11th Annual FontanaFest!
I want to thank everyone who joined us this past Saturday at the 11th Annual FontanaFest at Highmark Stadium! It was a beautiful day Saturday and the stadium was filled with many fun and educational activities and games for children, parents and grandparents.
FontanaFest is a 501 (c)(3) and would not be possible without the great support from our sponsors. Thanks to the following organizations for their tremendous support!
I also want to offer special thanks to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds and Highmark Stadium for hosting us and for their assistance in allowing us to stage such a terrific event. Thank you to Station Square for providing FontanaFest’s guests with free parking.
Children in attendance had the opportunity to be active by playing soccer, rock climbing, and through a series of inflatables as well as visiting with balloon and face painting artists. I appreciate the following organizations for having a presence at FontanaFest, providing guests with important information and in many cases also a family fun activity or craft: Allegheny County Sheriff; Carnegie Science Center; Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh; Homeless Children’s Education Fund; Pittsburgh International Children’s Theater; WQED-TV; Junior Achievement of Western PA; The Home Depot; Calgon Carbon; Holy Family Institute; Builders Guild of Western PA; Mt. Washington CDC; YMCA of Bellevue; ALCOSAN; Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy; and Penn State Center Pittsburgh.
We were also fortunate this year to be joined at FontanaFest by students from Pittsburgh Musical Theater in the West End who entertained guests with a series of performances in the afternoon. Thank you to everyone for attending and I hope you enjoyed the day!
CHIP Participants to Receive Better Benefits
On December 1st, the 148,000 children covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will receive better benefits thanks to Governor Wolf's months-long efforts to bring the program’s plan up to the standards set by the federal Affordable Care Act. As a result of the compliance with the standards, future penalties will be averted for all CHIP enrollees.
Most CHIP policies are subsidized on a sliding scale according to income. However, Pennsylvania allows families that earn too much for subsidies to buy CHIP at cost which is the case for around 3,600 kids. Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed state officials that regular CHIP qualified as adequate coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but its buy-in program for families with incomes above 300 percent of the federal poverty level did not meet federal minimum essential benefits requirements and these families would face penalties.
Last week, Governor Wolf announced that Pennsylvania will be eliminating CHIP’s annual and lifetime dollar limits for services classified as essential health benefits. These include durable medical equipment like hearing aids, vision services like prescription lenses and tinting, and dental care like orthodontics services. Preventive care services will be provided without cost sharing, such as co-payments, coinsurance, or deductibles and will include plaque control programs, oral hygiene education, dietary instruction and prescribed iron supplementation. In addition, the changes require that prescription drug benefits cover over-the-counter drugs, vitamins, and aspirin at no cost to the enrollees. Health plans will also provide parity between mental health and substance abuse benefits, and between medical and surgical benefits.
Although the additional coverage does not take effect until December, the commonwealth has obtained federal waivers and extensions so that the families will not be penalized in the meantime for having the non-compliant coverage.
I am very pleased by the governor’s efforts to provide enhanced benefits, not just for the individuals who participate in the buy-in program, but for all of the 148,000 children using CHIP. With the removal of many of the costs for essential care and the elimination of some of the co-pays, these improvements will reduce the financial burden for thousands of commonwealth families. If you would like more information about these changes, please visit www.CHIPcoversPAkids.com
New Requirement for Seller’s Disclosure Statements
Since coal mining began more than 200 years ago in Pennsylvania, the industry has played a major role in the commonwealth’s history, especially in the Pittsburgh region. Today, more than 1 million homes sit above abandoned mines. In addition to our geographical location and the earth that lies beneath us, abandoned mines are sometimes the cause of sinkholes. For this reason, Pennsylvania has the second-highest rate of sinkholes in the nation, trailing only Florida. Knowing how costly it can be for a homeowner to repair and stabilize a house and property after it has succumb to a sinkhole, the General Assembly passed Act 6 of 2015 that will add extra protection for those looking to purchase a home.
Act 6 of 2015 was signed into law this summer that would require that a homeowner must list the presence of sinkhole(s) and the responsibility of storm water facilities that may be on one’s property when they fill out their property disclosure statement.
