Action Needed Following Recent Investigative Report on Water and Sewer Lateral Repairs
Last week, a City of Pittsburgh investigative panel issued a report that focused on reforming the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. Financing the repair of water and sewer laterals is in the public interest because it helps the consumer, public health and the environment, but more needs to done to help homeowners and authorities deal with the costs.
I introduced legislation, Senate Bill 656 (SB 656), that passed the Senate this year and was incorporated into the state’s Fiscal Code and signed into law as Act 72. This legislation allows public authorities such as the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority to address lead contamination. For several years, I have been proposing measures to help public authorities and homeowners deal with water and sewer issues. This is a public health issue and one that most consumers are unable to financially deal with effectively.
I have authored another piece of legislation, Senate Bill 639 (SB 639) , that would allow municipal authorities who receive state funding to use those dollars to repair laterals on private property. This is another way we can help authorities control costs while addressing fiscal issues facing homeowners who must repair and replace defective private laterals. SB 639 passed the Senate but is currently idling in the state House Environmental Committee.
According to a recent report, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority faces an estimated $1 billion in work – prompted by 3,500 pipe breaks since 2014. Reforming the PWSA is paramount, but consumers being treated fairly and reasonably is just as important so we must find ways to assist with the high costs of repair.
We can and should do more to help public authorities who face exorbitant repair costs of public lines but we cannot forget that many laterals that are not repaired can cause health issues and need to be addressed as well. My SB 639 that would allow public authorities to use PENNVEST dollars and other state resources for private lateral repairs would simultaneously solve two problems at once. Authorities have trouble dealing with lateral repairs and consumers often are unable to finance the repair or replacement of faulty lines. My legislation would provide access to more resources.
As the New Year begins, I will fight to make my legislation a priority when the General Assembly returns to voting session.
New Program for Medicare and Medicaid Participants
On January 1, Community HealthChoices (CHC) launched in 14 southwestern counties. The purpose of this new program is to improve and manage medical services for eligible residents over 65 or those with disabilities or medical conditions who are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. These individuals have been asked to choose a managed care organization (MCO) which will be responsible for coordinating their medical services.
An important component of Community HealthChoices is that each participant will be assigned to a service coordinator to assist with services and care whether it is at a doctor’s office, hospital, nursing home or even in one’s own home. The managed care organizations also have financial incentives to help their clients reduce unnecessary institutional care, boost their access to home and community services and extend their independence so that our senior population can live healthier longer.
The state has selected three private MCOs which are Ameri-Health Caritas Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Health and Wellness and UPMC Community HealthChoices. As of early December, state officials said 54 percent of the 80,000 affected in the region have voluntarily selected a managed care organization. Individuals who did not select one of these MCOs, which accounts for the other 46 percent, have been assigned to one by the state. It is important to note that a transitional period of three to six months has been implemented in which participants may continue all of their existing services, regardless of their MCO network.
The Community HealthChoices program was developed over a two-year period in partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services with input from hundreds of stakeholders, like the Area Agencies on Aging, senior and disability advocates, providers, future program participants and their caregivers. Over the next two years, a statewide expansion of CHC will take place with an estimated 400,000 commonwealth residents being affected.
Pennsylvania follows more than 20 other states in adopting a managed care process for its delivery of long-term care services, which are paid for on a shared basis by the state and federal government. If you would like to learn more about HealthChoices, please visit www.healthchoices.pa.gov.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Deadline TODAY
The deadline to file for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is today.
If you need 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.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) is accepting 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 (www.compass.state.pa.us). 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 the Allegheny County Assistance Office, located at 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.
Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on the 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 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.
Meet Your Elected Officials in Brookline
Together with State Representatives Dan Miller, Dan Deasy and Harry Readshaw, we are hosting an elected official open house on Saturday, Jan. 20 at the Brookline Teen Outreach Center, located at 520 Brookline Boulevard. The gathering will run from 2 – 3:30 p.m. and is an opportunity to meet the elected officials who represent the 19th ward in the City of Pittsburgh at the state level along with the newly elected representatives at the city and county level. We will be joined by incoming City Councilperson Anthony Coghill and incoming County Councilperson Bob Palmosina.
Snacks and beverages will be served. We hope to see you there!
Fort Pitt Museum Temporarily Closing
The Fort Pitt Museum located at Point State Park, part of the Senator John Heinz History Center museum system, temporarily closed yesterday for exhibition maintenance and updates. The museum will re-open to the public on Saturday, Jan. 27.
During the temporary closure, Fort Pitt Museum curators will clean the museum’s iconic diorama depicting the Point in the 1760’s. Several newly acquired 18th century loan objects will be placed on display, including a horn spoon once belonging to Catharine Bard, a former captive of the Delaware tribe in the mid-1700’s, and an original 18th century French trade pistol. Museum staff will also prepare for a full schedule of 2018 events, including a Fort Pitt Museum speaker series, living history demonstrations, educational outreach, scout workshops, and activities commemorating the 240th anniversary of the Fort Pitt Treaty of 1778.
For more information on the Fort Pitt Museum please visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
Did You Know…
Did you know the first Peace Treaty between the American Indians and the United States was signed at Fort Pitt in September 1778?
Christmas Tree Recycling Program
Allegheny County is once again offering its annual Christmas Tree Recycling Program this holiday season. Residents of Allegheny County can drop off their Christmas trees through Tuesday, Jan. 16 at all nine regional parks during regular hours of operation, dawn to dusk.
All lights, decorations, tinsel and stands must be removed from trees prior to dropping them off. The trees will be mulched and used in County parks. The following are the drop-off locations:
parking lot by the soccer fields
|Deer Lakes Park
||parking lot by the Veterans 2 Shelter
|Harrison Hills Park
|| parking lot at the intersection of Chipmunk & Cottontail Drive
|Hartwood Acres Park
||parking lot at the mansion
||parking lot at the swimming pool
|Round Hill Park
||parking lot at the Alfalfa Shelter
|Settlers Cabin Park
||parking lot by the wave pool
||parking lot at the wave pool
|White Oak Park
||parking lot at the Chestnut Shelter
Oasis Tutoring Program
The OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program is hosting two training sessions for older adults interested in volunteering as tutors. OASIS is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains older adults (50+) to tutor children (grades K-4) in Pittsburgh Public Schools in reading and writing. OASIS has tutors in over 32 schools and serves 200 students yearly.
Training sessions will be held Tuesday, Jan. 23 and Thursday, Jan. 25 from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. at the OASIS office, located in the Duquesne Light Building, Suite 525 at 411 Seventh Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. All training, materials and clearances are free.
For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, please contact John D. Spehar, Pittsburgh OASIS Tutoring Program Director at 412-393-7648 or firstname.lastname@example.org. OASIS is an affiliate of the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania gained 18,452 people last year to hold a population of 12,805,537 as of July 1, 2017. Pennsylvania now ranks as the 5th most populous state again, passing Illinois. California, Texas, Florida and New York are the nation’s four largest states.
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