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Senator Wayne D. Fontana
Senator Fontana participated in a Senate Democratic Policy Committee roundtable discussion on
January 22nd on issues related to economic development and tourism in rural areas.
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee was represented by Senator Fontana, Senator John Blake, Senator Lisa Boscola, Senator John Wozniak, Senator Jay Costa and Senator Richard Kasunic. 

 

Small Games of Chance Changes in Effect

On Monday, some much needed updates and changes went into effect to the Small Games of Chance Law that will now grant non-profit groups and charitable organizations the ability to raise money through such things as Chinese Auctions, Night at the Races events and small betting pools.  Act 92 also increases the prize limits and allows these organizations to keep more of the revenues from these events making them a vital fundraising opportunity so that these charitable organizations can put money towards community outreach purposes.   

Furthermore, tavern owners across the state can now apply for the newly created Tavern Gaming License that will allow establishments with a retail liquor license to offer small games of chance like raffles for charitable and public purposes, pull-tab games, hold daily drawings and sell punch cards in municipalities that approve a referendum to allow these small games in taverns. 

Anyone interested in more information on the recent changes can visit the Small Games of Chance page on the state’s Department of Revenue website.

I also want to remind everyone that filing requirements for annual reports by clubs and organizations with proceeds exceeding $20,000 have been delayed until February 1, 2015.  Access to the online reporting system will be available from the Department’s website in late 2014. 

Film Tax Credit Program Helping Pittsburgh

Pennsylvania Film Office Pennsylvania Film Office Late last week it was announced that another motion picture would be filming in Pittsburgh in March.  The film, “Fathers and Daughters” starring Russell Crowe, is scheduled to be filming in Pittsburgh for about eight weeks.  I was pleased to provide assistance to the Pittsburgh Film Office to ensure that this production would receive tax credits as part of the state’s Film Tax Credit Program. 

The Film Tax Credit Program was established in 2007 and currently authorizes the issuance of $60 million in tax credits per year for productions that spend at least 60 percent of its total production budget in Pennsylvania.  The amount of the tax credit available to a film production is 25 percent of qualified expenses spent in the state.  When this program started, $75 million in tax credits were available each year but that number has been reduced over the last two years to $60 million.  I am the sponsor of legislation, Senate Bill 687 (SB 687), that would increase the amount of tax credits available as a way to increase Pennsylvania’s ability to draw these lucrative projects and put more revenue back into our state and local economies.

While this program benefits production companies, the real beneficiaries are local businesses and workers.  When a production comes to the area, it relies on local merchants and businesses, for products and services, which helps stimulate the economy and puts people to work.  Since the program began, over $280 million has been invested back into our region’s economy.

Heating Assistance

LIHEAP LIHEAP As the frigid weather continues, I want to remind constituents that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is accepting applications through April 4th from low income families that need assistance in paying their heating bills.  You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website or by calling the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.  You can also pick up an application in my district offices, or download one yourself from DPW’s LIHEAP website.  Completed paper applications should be returned to one of the Allegheny County Assistance Offices.

After your application is reviewed, 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 are credited to your account.

Additionally, the LIHEAP Crisis Program is also accepting applications through April 4th.  The Crisis Program assists families that are in an emergency situation that includes broken heating equipment or leaking lines that need fixed or replaced, lack of fuel, termination of utility service, and the danger of being without fuel or having service terminated.  If a crisis situation arises, please contact one of the Allegheny County Assistance Offices.

Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.  The income limits this season are as follows:

Household Size

Income Limit

1

$17,235

2

$23,265

3

$29,295

4

$35,325

5

$41,355

6

$47,385

7

$53,415

8

$59,445

9

$65,475

10

$71,505

PA Free File

PA Free FileEligible Pennsylvanians will be able to file their state and federal personal income tax returns online this year.  PA Free File, www.pafreefile.com, a product of the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, offers free, safe and convenient Internet-based electronic filing options for qualifying taxpayers to file state and federal personal income tax returns simultaneously.  PA Free File consists of software and fillable forms.

The free software is available through reputable vendors approved to prepare state and federal filings.  Free offers vary by vendor and the details of each free offer and a link to each vendor’s free filing product is available at www.pafreefile.com.  To qualify for the free software, filers must have a federal adjusted gross income of $58,000 or less. 

For individuals who do not qualify for software, PA Free File will offer fillable forms, which are online versions of tax forms designed for people who prefer to prepare their own returns.  Fillable forms can be submitted electronically or printed and mailed to the Department of Revenue.  The fillable forms will be available at PA Free File on January 31st.

