Property Tax/Rent Rebate – DEADLINE THIS THURSDAY!
As the year winds down, I want to remind everyone the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is still accepting applications for the 2014 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. The deadline to submit an application is quickly approaching – this Thursday, Dec. 31.
If you did not receive an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, 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. Keep in mind that half of Social Security income is excluded.
Due to program changes enacted last year to ensure claimants aren’t disqualified from rebates solely because of Social Security cost-of-living adjustments, homeowners and renters may be eligible for rebates even if their eligibility income is greater than these limits. Any homeowner who collected Social Security, received a property tax rebate in 2013 for claim year 2012 and had annual income last year, discounting half of Social Security, up to $36,129, is encouraged to apply for a rebate for claim year 2014. Any renter in that same situation with an annual income in 2014, discounting half of Social Security, up to $15,484, is also encouraged to apply.
With the close of 2015 approaching, Pennsylvanian families and children received good news with Governor Wolf signing into law Act 84 (House Bill 857). This legislation reauthorizes and extends the life of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) until December 31, 2017. CHIP was slated to expire at the end of this year which would have resulted in over 150,000 children losing their insurance coverage.
For nearly 25 years, CHIP has offered no-cost or low-cost health care coverage for children under the age of 18 whose parents make too much to qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance. Coverage under this insurance includes routine doctor visits, prescriptions, dental appointments and eye care, along with immunizations, mental health, durable medical equipment, rehabilitation therapies, home health care and autism-related services. Monthly premiums for the program are based on each family’s income. More importantly, families enrolled in CHIP will not see any changes to their eligibility, co-payments, benefits, coverage or even their cards with the passage of this new law.
Act 84 also transfers the administration of the program from the Department of Insurance to the Department of Human Services, which also oversees the state’s Medicaid program. This switch promises for better coordination of care and is a cost-saving maneuver since the state will be able to use one information technology system to manage eligibility determination for both CHIP and the Medicaid program. Officials hope that by using existing state records, they will be able to identify the 139,000 eligible children that are still lacking health insurance. Often times, families simply may not be aware that their child could be insured at no cost or at a very low, affordable cost and the use of one system helps eliminates any discrepancy.
I was pleased to vote in favor of House Bill 857 and I am hopeful that the efficiency will allow even more children to be covered by CHIP. In addition, the General Assembly has been reassured that the relocation of the program between departments will be a seamless transition that will go into effect relatively quickly which is also a promising sign.
All Senate offices will be closed on Friday, January 1 in observance of the New Year holiday. My offices will re-open on Monday, January 4. Happy New Year!
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) continues to accept applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). 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. 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 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 for this season are as follows:
|For each additional person add
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.
Governor’s Award for Environmental Protection
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is accepting applications for the 2016 Governor’s Award for Environmental Protection. Businesses, farms, government agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations and individuals are all encouraged to apply. This award honors those projects that have transformed environmental challenges into opportunities.
Award-winning projects will be selected based on eight criteria: protection; partnership; public service; environmental education and outreach; pollution prevention; economic impact; innovative technology; and climate change. To be eligible for consideration, projects must have been completed between August 1, 2014 and July 31, 2015. Applications must be submitted via email to RA-EPgovenviroawards@pa.gov no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, January 15, 2016.
For more information including project guidelines and application forms please visit www.dep.pa.gov.
Did You Know…
Did you know that one of last year’s winners of the Governor’s Award for Environmental Protection, Sustainable Pittsburgh, through its Green Workplace Challenges program, has reported that participants saved enough energy last year to power 1,541 average U.S. homes for one year, translating into $1.5 million in cost savings?
The City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire recently earned a Class One Certification from the Insurance Services Office (ISO), an advisory organization that provides statistical information on risk. Class One is the highest rating for public protection fire services and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire joins a select group of fire departments in achieving Class One status. Of the more than 40,000 fire departments around the country, only 132 others have the ISO classification.
The ISO’s Public Protection Classification Program plays an important role in the underwriting of insurance policies as many insurance agencies use their data to help determine premiums for property insurance.
Congratulations to City of Pittsburgh Fire Chief Darryl Jones, the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety and the all firefighters who risk their lives serving and protecting our city!
First Night Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is once again producing First Night Pittsburgh on New Year’s Eve. This year’s celebration marks the 22nd anniversary of First Night Pittsburgh and the 13th as a production of the Cultural Trust. As the largest single-day celebration in the region, First Night offers approximately 150 events at nearly 50 indoor and outdoor locations within the 14-block Cultural District with 90 percent of events taking place indoors. This family-friendly event provides the city the opportunity to ring in the New Year with a bang while celebrating Pittsburgh’s many rich cultural assets.
