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Senator Wayne D. Fontana
Senator Fontana participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on May 3 in McKees Rocks for the Speedway Fueling Station.

Senator Fontana participated in a groundbreaking ceremony on May 3 in McKees Rocks for the Speedway Fueling Station. Speedway will be constructing a five-acre commercial fueling station that will further support the new CSX Intermodal Terminal as well as emphasize the continued redevelopment of the former P&LE Railroad Yard.

PA Forward Student Loan Program

As Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), I want to let students and families know that applications are available for the Commonwealth’s new PA Forward Student Loan Program, currently offering a suite of borrower-friendly loans for undergraduate and graduate students, and parent borrowers.  A PA Forward Refinance Loan will be offered later this year to combine all of a borrower’s Federal and private loans into one convenient monthly payment, which could help lower their monthly payment and/or reduce the amount they pay over the life of the loan. 

PA Forward Student Loan ProgramWith first year borrowing limits on federal loans as low as $5,500 and the annual average cost to attend college in Pennsylvania at $43,866, many students have trouble affording the full cost of attendance even after taking advantage of available grants, scholarships, campus-based aid, and federal loans. If family savings are not sufficient, students often rely on private student loans - many of which come with strict credit requirements, higher interest rates, and few borrower benefits during repayment.

While today’s easy access to expensive private loans helps fill a funding gap for many students, it’s also one of the reasons that millions of borrowers are struggling to manage crushing levels of loan debt for decades after graduation. This is also why PHEAA is so excited about the PA Forward Loan Program, as it finally gives Pennsylvania students a borrower-friendly, lower-cost private loan option from a trusted source.

PHEAA will serve as the lender and loan servicer for the program, with tax-exempt allocation provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).  Leveraging the combined resources of the Commonwealth allows PHEAA to provide the program at low rates with better borrower benefits as compared to most commercial private loan programs. PA Forward student loan borrowers can borrow up to the total cost of attendance with competitively low interest rates.  Additional benefits include no application or origination fees, and flexible repayment options and terms. 

Borrowers can receive a .50 percent interest rate reduction upon successful graduation and an additional .25 percent interest rate reduction for immediate repay through direct debit.  Student borrowers could also benefit from an available 6-month grace period after graduation before the first payment is due. This allows borrowers time to get their finances in order, including time to find a job, before repayment begins.

To learn more about PA Forward loans and to apply online, visit www.pheaa.org/PA-Forward.

Did You Know…

Did you know that the average student loan debt for a Pennsylvania undergraduate student is nearly $37,000?

State Grant Awarding Formula for 2019-20

The PHEAA board of directors also recently approved an awarding formula for the 2019-20 PA State Grant program that provides awards to more than 132,000 students while maintaining a $4,123 maximum award.

The PHEAA Board of Directors reviews the PA State Grant awarding formula annually and adopts modifications as needed to maximize available financial resources while providing the most meaningful benefits to students with financial need. The formula takes into consideration several factors, including family resources, the cost of tuition, and the expected number of applicants, in addition to the Governor’s recommended appropriation and any unexpended program funds that may remain from the previous year.

For 2019-20, Governor Wolf recommended a $310.233 million appropriation for the Program, which is $36.842 million above the Commonwealth’s 2018-19 appropriation. Additionally, PHEAA expects to be able to “carry-forward” approximately $30 million in unused funds that had been allocated for 2018-19.

graduatesCarry-forward from 2018-19 is the result of receiving fewer-then-expected applicants, mostly attributable to lower-than-projected Distance Education participation rates during its first year of integration and historically low unemployment rates.

PHEAA’s newly approved awarding formula will be used to calculate 2019-20 “conditional award” notices for students. These early notices will be based on the Governor’s recommended appropriation combined with PHEAA’s carry-forward funding.

Conditional award notices are provided each year in May for planning purposes and are subject to change pending final passage of the Commonwealth budget, which is typically signed into law in June. If the Commonwealth’s appropriation to the Program is reduced, individual awards will be recalculated and updated notices with lower award amounts will be provided to students.

The importance of a PA State Grant award to a student struggling to pay for college should never be underestimated or underappreciated. It’s our job as Board members and legislators to ensure that the grant funding needed to support those students is not diluted as we work to approve the final state toward the end of this fiscal year.

PHEAA self-funds the administration of the PA State Grant and other student aid programs and services for the Commonwealth, which saves taxpayers $19.2 million annually.

SCI Pittsburgh Community Meeting

In conjunction with State Representative Jake Wheatley, we are hosting a community meeting this Thursday, May 9 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the former SCI Pittsburgh prison property. The meeting will take place at the BJ Event Center, located at 1439 Woods Run Avenue.  The prison closed in June 2017.

Two Shredding Events This Weekend

ShreddingThis Saturday, May 11, along with Rep. Dan Deasy and Green Tree Borough, we will be holding a shredding event in the parking lot at Green Tree Park, located at 905 Green Tree Road, from 8 – 11 a.m. (or until trucks are full).  Documents will be shredded on-site by a reputable and bonded company. All papers must be loose, no binder clips or paper clips, and documents cannot be in binders. Additionally, the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office will be present to collect any unused/unwanted prescription medications that will be disposed of safely as part of their Project D.U.M.P.

Also, on May 11, along with Rep. Adam Ravenstahl and Rep. Sara Innamorato, we will be hosting a shredding event in Lawrenceville at the Busy Beaver parking lot, located at 4743 Plummer Street. Papers must be loose, with no binder or paper clips and documents cannot be in binders. There is a 5 bag/box limit at this event.

With consumer fraud and identity theft continuing to be an issue, we are hosting these events to not only to raise awareness and promote prevention, but also to provide individuals with the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed free of charge.  You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers.

Upcoming Real ID Information Session

Real IDI will be hosting another Real ID Information Session with Rep. Adam Ravenstahl and Avalon Borough on Tuesday, May 28 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.

Volunteers Needed

AGHAllegheny General Hospital is seeking volunteers for their 2019 summer program. The program is designed to accommodate the schedules and abilities of all ages and backgrounds. A 50-hour commitment over a 3-month period is required, compliance with their orientation, and a willingness to help others. Volunteers receive free parking and a complimentary meal voucher each time they volunteer. AGH volunteer opportunities range from clinical to clerical. Their Emergency Department LINKs program is designed to enhance the patient experience by interactive volunteer rounding, their MyChart program provides volunteers the opportunity to work with the latest technology, and so much more!

Anyone interested in learning more please visit https://www.ahn.org/volunteer-application.

Fontana Fact

Last Sunday was the annual Pittsburgh Marathon that featured thousands of runners competing on the 26.2-mile course. According to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Consumer Health, a runner who weighs 130 pounds will burn 2,224 calories during a marathon, a 165-pound runner will burn 2,822 calories and a 210-pound runner will burn 3,593 calories.

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