A property disclosure statement is required for any seller who intends to sell real property which discloses to the buyer any material defects known to the seller. Until passage of this law, property disclosure statements had to include (1) seller's expertise in contracting, engineering, architecture or other areas related to the construction and conditions of the property and its improvements, (2) when the property was last occupied by the seller, (3) roof, (4) basements and crawl spaces, (5) termites/wood destroying insects, dry rot and pests, (6) structural problems, (7) additions, remodeling and structural changes to the property, (8) water and sewage systems or service, (9) plumbing system, (10) heating and air conditioning, (11) electrical system, (12) other equipment and appliances included in the sale, (13) soils, drainage and boundaries, (14) presence of hazardous substances, (15) condominiums and other homeowners associations, (16) legal issues affecting title or that would interfere with use and enjoyment of the property.
Sinkholes can form when an opening in the subsurface allows water to flow into cracks that form an underground plumbing system. The system directs water and soil into voids, eventually causing a collapse of the surface.
In the southeastern and south-central parts of the state, dissolving limestone formations can cause ground depressions. In the anthracite regions, where there is not much limestone, the deep coal mining legacy lives on with the danger of subsidence. In addition, flood damage and aging infrastructure such as water and sewer systems can also lead to sinkholes.
Some signs of possible sinkholes include: damage around a building’s foundation, unexpected death of vegetation, polluted or muddied well water, the formation of new ponds, trees or sign posts that appear to be slumped over. With that being said, although a sinkhole can be hard to fix permanently, it can be done by injecting cement-like material to compact the soil.
Being a real estate agent by profession and the Democratic Chair of the Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, I welcomed passage of this Act. A homebuyer has the right to know about the sinkhole history of a property. I feel that including sinkholes and storm water facilities to a seller’s disclosure adds an extra layer of precaution for would-be home buyers by alerting them, in advance, of a potential issue that can be a great expense to remediate.
Did You Know…
Did you know that about 20 percent of the country is underlain by karst terrain and is susceptible to a sinkhole event? Most damage from sinkholes tends to occur in Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic
I will be hosting my annual Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic on Friday, September 25th from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Quinn Hall at the Church of the Resurrection in Brookline. American HealthCare Group will be providing free vaccinations to any senior with the Medicare Part B health insurance card. Make sure to bring your card with you.
I am also pleased that several organizations from around the region will be present to provide seniors with important information on available services and resources including AARP, the Office of the Consumer Advocate and the PA APPRISE Health Insurance Counseling Program, to name a few.
The Homeless Children’s Education Fund partnered with Citizens Bank and UPMC Health Plan to collect school supplies and pack backpacks that will be distributed to homeless provider agencies in our region. Senator Fontana, along with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, helped load school buses with the collected supplies on August 21st.
Gaming Revenue Increases
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board recently announced that revenue from table games play in July was over $69 million. That figure represents a 13.2 percent increase compared with July of 2014. Over $9.9 million in tax revenue was generated from table games in July. Combined with slot machines, total gaming revenue in July was over $280 million, a 6.7 percent increase in combined revenue from July of 2014.
Table games are taxed at 14 percent with revenue directed into the state’s General Fund (12 percent) and to local governments (2 percent). 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 both table games and slot machines. For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit them online at www.gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov.
Mosquito Spray Event
Recently, several mosquito samples collected in the City of Pittsburgh’s Northside, Allegheny Center, Manchester, and Troy Hill neighborhoods tested positive for West Nile Virus. In response, the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) is having its West Nile Virus Control Program conduct a truck-mounted, Ultra Low Volume (ULV) spray event to decrease mosquito populations and reduce the risk of virus transmission. The event will take place tonight between 8 – 10 p.m. and will focus on residential areas.
The pesticide being applied is Zenivex and is designed to provide quick, effective control of adult mosquito populations. Zenievx has a very low toxicity profile to mammals and will have negligible impact to non-target insects and the environment. It will be released at just 1.5 – 3 ounces per acre.
In the case of inclement weather, the spray event would be moved to Wednesday evening, August 26th. In the event of questions or for more information please contact the ACHD at 412-687-2243. For further information about West Nile Virus in Pennsylvania please visit www.westnile.state.pa.us.
Last week the Pittsburgh Steelers returned to Pittsburgh after concluding their 50th straight training camp at St. Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Only the Green Bay Packers have had their training camp at one location longer, 58 consecutive years at St. Norbert College which is located in DePere, WI. As mentioned in this space before, the Steelers first five training camps, 1933-1937, were held at Moore Field in the City of Pittsburgh’s Brookline neighborhood.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
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932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
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543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
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Pittsburgh, PA 15216
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Pittsburgh Public Market
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Pittsburgh, PA 15222
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