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Senator Wayne D. Fontana
Swearing In Ceremony Swearing In Ceremony
Senator Fontana was sworn in for his fourth full term in the State Senate on January 1st. 
He is pictured here after the ceremony at the Capitol with his grandchildren (from left to right): Olivia, Matthew, Gabriella, Josephine, and Anthony.

PA Forward Student Loan Program

College LoanFunding and affordability are some of the greatest barriers to college access for many students.  Often students and families need additional financial assistance after exhausting their eligibility for other aid such as grants, scholarships and low-cost federal student loans.  Thanks to the new PA Forward Loan Program, students and their families will now have available to them another low-cost loan program through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) that will help pay for college.  

Starting in the 2019-20 academic year, the PA Forward Program will provide low-cost, alternative student loans for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as loans for parent borrowers.  The loan program will offer exceptionally competitive fixed interest rates and will allow a student or their guardian to borrow up to the total cost of attendance, which is capped at $150,000, to cover tuition, fees, room, board, books and other supplies.  PA Forward is also available to those borrowers who are in repayment and want to combine their debt after graduation to achieve a lower monthly payment.

The PA Forward Program touts no application or origination fees, immediate credit approvals, and flexible repayment options.  Although interest rates for the loans have not yet been determined, they will vary based on a borrower’s creditworthiness and the repayment option chosen.  Borrowers can receive a .25 percent interest rate reduction for enrolling in an automatic direct debit program and an additional .50 percent interest rate reduction for achieving successful graduation.  The loan program also features a 6-month grace period after graduation before the first payment is due to allow students the ability to find a job and get their finances in order.  

Pennsylvania students as well as students from six surrounding states (New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and New York) who attend a commonwealth school are eligible for PA Forward. Funding for loans is coming from $100 million in tax-exempt financing from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED).  Going through this avenue will provide a lower-cost funding mechanism if PHEAA would have to pay than if it would have turned to the capital markets.  PHEAA will have the capability to ask for more funding in the future if needed. 

Over the life of the loan, students taking advantage of the PA Forward Program will have the ability to save thousands of dollars.  Applications will start being accepted in the spring.  For more information on the student loan program, please visit https://www.pheaa.org/funding-opportunities/pa-forward/.

Office Move

Brookline OfficeI want to remind everyone that my Brookline office has moved to a new location.  My Brookline office is now located at 1039 Brookline Boulevard, Suite 2. The hours will remain 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday and the phone number remains 412-344-2551.

My Kennedy Township office remains at Kenmawr Plaza, located at 524 Pine Hollow Road and is open Monday – Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  The Kennedy office can be reached at 412-331-1208.

My Beechview office will open from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month.

Home Radon Testing

DEP Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) encourages Pennsylvanians to start off the new year by conducting a simple test of their homes for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause cancer. Winter is a good time to test in the commonwealth because doors and windows are closed, providing more accurate results.
 
Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas that occurs from the breakdown of uranium in the ground. It enters homes through cracks in the foundation or other openings. As a result, high levels of radon tend to be found in basements, but the gas can be found anywhere in the home. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set 4 picocuries of radon per liter (pCi/L) of air as an Action Level. If your radon level is higher than this, EPA, DEP, and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend having a radon mitigation system professionally installed to lower it. Typically consisting of a pipe and exhaust fan, the system will vent radon to the outside.

All radon testers, mitigators, and laboratories in Pennsylvania must be certified by DEP, which provides a public list of certified radon service providers. People can also obtain a hard copy or verify a company’s certification by calling DEP at 800-23RADON (800-237-2366).

DEP will send free follow-up test kits to Pennsylvanians who’ve tested their homes and have results higher than 100 pCi/L or who’ve installed an active mitigation system in the past year. Compared with the associated risk of lung cancer, a radon reduction system is very affordable, generally in the price range of other common home improvements.

Having a system installed will also make the future sale of your home easier. If you’re building a new home, DEP recommends installing a passive radon system during construction. There is no reliable way to test the ground in advance for radon, and the cost of installing the radon system during construction is typically much less than installing one after the fact.

For people buying or selling a home, Pennsylvania’s Real Estate Seller Disclosure Act requires sellers to disclose the results of any known radon testing. The DEP website lists radon testing options for real estate transactions.

For more information, please contact the DEP Radon Division via phone at 800-237-2366 or 717-783-3594, or via email atra-epbrpenvprt@pa.gov.

Did You Know…

Did you know that radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer?

