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Senator Wayne D. Fontana
Senator Fontana spoke at the annual Beechview Memorial Service at the Parklet in Beechview on Saturday. Senator Fontana spoke at the annual Beechview Memorial Service at the Parklet in Beechview on Saturday.

Senator Fontana spoke at the annual Beechview Memorial Service at the Parklet in Beechview on Saturday. He was proud to announce that he has secured funding for the erecting of a monument in the Parklet that will pay tribute to those who lost their lives in wars and conflicts since the Vietnam War. Current monuments in the Parklet honor war veterans through the Vietnam War.

Senator Fontana presented Castle Shannon Borough with a citation recognizing the borough’s 100th anniversary at their annual Community Day on Sunday. enator Fontana participated in the Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning in Heidelberg Borough

Senator Fontana presented Castle Shannon Borough with a citation recognizing the borough’s 100th anniversary at their annual Community Day on Sunday (top left).  Senator Fontana participated in the Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning in Heidelberg Borough (top right).

Time to Put Pennsylvania’s Working Class First

I attended an event at Bar Marco in the Strip District last week with several other members of the Allegheny County Delegation including Senators Jay Costa, Lindsey Williams, Pam Iovino and Representatives Austin Davis and Sara Innamorato.  This location was chosen because it is a perfect example of a business doing the right thing for their employees and paying a not only a minimum wage, but a living wage.  Since April 2016, Bar Marco eliminated paying their full-time servers $5 per hour in addition to tips and instead switched over to an annual salary of $35,000 with health care, paid vacation, bonus incentives and company shares.  The owners made this drastic change not only to provide their employees with a more regular pay schedule but also to create a positive work environment in hopes of retaining their workers. 

Sens. Wayne Fontana, Lindsey Williams, Pam Iovino, Jay CostaAs budget negotiations begin to take place over the next several weeks, one of the main priorities I will be advocating for is a minimum wage increase.  Governor Wolf has proposed raising the state minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $12 per hour on July 1, 2019 and increase that amount by $0.50 every year until the minimum wage is $15 beginning on July 1, 2025.  The plan also increases the minimum wage by the annual cost-of-living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland region starting July 1, 2026 and every year thereafter. 

This has been an ongoing fight between Democrats and Republicans for several years now.  Conservatives love to use scare tactics about the negative effects such a raise would have on the state and Pennsylvanians:  workers will lose their jobs, companies will go broke and out of business, prices will skyrocket.  If this were the case, how have businesses in Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York, Washington D.C., Rhode Island, Connecticut, which all have higher minimum wages than Pennsylvania, been able to not only survive but thrive?  In fact, according to the Keystone Research Center, each of these states has had higher job growth, even in sectors like food service, which tend to be most affected by a minimum wage increase. 

Another way Republicans like to instill fear about a wage increase is by saying minimum wage earners are teenagers.  The reality is the average age of a minimum wage worker in Pennsylvania is 37 years old, and 90 percent are older than 20.  Additionally, 60 percent of minimum wage earners are women who earn 49 percent of their family’s income, which means they are not simply working for extra cash.  And for those teenagers who are working for minimum wage, with the average college debt in our state being more than $35,000, perhaps these young residents are being responsible and saving up to put themselves through college.  Are we to be told that they don’t deserve a fair wage to help alleviate taking on student loans? 

There are many studies that have found that raising the state’s minimum wage will save employers and the commonwealth in the long run as well.  According to the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office, an increase in the commonwealth’s minimum wage would pull many low-income families above the federal poverty level and thus they would be eligible for less state assistance.  For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services projects that expenditures would decline, largely due to reduced Medicaid enrollment, by $119 million in Fiscal Year 2020-21 as a result of a $12 minimum wage.  Furthermore, it would spur new economic growth since low-wage workers tend to spend nearly all the new income they receive. 

