State Money for Revitalizing Beechview
Late last week, the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) approved a request for $600,000 in state grant funding to redesign and revitalize part of Broadway Avenue in Beechview. This $1.016 million project will make the business corridor safer, more attractive and more accessible for pedestrian and bicycle travel. I am pleased to have played a role in obtaining this support from the state and will continue to seek state dollars to supplement good local projects.
The funds will be used to redesign nearly a mile of the roadway from Fallowfield Station to Wenzell Avenue. While the Port Authority (PAT) replaces the light rail tracks and concrete, the city is enhancing safety features to better accommodate pedestrian and bicycle travel. The new design will likely include Transit stop improvements, bike lanes and improved pedestrian crossings.
The current antiquated roadway configuration encourages speeding, endangers both bikers and pedestrians and has very limited access for disabled people. The influx of state dollars will assist the ongoing efforts of the Port Authority and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) who are partnered in spearheading the revitalization of the Beechview neighborhood.
The additional state Department of Community and Economic Development dollars will go toward renovating the six transit stops and the streetscape improvements including: new covered shelters for transit stops; speed tables; pedestrian signage; bump-outs at intersections; bicycle parking infrastructure; and constructing dedicated bicycle lanes.
State Budget Update
The General Assembly sent a General Appropriations bill for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year to the Governor's desk late last week. As you may know, some of the additional legislation necessary to implement the budget is still a work in progress at press time today. It is my hope to provide a finalized report on the situation next week. In the meantime, I urge our legislative leaders and the Governor to continue the bipartisan work through this week to bring this to a conclusion.
Senator Fontana appeared with Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa at a news conference on June 28 to discuss the passage of Senate Bill 1221 in the Senate. Senator Fontana and Senator Costa co-sponsored the legislation that provides much-needed reforms to the Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA).
Making ICA Accountable
Last week, a bill that I co-sponsored with Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa received unanimous support in the Senate. Senate Bill 1221 (SB 1221) establishes accountability and transparency at the Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) and provides for much-needed agency reforms.
Given the lack of records and accountability as well as the gross improprieties by the former executive director, these reform measures are crucial. The ICA was accountable to no one in the past. The provisions in this legislation will improve the operations of the authority and bring about greater transparency to tax payers.
In addition to calling for further oversight of the ICA by the Department of Community and Economic Development, SB 1221 also requires greater transparency at the authority and record keeping that meets the standards of other state agencies. SB 1221 creates a record retention policy that is consistent with the policy of the Governor’s Office of Administration and retains financial information for a minimum of four years and tax information, payroll and audits for seven years. The legislation also provides a formal process for determining the use and distribution of gaming revenues for the city of Pittsburgh and requires the agency to maintain a publicly accessible website to include complete financial records, budgets and contracts.
It is my hope that the House of Representatives moves quickly to pass SB 1221.
Rebates for Alternative Fuel Vehicles
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is reminding Pennsylvania car buyers of rebates to assist with the cost of purchasing a new alternative fuel vehicle. Purchase of battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and alternative fuels such as natural gas and fuel cell vehicles are eligible for rebates.
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. Rebates are available for new cars only.
Large-battery vehicles are eligible for a rebate of $2,000. DEP is also offering $1,000 rebates 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. CNG original equipment, manufacturer retrofits, or certified conversions to CNG or propane are also eligible for the $1,000 rebate. 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 December 31, 2016, whichever occurs first. For more information on the types of eligible vehicles and to apply for a rebate, please click here or visit www.dep.pa.gov.
Did You Know…
Did you know global annual sales of plug-in electric vehicles grew from around 45,000 in 2011 to over 307,000 by 2014?
12th Annual FontanaFest – DATE CHANGE!
I want to remind everyone that the 12th Annual FontanaFest has been rescheduled for Saturday, September 24 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Once again, parking will be free in the stadium’s West Lot, compliments of Forest City!
The annual community event is perfect for families and children, promoting healthy and active lifestyles by providing many fun activities and crafts. Children will also have the chance to play on several inflatables, an obstacle course, and a climbing wall. All Attendees also are provided with the opportunity to engage with several organizations from around the region and receive important information on available services and programs, nutrition, health care, jobs and jobs training. I’m also thrilled that once again this year, students from Pittsburgh Musical Theatre will join us to perform at 11:15 a.m.!
Stay tuned throughout the summer for updates on the schedule of events, participants, and more.
PHEAA Hiring for Green Tree Location
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is hiring full- and part-time, entry level positions for Call Center Representatives/Loan Counselors, working in a fast-paced call center environment at its Parkway Center facility. The facility is located at 11 Parkway Center. Interested applicants are encouraged to visit www.pheaa.org/jobs to learn more about available opportunities and to submit an application in order to be considered for employment.
PHEAA offers competitive salaries, paid training, regular pay increases, medical benefits, and career advancement opportunities. Spanish speaking skills are a plus. The agency is an equal opportunity employer.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Deadline Extended
The deadline to file for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue 2015 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program has been extended through December 31. Rebate distribution started on July 1 for anyone who returned their completed application by June 30. From this point forward, rebates will be distributed as claims are reviewed and processed by the Department of Revenue.
If you have not applied yet 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.
Upcoming Lunch and Learn Event
The Allegheny County APPRISE/Allegheny Link program is hosting its next Lunch and Learn on Thursday, July 14. APPRISE is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for Pennsylvania’s Medicare beneficiaries. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging created APPRISE to help citizens with Medicare understand their health insurance options so they can make informed decisions about which plan is best for them.
The July 14 event will feature a presentation on the private insurance coverage under the Medicare system. A key characteristic of the Medicare system is the reliance on private insurance enhancements and supplements to help with the costs that traditional Medicare (Parts A and B) does not cover. This presentation will examine the different kinds of private insurance coverage under the Medicare system such as Medigaps, Part C Advantage plans, Part D drug coverage, and employer sponsored coverage. Presenters will show how each type of product works, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they coordinate with Parts A and B. Also how to compare and evaluate each option to get the most effective coverage will be discussed.
The program starts at 11:30 a.m. with lunch with the presentation beginning at noon and running until 3 p.m. and will take place at the Allegheny County Human Service Building, located at One Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh.
For more information about this program or to R.S.V.P., please contact Bill McKendree at 412-661-1670, ext. 645 or email@example.com.
Summer Food Program for Children
Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Allegheny County Summer Food program. Summer Food will run in over 80 locations in Allegheny County through August. At these locations, children can receive a free breakfast and lunch during the summer recess from school. For more information on the program, including information on locations and times, please call the Allegheny County Department of Human Services at 1-800-851-3838. You may also view a listing of Summer Food program sites by clicking here.
Even though the players and spectators are long gone, the Pittsburgh region continues to reap the benefits from the 116th U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is the recipient of 25,000 pounds of food leftover from the tournament. On a given day, about 337,000 people do not have enough to eat in the 11-county region served by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank. Food bank officials estimate the tournament's leftovers, largely produce and non-perishable items, will provide for as many as 20,000 meals for hungry children and adults in Western Pennsylvania.
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
|Northside (Mobile Office)
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
|Lawrenceville (Mobile Office)
279 Fisk Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15201
Thursdays - 11 am - 4 pm