How to Help Survivors of Hurricane Harvey
With many Pennsylvanians donating goods and services and collecting funds to assist storm survivors in Texas, the Pennsylvania Department of State, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), and the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General want all Pennsylvanians to know how they can best help and not hinder rescue and recovery efforts, while also protecting themselves.
While donations of goods such as food and clothing are well-intentioned, unsolicited materials can overwhelm organizations that are tasked with helping survivors but are unprepared to store, sort and distribute large quantities of donated goods. The most useful form of assistance is donations of money. Make check and credit card donations to well-established, charitable organizations that are assisting the flood relief effort. Monetary donations allow charitable organizations the flexibility to purchase items that are needed most, and unlike material donations, entail no transportation costs.
The above-mentioned state agencies offer the following tips:
- Do not give to a charity you know nothing about. Call the charity or do some research on your own. Search the name online, with the word “complaints” or “scams.” Check with the Better Business Bureau.
- Do not donate over the phone unless you are familiar with the organization.
- For door-to-door solicitors, ask to see the person’s identification and consider avoiding them altogether. Do not feel pressured into giving and allowing someone into your house.
- Do not give credit card numbers, bank account numbers or other personal financial information over the phone. Never wire money to someone claiming to be a charity.
- Whenever possible, write a check payable to the charity so you have a record of your donation. Or, make a donation directly through a legitimate organization’s secure website, rather than a third-party website.
- Do not click links in unsolicited emails or on social media. Unless you previously donated to an organization, assume that an unsolicited donation request by email is a scam. Plus, links in emails or social media can unleash malware.
Charitable organizations that solicit contributions in Pennsylvania must register with the department’s Bureau of Corporations and Charitable Organizations if their gross annual contributions are more than $25,000. There are some statutory exclusions and exemptions to the registration requirement for groups such as religious institutions, hospitals, and police, firefighter or veteran organizations. To determine if a charitable group is property registered, please visit the Charities Online Database at www.charities.pa.gov. The site also provides a link with a listing of organizations that have been subject to corrective actions taken by the Bureau. The public may also call 1-800-732-0999.
The Annual Charities Report online contains detailed information about charitable organizations registered in Pennsylvania and professional solicitors and fundraising counsels. The report outlines what percentage of every donated dollar goes to the charity and how much is charged by the solicitors or counsels for their services. That report is available by clicking here or at www.dos.pa.gov.
If you believe you have been scammed, please contact the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 or email@example.com.
Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic
I will be hosting my annual Flu/Pneumonia Shot & Senior Clinic on Thursday, September 28 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. Light refreshments will be served.
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. Organizations scheduled to participate include: ACCESS; Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Area Agency on Aging; Allegheny County Bar Association; Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office; Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; Duquesne University Mylan School of Pharmacy; OASIS; the Office of the Consumer Advocate; PA Attorney General’s Office; PA APPRISE; and the PA Public Utility Commission. I hope to see you there.
Pathways to Pardons
On Wednesday, Oct. 4 from 6 – 8 p.m., along with Lt. Governor Mike Stack, I will be hosting a Pathways to Pardons town hall event at the Teamsters Temple Local 249, located at 4701 Butler Street in Lawrenceville.
This event is geared towards individuals who want to learn in more detail about our commonwealth’s pardoning process. Many individuals have made bad decisions in the past and have a misdemeanor or felony conviction on their record but have served their punishments, rehabilitated themselves, and as contributing members to their communities and society, are seeking a pardon. The Pathways to Pardons event will allow these individuals wishing to learn about pardons to engage with experts in attendance on the pardon process and what to expect as they seek a pardon.
I will provide more details on the event as they become available. In the meantime, if you are interested in the process, please click here to watch a short video that briefly explains the Pennsylvania Pardoning Process.
Illegal Credit/Debit Card “Skimmers”
The Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Pennsylvania Department of Banking & Securities, and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture joined forces recently to raise awareness of the use of illegal credit and debit card “skimmers” at gas stations and ATM’s in Pennsylvania. Skimmers are malicious card readers often attached to an actual payment terminal that can gather data from a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe when inserted or swiped.