While the free software is available now, refund processing will not begin until January 31st, when the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and PA Department of Revenue begin accepting electronic submissions.  An Internet-based interactive tool is also available at www.pafreefile.com to assist taxpayers in determining which e-file options each taxpayer qualifies for.  To access this tool, visit www.pafreefile.com or click here.

E-filing offers advantages not available to taxpayers filing by paper, including error-reducing automatic calculators, instant confirmation of successful filing, faster refund processing and direct deposit options.  The Department of Revenue encourages tax filers to visit www.pafreefile.com before filing federal taxes to determine what Free File options they may qualify for.

Did You Know…

Did you know that nearly 40 million tax returns have been filed through IRS Free File since its inception in 2003, saving these taxpayers more than $1.2 billion?

Free Tax Preparation Assistance

United Way Taxes The United Way of Allegheny County and the Money in Your Pocket Coalition are taking appointments from low- and moderate-income workers seeking assistance with preparing their tax returns.  This week 14 free tax preparation sites will open around Allegheny County where trained, IRS-certified volunteers will prepare tax returns to qualifying workers.  The Free Tax Preparation Campaign assists low-wage earning families and individuals in filing their federal, state and local tax returns, maximizing their refunds by claiming valuable federal and state tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC).  The campaign is administered by the Money in Your Pocket Coalition, an alliance of non-profit agencies committed to helping low-income workers and their families access the federal EITC.

To qualify for the free tax preparation program, total family income must be less than $40,000 per year and total individual income must be less than $20,000 per year.  To make an appointment, simply dial 2-1-1 to contact the United Way’s free 24-hour health and human services hotline.

For more information on the program and to view all 14 locations around Allegheny County, please visit www.pghfreetaxes.org.  The Free Tax Preparation Program runs through April 15th.

Turnpike Traveler Advisory Panel

PA Turnpike PA Turnpike The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) is recruiting 4,000 customers to serve as volunteers for the Turnpike Traveler Advisory Panel.  The Panel is a new and innovative way to enable Turnpike users to provide direct feedback on any number of issues from road quality to overall satisfaction and future initiatives that impact motorists.

The Traveler Advisory Panel research community will be made up of both commercial and passenger customers reflecting the Commission’s customer base across the 550-plus mile system including E-Z Pass users, motorists who prefer to pay cash, and both frequent and occasional users.  Participants will contribute to research studies throughout and earn rewards for their time and effort.

For more information the Turnpike Traveler Advisory Panel and to learn how you can join, please visit www.paturnpike.com/TurnpikeTAP or click here.

Environmental Poster Contest

ACHDThe Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is holding its annual Air Quality Program Environmental Poster Contest for students in grades six through eight, living in Allegheny County.  This year’s theme is “Travel Green, Travel Clean!”  Students are encouraged to create a poster that illustrates how citizens can reduce air pollution when travelling.

The Pollution Prevention & Education Subcommittee will review all submissions and select winners.  The top three winners will receive environmental prizes and the winning posters will be published on the ACHD website and in their quarterly newsletter.  All students that submit posters will receive a certificate of participation.

Entries must be received by the ACHD by March 14th and the winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22nd.  To download and entry form and to learn more about the contest you may click here.

Tutors Needed

OASIS Pittsburgh will be hosting free training sessions for adults aged 50 and over who are interested in serving as tutors for students enrolled in Pittsburgh Public Schools.  These training sessions will be held on OASIS Oasis February 5th and February 13th from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. at Macy’s Department Store in downtown Pittsburgh.  All materials, books and supplies will be provided by OASIS at no cost.

OASIS is a non-profit organization, founded in 1982, that is active in 40 cities across the country in promoting successful aging by providing opportunities for adults aged 50 and over to pursue vibrant, healthy, productive and meaningful lives.  Their Intergenerational Tutoring Program trains older adults on tutoring children and provides older adults the chance to help students learn.  The program is operated in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.

For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, please call John D. Spehar, OASIS Pittsburgh Tutoring Coordinator at 412-232-2021 or email him at jdspehar@oasisnet.org.

Robert MorrisFontana Fact

The Robert Morris University women’s hockey team is enjoying its best season in school history with a mark of 20-4-2.  They are currently ranked 7th in the nation in the USA Today/USA Hockey Poll that was released on January 21st, their highest ever ranking after cracking the Top 10 for the first time in school history on November 26, 2013.  The Colonials play their home games at the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island and have four home games remaining this season against Syracuse (Feb. 7 & 8) and Penn State (Feb. 21 & 22).

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
pa free file ACHD