The positives don’t stop there.  It has been found that an increase in wages not only increases productivity by employees but also reduces turnover rates.  Thus, these factors should be considered since they produce savings to the employer in the long run.  Paying poverty-level wages benefits no one.  It is nearly impossible to support a single person let alone a family on the current $7.25 minimum wage as well as pay for rent, buy food and other necessities not to mention have enough left over to cover healthcare. 

The time has come to make Pennsylvania’s minimum wage a living wage. This is about human decency and dignity.  It’s about giving low-income workers a fighting chance.  It’s about providing family sustaining jobs.  It’s about injecting spending dollars into our economy. It’s about fairness to our working class.  It’s about finally doing the right thing. It is time to make Pennsylvania a place that sets a national standard for putting their workers first. 

Real ID Information Session – TONIGHT!

I am hosting a Real ID Information Session with Rep. Adam Ravenstahl and Avalon Borough tonight from 6 – 7:30 p.m. I encourage anyone looking to learn more about REAL ID to attend the session which is being held at the Avalon Borough Building, located at 640 California Avenue.

Representatives from PennDOT, Department of Vital Records, Department of Health and Allegheny County Courts will be on hand to answer questions about how to get a Real ID.

As I wrote in the March 5 edition of my News & Views, REAL IDs are now available. If you have questions about how to obtain a REAL ID I hope to see you on May 28.

Did You Know…

Did you know that PennDOT has issued more than 138,000 REAL IDs since they became available on March 1?

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program

Qualifying seniors in Allegheny County will soon be able to pick up vouchers for locally grown fruits and vegetables.  The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is a federal program that is administered at the state level by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.  This program attempts to provide seniors who are nutritionally at risk a means to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from approved Pennsylvania farmers.

The program provides recipients with four $5 voucher checks for a total year benefit of $20 to redeem at qualified farmers’ markets.  Checks may be spent through Nov. 30 on produce that is grown in Pennsylvania or purchased directly from a Pennsylvania farmer.

Some examples of produce that may be purchased under the vouchers are apples, beans, berries, carrots, grapes, melons, spinach and tomatoes.  Customers must spend the entire $5 check and change will not be given. Lost or stolen checks will not be replaced

The distribution of voucher checks will take place on Tuesday, June 11 at senior centers throughout Allegheny County.  Checks are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.  Seniors are asked to bring identification showing proof of age and residency to the distribution site.

To be eligible, individuals must be an Allegheny County resident who will be 60 years old by December 31, 2019.  The income limit for a one-person household is $23,107 and is $31,284 for a two-person household.  Married couples may each receive one set of checks.  If an eligible consumer requires a proxy to receive their checks, the proxy is responsible for signing for and spending the checks for the individual.  All individuals must completely fill out a proxy form in order to have a proxy receive checks for them. 

For a complete listing of voucher check distribution locations and times, or to download a proxy form, please visit the Allegheny County Department of Human Services website at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/olderadults.aspx.  A listing of distribution sites, farmers’ market locations and proxy forms can also be picked up in my district offices.  Anyone with questions on the program can also call the Allegheny County SeniorLine at 412-350-5460.

Mixed-use Development Tax Credits

Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA)The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) is accepting bids for the purchase of $2 million in mixed-use development tax credits. The funds collected from successful bidders will be used for the construction or rehabilitation of mixed-use developments in Pennsylvania communities.  The deadline for bids is 2 p.m. on Friday, June 14.

These tax credits will be used by the winning bidders – which can be companies, organizations or individuals – to reduce their state tax liability. The intent of the bidding process is to raise as much funding as possible from the $2 million in tax credits being made available to provide for a significant investment in community revitalization projects in various communities. The projects to receive this funding will be selected during a competitive Request for Proposals process later this year.

This new tax credit program was created as part of the Commonwealth’s fiscal year 2016/2017 budget (implemented July 1, 2017), and PHFA was directed to administer the credit. PHFA was authorized to sell these tax credits through directed or negotiated sale to any qualified taxpayer. It is expected that the tax credit awards will be made within 90 days after bidding closes.  The credit awards will be made in 2019, but they are not effective for utilization until 2020 against a 2019 tax liability.