Slot Machine Revenue Increases

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced recently that revenue generated from slot machines in Pennsylvania increased 8 percent in December compared with December 2017.  Revenue from slot machines in December totaled more than $202.8 million, an increase from last December’s slot machine revenue of $187.6 million. 

For calendar year 2018, slot machine revenue totaled more than $2.36 billion, marking the eighth straight year that revenue topped $2.3 billion. That amount was 1.4 percent higher than in calendar year 2017. Tax revenue from slot machines in 2018 totaled more than $1.2 billion.

The state’s gaming industry employs about 18,000 people and generates approximately $1.4 billion annually in tax revenue from both slot machines and table games.  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.

LIHEAP

LIHEAP LIHEAP 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:

Household Size Income Limit
1 $18,210
2 $24,690
3 $31,170
4 $37,650
5 $44,130
6 $50,610
7 $57,090
8 $63,570
9 $70,050
10 $76,530

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.

Funding for Environmental Education Projects

Apply OnlineThe Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) invites schools, nonprofit organizations, and businesses to apply for 2019 Environmental Education Grants to support a wide range of enviro-education projects.

General grants of up to $25,000 will be awarded to larger, one-year, regional or statewide initiatives. Mini-grants of up to $3,000 will be awarded to one-year projects of any size.

Examples of eligible enviro-education projects include educating participants on climate change adaptation or the impact of emissions on public health, offering training on the DEP permitting process, connecting city residents to nature, and instruction on reducing abandoned mine drainage or non-point-source water pollution from fertilizers.

Applications must be submitted online through eGrants (first-time users need to register). The application deadline is this Friday at 11:59 PM.

Grant application guidelines and instructions are available at https://www.dep.pa.gov/citizens/environmentaleducation/grants/pages/default.aspx.

Christmas Tree Recycling Programs

Allegheny County is again offering its annual Christmas Tree Recycling Program this holiday season.  County residents may drop off Christmas trees through Jan. 14 at all nine regional parks from 8 a.m. until dusk. All lights, decorations, tinsel and stands must be removed from trees prior to drop-off. Trees will be mulched and used in the county parks.  Drop-off locations are:Christmas Tree REcycling

Boyce Park – Soccer fields parking lot
Deer Lakes Park – Veterans Shelter parking lot
Harrison Hills Park – Parking lot at intersection of Chipmunk Dr. & Cottontail Dr.
Hartwood Acres Park – Mansion parking lot
North Park – Swimming pool parking lot
Round Hill Park – Alfalfa Shelter parking lot
Settlers Cabin Park – Wave pool parking lot
South Park – Wave pool parking lot
White Oak Park – Chestnut Shelter parking lot

The list of drop-off locations is also available online at www.alleghenycounty.us/parks/christmas-tree-recycling-program.aspx.

Additionally, the City of Pittsburgh is expanding its Christmas Tree Recycling program this year by providing ten drop-off locations for trees.  The program gives city residents the ability to have their trees recycled rather than sent to a landfill, which happens when the trees are left at the curb.  Only two drop-off sites were available last year. This year ten sites will be available for tree drop-off through January 26. (Three of the sites are DPW facilities that take yard waste year-round.)
 
All ornaments, netting, tinsel and tree stands must be removed from the tree before it is dropped off. The Forestry and Environmental Services divisions within the Department of Public Works are collaborating to chip the trees into pine mulch, which will be made available to the public for free this spring.   The tree recycling program also dovetails with the city’s Climate Action Plan, which has a zero-waste goal.
 

Residents may call 311 or click here for more information. The website features a map to help residents find their most convenient drop-off location.

Three DPW sites are available year-round for yard debris (including Christmas tree) drop-off, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Saturday. They are:

Friendship  
Baum Grove Parklet   
400 Roup Avenue (off Fairmont Avenue)  
Pittsburgh, PA 15232 

Brighton Heights  
Jack Stack Parking Lot
600 Brighton Woods Road  
Pittsburgh, PA 15212

Squirrel Hill South
Prospect Drive at Hobart Street in Schenley Park
Pittsburgh, PA 15217

Brookline
Brookline Recreation Center 
1400 Oakridge Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15226

Sheraden
Park Parking Lot at Surban Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15204

Highland Park
Parking lot off Lake Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

 

Deutschtown
Sue Murray Swimming Pool Parking Lot, Corner of Cedar and Stockton Avenues (enter off Stockton)
Pittsburgh, PA 15212 

Fontana Fact

The Pittsburgh region received 57.83 inches of liquid precipitation in 2018, making it the wettest year on record in Pittsburgh.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – First Tuesday of each month or by appointment