Senator Fontana was proud to serve as the master of ceremonies at the Groundbreaking Ceremony for Phase I of the Lower Hill Infrastructure Project on March 23rd on the site of the future home of U.S. Steel. Participating in the ceremonial dig was (from left to right): Rev. Glenn Grayson; City Councilman Dan Gilman; Mayor Bill Peduto; SEA Board Member Sala Udin; Senator Fontana; Congressman Mike Doyle; Governor Tom Wolf; County Executive Rich Fitzgerald; Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa; City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle; and Pittsburgh Penguins Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams.
With spring flooding common through the commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department is encouraging property owners to consider purchasing flood insurance to protect homes, businesses, and possessions. This recommendation from the Department comes on the heels of National Flood Awareness Week, which was last week.
Information detailing coverage and how to obtain flood insurance can be found at www.floodsmart.gov, the official site of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federally-funded resource for flood victims. There are also certain precautions property owners can take to lower the chance of suffering major flood damage, some of which may help reduce premiums. Among these are:
- Install a sump pump and make sure it is working; install a battery-operated backup in case of a power failure.
- Install “check valves” to prevent flood water from backing up into the drains of your home.
- Seal walls in your basement with waterproofing compounds.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Anchor any fuel tanks.
- Elevate your furnace, water heater, washer, dryer, and electric panel, if you live in a high flood risk area.
The NFIP is continuing an update of maps which show flooding risks for individual properties. If your property is mapped out of a high-risk area, your flood insurance costs will likely decrease. If you have been mapped into a high-risk area, you will be required to purchase flood insurance if your mortgage is through a federally regulated or insured lender. However you can save money with the Preferred Risk Policy Eligibility Extension and through a process known as “grandfathering” provided by the NFIP. If your property was newly mapped into a high-risk flood zone after October 1, 2008, you may qualify for a PRP flood insurance policy.
Please know that property owners can also challenge a flood map they feel is inaccurate. Information on how to challenge a flood map is available by clicking here or visiting http://msc.fema.gov/portal. More information on what property owners can do to lessen potential flood damage, and possibly lower premiums, is available at https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program.
Also, for insurance purposes, be sure to keep a written and visual record of all major household items and valuables, even those stored in basements, attics, or garages. Create files that include serial numbers and store receipts for major appliances and electronics. Have jewelry and artwork appraised. These documents are critically important when filing insurance claims.
For more information, please visit www.knowyourstuff.org. Additional information on preparing your family to meet an emergency can be found at www.ReadyPA.org. For more information on insurance products and protections, please visit the Pennsylvania Insurance Department website at www.insurance.pa.gov or call 1-877-881-6388.
Did You Know…
Did you know that figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) show Pennsylvania residents filed nearly 18,000 flood insurance claims from 2006-2014 and received more than $551 million in payments?
Schools That Teach
Providing all children with a quality public education is the cornerstone of Governor Wolf’s “Schools That Teach” strategy to prepare students for good jobs and rebuild the middle class. The governor’s proposed 2015-2016 budget restores cuts to basic education and increases the state’s share of funding for public education to 50 percent for the first time in more than 40 years with a commitment to invest $2 billion in public education over the next four years.
To view how your school district will benefit from this proposal, please visit http://schoolsthatteach.com/.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Applications
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2014 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. If you filed a paper rebate form last year, you should have received a 2014 application by now. If you have not received 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.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30th.
Table Games & Overall Gaming Revenue Rise
Last week, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced that revenue from table games in February increased nearly 12 percent compared with February 2014. Revenue from table games play at the 12 Pennsylvania casinos was just under $64 million and tax revenue for the commonwealth was just over $9.2 million. Combined revenue from table games and the play of slot machines increased 3.7 percent in February compared with February 2014.
Table games are taxed at 14 percent with revenue directed into the state’s General Fund (12 percent) and the remaining funds directed to local governments. Slot machines are taxed at 55 percent in Pennsylvania and directed as follows: 34 percent for property tax reduction; 12 percent supporting the horse racing industry; five percent is placed in a state economic development fund; and two percent goes to local governments that host casinos.
The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,700 people and generates an average of $3.7 million per day in tax revenue from slot machines and table games. For more information on this and other reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
As I wrote about in last week's edition, March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month. If you or someone you know would like more information about problem gambling and/or the resources available to help, please click here or call 1-800-GAMBLER.
LIHEAP Runs Through April 3rd
I want to remind everyone that the Department of Human Services (DHS) is accepting applications for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) through April 3rd. The program helps low income families pay their heating bills. 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:
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 dealer and are credited to your account. For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
Electric Meter Switch Out
In the coming weeks, Duquesne Light customers in the areas of Coraopolis, McKees Rocks and Neville will be receiving notices that existing electric meters will be replaced with advanced meters. Act 129 of 2008 in part requires electric distribution companies to adopt and implement cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation plans.
The new, advanced meters will operate as the existing electric meters do today, and customers will not notice any difference in how the advanced meters measure their electric use. Over time, as the advanced capabilities of these meters are activated, Duquesne Light will be offering a variety of programs and services that can help customers save energy, in addition to benefitting the environment. Customers will receive additional communications when these new services start to become available.
In the meantime, customers beginning with the areas mentioned above will receive letters from Duquesne Light, notifying them of the upcoming meter exchange. Roughly three to five days prior to the day of the exchange customers will also receive a phone call reminding them. Customers do not need to be home for the exchange. Once customers receive their notification letter, if any questions arise, Duquesne Light encourages customers to contact them at 1-888-928-8539 (press 1 and follow the prompts).
Farm to Table Conference
The annual Farm to Table Conference is being held March 27th and 28th at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The Farm to Table Conference provides attendees with two days of networking and educational opportunities on healthy foods and lifestyles. Local exhibitors will be providing to consumers hands-on cooking demonstrations, information on gardening, where their food comes from, and where to find businesses and organizations that can provide them with healthy food and healthy lifestyle choices.
For more information on the Farm to Table Conference including sponsors, exhibitors, and schedules, please visit www.farmtotablepa.com.
Open Your Heart to a Senior
Open Your Heart To a Senior (OYHS) is an initiative of the United Way that recruits, trains and mobilizes volunteers to assist the elderly so they can remain as independent as possible and live safely at home.
OYHS is seeking volunteer drivers for various programs around Allegheny County. Meals on Wheels, Free Rides for Seniors shuttle drivers and drivers who can transport seniors to medical appointments in the volunteer’s own vehicle are all needed. As the calendar turns and hopefully with that warm weather arrives, volunteers are needed in all neighborhoods of Allegheny County to help clear yard debris, plant flowers, and mow seniors’ lawns.
Some of these volunteer opportunities are great for teens and groups. Anyone interested in volunteering can visit OYHS online at http://openyourhearttoasenior.org/ or call 2-1-1 or 412-307-0071.
The Monongahela Incline, which has a 35 degree grade, is the steepest incline in the United States and the nation’s oldest cable car in operation. The Mon Incline has been operating since 1870.
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