As part of the campaign, State Police officers and Department of Agriculture inspectors in the field log reported incidents into their respective tracking systems. This logged data is then analyzed to reveal state trends on the illegal use of skimmers and can lead to greater protections for consumers and business owners.
Below are tips to help consumers protect themselves:
- Choose gas pumps that are closer to and within the line of vision of the cashiers.
- Use ATM’s in well-lit, secure locations and avoid using ATM’s that are stand-alone units in corners of stores or other out-of-the-way locations.
- Look at the card reader slot and surrounding areas to see if anything looks out of place, mismatched, or loose.
- Make sure no one is watching you enter your PIN, or possibly filming you on a cell phone.
- Consider using your credit card instead of your debit card to avoid compromising your PIN and to gain other consumer protections.
- Check your bank and credit statements frequently to watch for fraudulent activity and report any unfamiliar activity immediately.
If you believe you have been scammed, please contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did You Know…
Did you know that the number of compromised ATM’s in the U.S. skyrocketed 546% from 2014 to 2015? This was due in large part to nonbank-owned ATM’s, which accounted for 60% of ATM fraud in 2015, compared to 39% in 2014.
Upcoming APPRISE Lunch & Learn
The next APPRISE/Allegheny Link Lunch & Learn event is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 14 at the Human Services Building, located at 1 Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. – noon with the program beginning at noon.
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 topic for the Sept. 14 Lunch & Learn is “Coordinating Medicare and Medicaid Benefits – Upcoming Changes in Medicaid Coverage for ‘Dual Eligible’ Beneficiaries in 2018.” This presentation will examine the special characteristics of dual eligibility under the Medicare and Medicaid systems, how each system coordinates with each other, and the unique problems that dual eligibility generates. They will also look at the changes beginning in 2018 for the access and utilization of the heath care by dual eligible individuals in Pennsylvania under the Community Health Choices initiative.
Anyone interested in attending should R.S.V.P. to Bill McKendree at email@example.com or 412-661-1670, ext. 645.
ALOCSAN Open House
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) is hosting its award-winning Open House on Saturday, Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at their wastewater treatment plant on the Northside. ALCOSAN’s Open House is the region’s largest watershed and environmental festival and is celebrating its 15th year this year. More than 40 exhibitors will be present, offering hands-on activities, displays and games for children and adults.
Last year, a record crowd of more than 2,300 people attended. A tour of the plant, where as much as 250 million gallons of wastewater is cleaned every day, is always a crowd favorite, so guests should register for a tour time as soon as they go through registration at the event. Visitors can save time by registering for admission in advance at www.alcosan.org, but the only way to get tour tickets is to pick them up on the day of the Open House.
Other highlights include seeing ALCOSAN’s state-of-the-art laboratory, getting up close with creatures that live in the watershed and taking a look at a 2,200-gallon tank filled with fish that will be pulled from the Ohio River on the morning of the event. Walk through a simulated sewer, learn to prepare for an emergency, find out how to connect household downspouts to rain barrels, and much more.
Admission and parking are free and a free shuttle will be provided from the Northside T stations. Free lunch is also provided. More information on ALCOSAN’s Open House can be found at www.alcosan.org.
World’s Steepest 5K Returns
Hell on Hills, the World’s Steepest 5K is back! Last year, the hills of Beechview saw almost 300 runners charging up some of the steepest streets the world has to offer, such as Canton and Boustead. They are doing it again this year, Saturday, October 7 at 8 a.m.
This year’s event will feature a community festival at the finish line with food trucks, music, and general revelry. For more information on the race and event and to register, please visit
This Thursday marks the beginning of the National Football League regular season and for millions of Americans that means the start of their Fantasy Football Leagues. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, more than 59 million people in the U.S. and Canada participate in some kind of fantasy sports league. Just ten years ago, that number was just over 19 million.
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
|Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212