More information about the mixed-use development tax credit and the current bidding process is available on the PHFA website at www.phfa.org/mhp/developers/loans.aspx. Program guidelines and bid criteria are posted there. Interested organizations can learn more by contacting Bryce Maretzki at PHFA at (717) 780-1867 or by email atbmaretzki@phfa.org.

New PHFA Housing Policy Fellowship Created

With the goal of funding critical research and promoting leadership development, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency has created a new Housing Policy Fellowship.

The fellowship will fund a maximum of 12 months of research and study on a pressing housing or community development topic. With a monthly stipend of $1,000, the maximum funding available will be $12,000. The financial support can be for a variety of activities supporting the approved research, including interviews with experts, securing resources and study materials, travel for attending relevant conferences and more.

This fellowship is intended to benefit the housing field by underwriting research on subjects that currently present housing or community development challenges. A secondary benefit of the fellowship will be its investment in an individual to promote their growth as a housing leader. The fellowship will produce documented findings that will be publicly available for everyone’s benefit.

The fellowship application is available on the agency’s website at www.PHFA.org. On the site, look under the “News” tab in the upper-left corner of the homepage, and then scroll down to “Housing Policy News.” All legal residents of the state over the age of 18 are eligible to apply, excluding PHFA staff and board members. All applications will be reviewed by PHFA staff according to the fellowship criteria, which are outlined in the application.

The fellowship application deadline is 3 p.m. on Sept. 6.

Questions about the fellowship may be directed to Bryce Maretzki at PHFA at (717) 780-1867 or bmaretzki@phfa.org.

Safe Boating

Safe BoatingWith the summer boating season just around the corner, the PA Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding boaters to put safety first before hitting the water. The following are reminders to recreational boaters about some of the most basic steps they can take to ensure a fun and safe season on the water:

  • Wear a life jacket. Law requires that you have a lifejacket on board for every person on your boat. Children ages 12 and under must always wear a life jacket when aboard a boat less than 20 feet in length, including all canoes and kayaks. In 2018, 14 recreational boating fatalities occurred in Pennsylvania. Only three victims were wearing a life jacket. According to Pennsylvania boating accident reports, roughly 80-percent of all boating fatalities occur annually because boaters were not wearing life jackets. Life jackets must be U.S. Coast Guard approved and properly fit the individual, including children and infants.

  • Never boat under the influence (BUI). Alcohol use increases the chances of having an accident. Alcohol affects balance, coordination and judgment. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. BUI penalties include loss of boating privileges, significant fines and imprisonment. Waterways Conservation Officers will be on patrol throughout the summer looking for impaired boaters.

  • File a float plan. Let someone know where you are planning to boat and when you expect to return. Plans can change when you’re having fun but keeping someone aware of your location throughout the day can ensure that help arrives quickly if you experience a mechanical or medical emergency while on the water. Carry a ‘dry bag’ to keep your cell phone and other valuables in while boating.

  • Take a basic boating safety course. In Pennsylvania, all boaters born after December 31, 1981 or who operate a personal watercraft (such as a jet ski), regardless of age must have a Pennsylvania Boating Safety Certificate. Courses are available online or in classroom settings. Visit www.fishandboat.com to find an online course, or classroom course near you.

  • Have proper registrations and launch permits. In Pennsylvania, all powered boats must be registered with the PFBC. Unpowered boats, such as kayaks and canoes, do not require registration. However, to use a PFBC or DCNR public boat access along any waterway including those within state parks, you must either register the boat or obtain a launch permit issued by either the PFBC or the DCNR.

To learn more about boating in Pennsylvania, including complete rules and regulations, registration and title information, how to find great places to boat near you, how file a boating accident report and answers to other frequently asked questions (FAQs), visit the Boating Basics page at www.fishandboat.com.

Fontana Fact

Memorial Day, which honors those who have died while serving in the Armed Forces, was first observed in 1868. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

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