First Night Pittsburgh kicks off at 6 p.m. on Thursday with a children’s fireworks show and concludes with the countdown to midnight, and the raising of the Future of Pittsburgh Ball at midnight, with tons of fun in between. This year, The Wailers will perform as the headline act during the Future of Pittsburgh Grand Finale. The Wailers epitomize this year’s Highmark First Night Pittsburgh theme, “Around the World – Around the ‘Burgh,” by bringing to Pittsburgh, the site of Bob Marley’s final performance, a legacy and sound celebrated internationally for more than 50 years.
To view the many activities taking place during First Night and for a full schedule of events, shows and entertainment and information on how to purchase all-access buttons please visit www.firstnightpgh.org.
Prepare for Frozen Pipes
Even with temperatures still unseasonably warm in recent weeks, Pennsylvania American Water advises homeowners to prepare now to prevent frozen and damaged household pipes that can occur with winter weather. Property owners are responsible for maintenance of the water service line from the curb to the house, as well as any in-home piping. Pennsylvania American Water encourages residents to take the following precautions to reduce the risk of freezing and bursting pipes:
Before frigid weather sets in
- Know what areas of your home, such as basements, crawl spaces, unheated rooms and outside walls, are most vulnerable to freezing.
- Eliminate sources of cold air near water lines by repairing broken windows, insulating walls, closing off crawl spaces and eliminating drafts near doors.
- Know the location of your main water shut-off valve. If a pipe freezes or bursts, shut the water off immediately.
- Protect your pipes and water meter. Wrap exposed pipes with insulation or use electrical heat tracing wire; newspaper or fabric might also work. For outside meters, keep the lid to the meter pit closed tightly and let any snow that falls cover it. Snow acts as insulation, so don’t disturb it.
When temperatures are consistently at or below freezing
- If you have pipes that are vulnerable to freezing, allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing. The cost of the extra water is low compared to the expensive repairs for a broken pipe. Also, open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warmer room temperatures to help keep them from freezing.
If your pipes freeze
- Shut off the water immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw frozen pipes unless the water is shut off. Freezing can often cause unseen cracks in pipes or joints.
- Apply heat to the frozen pipe by warming the air around it, or by applying heat directly to a pipe. You can use a hair dryer, space heater or hot water. Be sure not to leave space heaters unattended, and avoid the use of kerosene heaters or open flames.
When you are away
- Have a friend, relative or neighbor regularly check your property to ensure that the heat is working and the pipes have not frozen.
- Also, a freeze alarm can be purchased for less than $100 and will call a user-selected phone number if the inside temperature drops below 45 degrees.
Christmas Tree Recycling Program
The Allegheny County Department of Parks is offering its annual Christmas Tree Recycling program this holiday season. Residents of Allegheny County can drop off their Christmas trees at all nine regional parks during the hours of operation, from dusk to dawn. The program runs through January 16.
All lights, decorations, tinsel and stands must be removed from trees prior to drop-off. The trees will be mulched and used in Allegheny County’s nine regional parks. Trees may be dropped off from dawn to dusk at the following locations in each of the parks:
- Boyce Park – parking lot by the wave pool
- Deer Lakes – parking lot by the Veterans Shelter
- Harrison Hills – parking lot at the intersection of Chipmunk & Cottontail Drives
- Hartwood Acres – parking lot at the mansion
- North Park – parking lot at the swimming pool
- Round Hill – parking lot between Meadow & Alfalfa Shelters
- Settler’s Cabin – parking lot by the wave pool
- South Park – parking lot by the swimming pool
- White Oak – parking lot by Poplar Shelter
For directions to each park, please visit http://www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/index.aspx.
“Most Livable City” is a title Pittsburgh has enjoyed several times in recent years and recently the city has been bestowed another national honor. Zagat recently named Pittsburgh as the country’s Top Food City of 2015 saying in part “while hefty Italian bread sandwiches from Primanti Bros. remain musts on the Pittsburgh culinary circuit, as of late it’s an abundance of more refined food glories that Steel City is becoming known for.” Additionally a recent Pittsburgh Tribune Review story showed in the past three years 523 restaurants have opened in Allegheny County with 241 of those opening in suburban communities. Four communities in the 42nd Senatorial District – Carnegie (10), Bellevue (7), Castle Shannon (7), and Dormont (7) – rank in the top 8 municipalities in Allegheny County of restaurants opening in the last three years.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
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
|| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Strip District (Mobile Office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm