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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Pennsylvania is Long Overdue for a Minimum Wage Increase

State Minimum WagesAvailable to Pennsylvania residents are many benefits in terms of health care, education, economy, quality of life, and employment opportunities to name a few.  However, when compared to surrounding states, the Commonwealth falls behind in minimum wage.  The state’s minimum wage has not been raised in over a decade and is the same as the federal minimum wage, $7.25 an hour.  To put it into perspective, Maryland has boosted theirs to $10.10 an hour, New Jersey is set at $8.85 an hour and New York lifts it’s working class workers by starting their minimum wage at $11.10 an hour. So why must our employees receive a less than acceptable wage while surrounding states advance their residents forward?

An increase in minimum wage is about human decency and doing the right thing. It is nearly impossible to survive on $7.25 an hour, even if an individual works 40-hours a week, without still falling below the federal poverty level.  And contrary to stereotype, a typical minimum-wage worker is not some suburban teenager earning pocket cash. Based on Census Bureau data, 88 percent of minimum wage earners are adults, and more than half are women.  An increase in the minimum wage would boost consumer spending since individuals who must get by on low wages are basically forced to spend every dollar that comes in on necessities like food, housing and heating.  The reliance on government assistance and safety nets would also decline.  Not to mention the influx of new spending into the local economy.

The Keystone Research Center released statistics for the 42nd Senatorial District on what a minimum wage increase would look like and who would benefit the most:

  • 56% are women
  • 21% are people of color
  • 54% is the share of their family’s income earned on average by workers affected by a minimum wage increase
  • On average the teenagers affected by a minimum wage increase earn 22% of their family’s income
  • 46% are over the age of 40
  • Only 5% are 19 or younger
  • 70% work full time
  • 64% have some college or more
  • 30% are parents

The statistics also demonstrated that by raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, nearly 25,000 residents living in the 42nd Senatorial District would be positively affected.  The number increases to over 46,000 individuals if minimum wage was set at $15 an hour. 

For many years I have advocated for an increase to the state’s minimum wage and have co-sponsored a number of bills.  Many attempts have been made by the Democrats as well as Governor Wolf.  However, the Majority Party turns a blind eye to legislation fearing that their members may be exposed for not supporting decent wages for the working class.  I do not have control of these elected officials who refuse to provide human decency to their constituency and have a tolerance for poverty.  But I have been elected into office to represent the people of the 42nd District.  So, for this reason I have decided to author legislation that would allow Allegheny County to set our county’s minimum wage.

The last time the state’s minimum wage was increased was in 2006 under Act 112.  At that time language was inserted to prevent local municipalities from establishing their own minimum wage regulations.  However, my bill would make it so that this provision would simply not apply to Allegheny County. 

The wage gap continues to widen, and the American middle class is disappearing before our eyes.  I’m tired of feeling like I am powerless in this fight.  I refuse to “sit back” one more day and hear from my constituents about how hard it is to get by daily on just minimum wage.  I owe it to the people I represent to stand up and be their voice and grant them the ability to better provide for their families.  Pittsburgh and the communities that surround our great city have been rated among the Best Places to Live and Retire.  Let’s give them another reason to look at Allegheny County as a role model to what the rest of the state needs to be doing.  

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed on Monday, Jan. 21 in observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.  My offices will re-open as scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Honoring Dr. King

MLKThe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday provides all of us the opportunity to pause and honor the life and legacy of Dr. King.  By using the power of words and acts of nonviolent resistance, Dr. King led a movement that brought profound changes in our attitudes toward one another and provided hope and inspiration to millions while helping to bridge the cultural divide.  He dedicated his life campaigning for racial justice and equality, also serving as an advocate for the poor.

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday also is recognized as a National Day of Service.  Next Monday, Jan. 21, people from communities across America will have the chance to come together, and work together on projects, and/or to solve problems.  Please visit www.mlkday.gov  to learn more about the National Day of Service and if you are interested in finding projects in your area, or to register one.

Veterans Benefits Review

veteranAs the New Year begins, the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) is encouraging veterans to review their benefits with a professional to ensure they are receiving the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice. All veterans are encouraged to occasionally check with a Veterans Service Officer to see if changes in a veteran’s circumstances or changes to benefit policies may have modified the programs a veteran may be eligible to receive according to Brian Natali, chief, Division of Veterans Services and Programs.

Safeguarding military paperwork, especially the DD-214, which is used to verify military service, is an important first step.  The easiest way to manage military documents is to make sure they are filed in a safe place immediately upon leaving the military. Veterans often find that filing their documents for free at their county courthouse of record is an easy way to secure them until needed, which can often be decades into the future. Anyone needing assistance locating their military documentation can count on assistance from the DMVA by calling 717-861-8910 or e-mailing: RA-REQ@pa.gov.

Another key step is for veterans to apply for federal health care and state benefits by visiting their local county director of veterans affairs or area accredited service organizations to take a look at what benefits they may be eligible for and to get help applying for those benefits. In Allegheny County, the contact is Pam Iovino.  She can be reached at 412-621-4357 or pamela.iovino@alleghenycounty.us.

In addition to connecting with a county director or an accredited service organization, DMVA recommends that every one of Pennsylvania’s nearly 800,000 veterans sign up for the DMVA Veterans Registry, an extremely helpful, free tool that electronically delivers timely information about the many state benefits, programs and services available to veterans. Veterans, family members and people who work with veterans can sign up by computer or mobile device at www.register.dmva.pa.gov.

DMVA cautions that veterans and their dependents should never pay for help to apply for veteran’s benefits. There are about 200 Veterans Service Officers in Pennsylvania who work with organizations such as the DMVA, county veterans affairs offices, and several veterans service organizations. They are experienced, trained professionals who provide veterans with the best advice and assistance at no cost.

For more about the DMVA, including information on their six veterans homes, visit them online at www.dmva.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.

Food Bank Resources

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food BankThe Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank first opened its doors in 1980 during a time when the region’s steel mills were closing, and more and more people became unemployed. The Food Bank was there to not only provide food assistance, but to help people get back on their feet. Over the past 35 years, as the world of food assistance has evolved, the Food Bank has moved beyond emergency food assistance. Today, they work through a network of nearly 400 partner agencies (including smaller regional and rural food banks, food pantries, homeless shelters and senior centers) and seven Partner Distribution Organizations (PDOs) that support additional agencies throughout their 11-county service area.

Today, the Food Bank and its partners have dozens and dozens of locations within the 42nd Senatorial District and can assist individuals and families in need. To view a map that shows locations within the district and a listing of agencies, please click here.

Did You Know…

Did you know that in 2016-17 the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank distributed 33 million meals and provided eight million pounds of healthy produce?

National Blood Donor Month

January is National Blood Donor Month in the United States. This month is a month that sees a significant drop off in blood donation for a variety of reasons but there is always a need for blood donation so getting new donors in January is critical.

American Red CrossThe American Red Cross provides about 40 percent of our nation’s blood and blood components, all from generous volunteer donors. But supply can’t always meet demand because only about 3 percent of age-eligible people donate blood yearly. Each new donor helps meet patient needs.

If you’re interested in learning more about blood donation, please visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

Farm ShowFontana Fact

The annual Pennsylvania Farm Show wrapped up last week at the Farm Show complex in Harrisburg. The Pennsylvania Farm Show is the largest indoor agricultural exposition under one roof in the nation, with nearly 6,000 animals, 10,000 competitive exhibits and 300 commercial exhibits every year.

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
Community Food Bank Resources