards for students attending college during the 2013-14 academic year.  Additionally, PHEAA will again this year be investing $75 million of its business earnings to help fund the state grant program.

The maximum grant award will rise from $4,210 to $4,363 and the average grant award from $2,886 to $3,127.  Community college students are expected to see an $835 increase to the maximum grant award; students attending one of the 14 schools in the state system of higher education should see a $475 increase; the maximum award for students attending Pitt, Penn State, Temple or Lincoln should increase $276 and; students attending private colleges or universities should see the maximum state grant increase $153.

Students receiving increases in grant awards means less borrowing and ultimately less debt.  As PHEAA continues investing in the state grant program and assisting students in affording a post-secondary education, it is equally important that colleges and universities keep tuition costs down and ensure that tuition increases are kept to a minimum.  Tuition at public, four-year colleges and universities across the county has risen 100% over the last 25 years, an unsustainable trend that cannot continue.  We must all work together to ensure a post-secondary education is affordable for anyone who chooses to continue their education.

PHEAA assists students and families in understanding the process of applying for and securing financial aid.  You can visit www.pheaa.org to learn more about the services provided, the many financial aid opportunities available and which resources can assist in obtaining them.  You may also click here to view a presentation that was offered by PHEAA at a Financial Aid Education Day I hosted in January, where parents and students were invited to learn about the financial aid process.  I also have hard copies of the Pennsylvania Student Aid Guide  and other related materials in my district offices. 

Job Creation/Economic Development

jobsAs we approach upcoming negotiations for the 2013-14 Fiscal Year budget, the Legislature must be mindful that this budget will again task us with finding ways to do more with less and must make sure to invest scarce budget dollars wisely. Both the Administration and General Assembly should look towards investing in and creating programs that will spur economic development and create jobs throughout the Commonwealth. 

Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) released a disappointing March jobs report.  Despite the state's unemployment rate dropping by two-tenths of one percent, Pennsylvania's rate still remains above the national unemployment rate.  In fact, the rate was from more residents dropping out of the labor force than from unemployed Pennsylvanians finding jobs.  Pennsylvania now ranks 49th in the country in job growth.  With the more than 20,000 education jobs lost in the past three years, these statistics do not come as a surprise. 

The news was far worse for Pittsburgh.  Our region now ranks dead last in the country in job growth and also has the largest increase in the unemployment rate over the past year when compared to the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the country.  Pittsburgh only added 2,100 net new jobs for the entire last year. 

While most states are coming out of an economic recession, the current Administration’s policies seem to be keeping us behind.  What better way to create jobs than invest money into economic development programs and projects?  There are plenty of options and opportunities of where and what to invest in, including education, rehabilitating the Commonwealth’s transportation infrastructure or expanding Medicaid in our state which would allow Pennsylvania to receive millions of dollars in federal funding for several years. 

After two consecutive years of deep funding cuts, our state has taken several steps backwards.  We must now reverse this reality in order to bring the economy back and thrive.  Refocusing our priorities to invest in job creation and economic development programs will prove to be excellent starting points to get Pennsylvania growing again and provide long-term employment opportunities for residents. 

We must create a positive business environment that encourages investment and growth. From the Ben Franklin Technology outreach to the state’s successful film tax credit program, there are numerous proven programs that have given us a great return on our investment. I hope we can continue to invest in these initiatives in the coming fiscal year, and free up dollars for new small business investment programs that offer even greater potential. To that end, I have introduced two bills that I hope can become part of this year’s economic investment strategy.

One measure, Senate Bill 141 (SB 141), establishing the “angel investment tax credit,” would help small businesses acquire capital and financing for high growth endeavors.

My other bill, Senate Bill 205 (SB 205), would address the existing Second Stage Loan Guarantee Program to loosen restrictions by opening eligibility to all industry sectors. This restructuring of a $50 million dollar Small Business Investment Guarantee Program would provide a needed catalyst to spur private banks and other commercial lenders access to capital for small business.
 
As we work toward a final budget, I think we can all agree that this year’s budget must have a strong economic development and jobs component. We must do all we can to help Pennsylvanians get back to work.

Did You Know…

Did you know there are 27.3 million small businesses in the United States and in Pennsylvania, small businesses make up over 98% of the state’s employers?

WPAHS & Highmark Update

Highmark West Penn Allegheny Health System Highmark West Penn Allegheny Health System Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department approved the merger between Highmark and West Penn Allegheny Health System (WPAHS).  This decision is welcome news for the region as I am confident this affiliation will lead to enhanced health care and reduced health care costs through the heightened level of competition this merger will bring about.  The Insurance Department should be commended for conducting a thorough review of this matter and for ultimately approving a deal that will benefit the region.  I will continue to monitor the progress of this transaction in the coming weeks and months and see to it that the public, workers and consumers throughout the region benefit from this merger.  If you would like to review the Insurance Department’s ruling, please visit www.insurance.pa.gov.

Skills for Success Moving to West End!

Skills for Success - The Fontana Series Skills for Success: The Fontana Series. Register Online!

Skills for Success:  The Fontana Series, moves to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP), West End branch next week after a successful month at the CLP-Brookline branch.  CLP-West End is located at 47 Wabash Avenue.  After four workshops in West End, the series continues at CLP-Mt. Washington.  The complete schedule is listed below.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) If you are currently looking for a job, or are interested in boosting your skills that will help you land a desired position, sign up today for one of these free workshops, which will serve as a great resource for you.  I was proud to partner with CLP in 2011, providing grant funding for this free series aimed at building skills and creating excellent resumes and applications that aid job seekers in achieving the positions they desire.  Whether you have already built a resume and are looking to fine-tune it, if you are starting from scratch and need help with organizing your work history, need assistance with searching for positions online, or require help in improving your interviewing skills, there is a place at one of these workshops for you.

