Elimination of Vehicle Registration Stickers
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced that the state is on schedule to eliminate the use of registration stickers beginning January 1, 2017. Thanks to a provision in Act 89 of 2013, doing away with annually distributing 11.7 million stickers is estimated to save the commonwealth about $3 million a year in mailing and production costs. The last registration sticker will be issued on December 30, 2016, but customers will not be required to display a registration sticker on their license plate after December 31.
PennDOT is also attempting to make the registration renewal process even faster by allowing drivers who renew online the ability to save and print a permanent registration card. Future modernization plans include allowing customers to upload their registration cards to their smart phones.
In exchange for the savings to the commonwealth, PennDOT is asking the Legislature to authorize grants up to $2.5 million a year to law enforcement agencies so that they can purchase Automated License Plate Reader technology for police vehicles. Currently, officers have to physically look at a license plate and input the plate number to check a registration. The reader technology expands this process greatly by scanning an average of 3,100 tags per day.
The way an Automatic License Plate Reader works is that cameras are installed on the back of a police vehicle, offering a 360-degree view in all weather conditions and at night. As vehicles pass, the equipment scans license plates and gives police an audible alert about drivers that aren’t in compliance including expired registration, no insurance coverage or a suspended vehicle. This information is also compared with six million entries of wanted people and convicted sex offenders to name a few. Furthermore, the new technology can quickly alert authorities that a registration sticker is not counterfeit, sold, affixed to dead plates or applied to plates for which they were not intended.
Each Automatic License Plate Reader costs around $18,000 and since June, about 110 law enforcement agencies already use them. In fact, the readers that are already in use have been credited with the recovery of $2.3 million worth of stolen vehicles, 21 criminals arrested and four Megan’s Law offenders apprehended.
For more information about the elimination of vehicle registration stickers, please click here.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2015 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received a 2015 application by now. If you have not received an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications are available at www.revenue.pa.gov or at 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 half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past eligibility limits.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30.
Did You Know…
Did you know more than $269 million in property tax and rent rebates were sent to more than 564,000 homeowners and renters across Pennsylvania for taxes and rent paid in 2014?
Completing the FAFSA
I want to again remind high school seniors and their families to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as possible. The FAFSA is the federal form that all college-bound high school seniors must submit to determine eligibility for most forms of need-based financial assistance, including the Pennsylvania State Grant, the Federal Pell Grant, work-study programs, Pennsylvania Targeted Industry Program (PA-TIP), various scholarships, some school-based aid, and federal student loans for the 2016-17 academic year. Students who are eligible for awards can reduce their family’s out-of-pocket expenses and make the cost of a higher education more manageable.
The FAFSA became available on January 1 and now is the time to get a jump on the application process by preparing, before sitting down to complete the FAFSA application. Students and families are able to complete the FAFSA online at www.fafsa.ed.gov and will need the following information when beginning the application process:
- Social Security Numbers
- Student’s driver’s license
- Alien registration number, if not a U.S. citizen
- W-2 forms
- Records of untaxed income received, including workers’ compensation, child support, payments to tax-deferred pension and savings plans, etc.
- Federal income tax return (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ)
- Current bank statements and records of stocks, bonds and other investments
It is better to complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible as schools’ financial aid deadlines vary. Once again in 2016, PHEAA will host FAFSA Completion Sessions across Pennsylvania where PHEAA, in partnership with PASFAA (Pennsylvania Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators), provides free assistance to families needing help in completing the FAFSA. You can click here to view a listing of scheduled FAFSA Completion Sessions. PHEAA will continue to update this list as more sessions are added in the coming weeks.
I also want to encourage students and families to only complete the FAFSA on the FAFSA.gov website and to avoid any dot com sites, which often charge a fee for what can be accomplished for free.
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.
Rebates for Alternative Fuel Vehicles
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is offering rebates to Pennsylvania residents to assist with the cost of purchasing an alternative fuel vehicle. These rebates are funded by the Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant Program, which is supported by a gross receipts tax on utilities. To qualify, the vehicle must be registered in Pennsylvania, operated primarily in-state, and be purchased no more than six months before the rebate application is submitted.
Large-battery vehicles are eligible for a rebate of $2,000. DEP is also offering rebates of $1,000 for plug-in-hybrid electric vehicles and battery-electric vehicles. Rebates of $1,000 are also being offered for natural gas, propane, hydrogen or fuel-cell vehicles. A $500 rebate is available for electric motorcycles and scooters.
There are only a limited number of rebates available at $2,000. The rebate program offered will be reassessed upon payment of the first 250 rebates at $2,000 or June 30, 2016, whichever occurs first. For more information on the program and to apply for a rebate, please click here or call 1-866-294-3854.
PAT Meeting in Beechview
The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is hosting a community meeting in Beechview this Thursday evening, Feb. 18, to present information and answer questions on the upcoming project to replace nearly a mile of aging and deteriorating light rail tracks and street pavement. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the St. Catherine of Siena church in Beechview. For more information on the project, residents can contact the Port Authority via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jam Session in Beechview
Brew on Broadway, Pittsburgh’s only non-profit community coffee house is hosting Smooth Jazz Jam Session with top musicians Carl King and Ublai Bey. The event is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. All musicians are welcome to perform. There is no cover charge for the event but there will be a $2 cork fee. Brew on Broadway is located at 1557 Broadway Avenue in the City of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood. For more information, please call 412-437-8676.
Yesterday was Presidents’ Day, originally established in 1885 in recognition of George Washington and today recognized as a day to celebrate all U.S. Presidents, past and present. Of our nation’s 44 presidents, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, our 32nd president, was the nation’s longest serving at 12 years and 5 months. President William Henry Harrison, our nation’s 9th president, was our nation’s shortest serving president, serving only five weeks in 1841 after dying in office from pneumonia.
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