Rachel Masilamani and Richard Brzustowicz are again leading the Skills for Success: The Fontana Series, bringing over 10 years combined experience assisting library visitors with job hunting, online applications and resume writing.  The series features two separate workshops:  one focused on resumes and cover letters, and the other dedicated to interviews and networking.  The series also contains a career lab where attendees can work on online applications and explore library resources that can assist them in the job searching process.

Job seekers today face fierce competition in securing employment.  Take advantage of this free program, Skills for Success: The Fontana Series, and learn the ins and outs of the job searching process that will give you an advantage. Registration is required for workshops; however, walk-ins are welcome for the career labs.  To register for any of the remaining workshops please call 412-281-7141, ext. 2012 or email careerworkshops@carnegielibrary.org.

CLP – West End
47 Wabash Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15220
Tuesday, May 7 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Wednesday, May 8 – Interviewing & Networking
Tuesday, May 14 – Interviewing & Networking
Wednesday, May 15 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Workshops: Noon-2 p.m., Career Labs: 2-4 p.m.
CLP – Mt. Washington
315 Grandview Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15211
Thursday, May 23 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, May 30 – Interviewing & Networking 
Thursday, June 6 – Resumes & Cover Letters
Thursday, June 13 – Interviewing & Networking
Workshops: 1-3 p.m., Career Labs: 3-5 p.m.

Absentee Ballot Deadline

Vote PA Vote PA Vote PA The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for the May 21st Primary Election is May 14th.  All completed absentee ballot applications must be received by the Allegheny County Elections Division Office no later than 5 p.m.  The Elections Office is located in the County Office Building:

542 Forbes Ave, Room 601
Pittsburgh, PA  15219

You may apply for an absentee ballot in person at the above address.  When applying in person, as long as you are properly registered, you will be given an absentee ballot on the spot and you will be able to cast your vote right there.  You may also visit any of my district offices to receive an absentee ballot application or go to the Resource Center page at www.votespa.com to download one.

If you have already applied for and received your absentee ballot, please know all voted absentee ballots must be received in the Elections Division Office no later than 5 p.m., May 17th in order to be counted.  If you have any questions or need any additional information, please visit the Absentee Ballot page on the Allegheny County website or call 412-350-4520.

New Military License Plates Available

License PlatesNew license plates are now available through the PA Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for Members and Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who have served with a U.S. Military Airborne Unit or as a World War II Merchant Mariner.  The new U.S. Military Airborne Unit plate exhibits the standard registration plate along with images of jump and glider wings.  The new plate designed for World War II members of the Merchant Marines features the standard registration plate and an image of the Merchant Marine emblem.

Anyone interested in viewing these new plates can click on this link or go to PennDOT’s Driver and Vehicle Services website, www.dmv.state.pa.us, and select the “Military License Plates” link under the “Military Personnel/Veterans” Information Center.  In addition to the new plates, you can view images of all available military license plates.

The U.S. Military Airborne Unit plate can be requested by completing an Application for U.S. Military Veteran Registration Plate, an MV-150.  To request a World War II Merchant Marine plate, a World War II Era U.S. Military Registration form, an MV-150W, must be completed. If you are interested in obtaining an application for any of the Military License Plates, please contact one of my district offices and my staff will gladly assist.

Family Fishing Festivals

Take Me Fishing in PA

The PA Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) is holding Family Fishing Festivals in May and June to introduce families to the sport of fishing.  The Family Fishing Festivals are designed for families with little or no fishing experience and are educational events where families will learn basic fishing skills and have the opportunity to practice those skills while fishing during the program.  The PFBC is waiving the fishing license requirement during the program for registered participants ages 16 and older and the program is open to all ages, including children ages five and older.  Equipment, bait and tackle will be provided by the PFBC and PFBC staff will be present to teach skills and assist.

The Family Fishing Festivals will be hosted by the PA Fish & Boat Commission at six locations including Keystone State Park in Westmoreland County on May 18th and Lake Arthur in Butler County on June 22nd.  For a full listing of Festivals and other fishing events, and to register, please visit www.TakeMeFishingPa.com

Special Olympics6K on the Busway

The 2nd Annual 6K on the Busway Run & Walk is scheduled for Sunday, May 19th at 9 a.m. The race is open to runners and walkers of any age.  Proceeds from the event benefit over 20,000 Special Olympic athletes in Pennsylvania.  The race takes place on the West Busway, beginning in Carnegie, traveling to Pittsburgh and then returning to Carnegie.  For more information and to register please visit www.specialolympicspa.org.

Robinson Township Flea Market

Landmarks Housing Resource Center (LHRC) Landmarks Housing Resource Center (LHRC) Flea marketThe 3rd Annual Robinson Township Community Flea Market is scheduled for Saturday, May 18th from 8 a.m. – noon at the Burkett Sports and Recreation Complex.  Space is available for anyone interested in participating.  To reserve a space please visit the Robinson Township website to download a registration form.  The deadline to register is May 15th.  Proceeds from the Flea Market benefit the Township’s Autumn Festival.  For more information about the Community Flea Market, please call 412-788-2822 or 412-859-0902.

Hazlett TheaterFontana Fact

The Hazlett Theater was built in 1889 as the first Carnegie Music Hall and was dedicated by former President Benjamin Harrison.  It also housed one of the first Carnegie Free Libraries in the country and was home to the Pittsburgh Public Theater for 24 seasons, until 1999.  In 2004, the Hazlett Theater was transformed into the New Hazlett Theater, a non-profit theater that supports the local arts community in a variety of art disciplines.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plz.
524 Pine Hollow Rd
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
Take Me Fishing in PA Special Olympics PA Hazlett Theater