Last week the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the 2019-2020 spending plan. The $34 billion budget is a nearly 4 percent increase from last year’s $32.7 billion budget with no increases in sales or income tax rates, which are the Commonwealth’s two biggest sources of revenue. Although this budget has some major downfalls like no increases to the state’s minimum wage, it does provide some significant funding to other areas like education, health and human services and jobs and economic development. The spending plan also includes $250 million that has been allocated towards the Rainy-Day Fund which is Pennsylvania’s primary savings account to help deal with any future emergencies that may arise as well as will contribute to improving the state’s bond rating by reducing borrowing costs for the commonwealth.
- This budget provides $160 million more for basic education for a total of $6.2 billion.
- $50 million more is allocated for special education.
- A $25 million increase for Pre-K Counts, a program that provides early childhood education to income-eligible children as well as an increase of $5 million for Head Start Supplemental Assistance which help children develop academic and social skills that prepare them for school and life.
- Early intervention programs will see a $15 million increase.
- An additional $7 million is provided for career and technical schools and $3 million more is allocated for related equipment grants.
- The budget provides $1 million for the new Pennsylvania National Guard Program to help struggling youths complete high school.
- $60 million for school security grants.
- The four state-related universities, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and community colleges will see a 2 percent increase for a total of $1.3 billion.
- An additional $37.3 million in state funds for the PHEAA state grant program.
- The Public Libraries Subsidy appropriation increased by $5 million or 9.2 percent. This is the first significant boost for libraries in a decade.
Health and Human Services
- $84.8 million is allocated for the Community Waiver Program, which provides home-and community-based services for individuals with intellectual disabilities, for a total of $1.7 billion.
- $12 million more to provide a 2 percent increase, effective January 1, for homecare workers who care for seniors and individuals with physical disabilities.
- The budget includes $26.2 million to provide home and community-based services to an additional 1,860 seniors.
- $3.5 million is allocated to provide services to an additional 300 seniors through LIFE programs.
- $15 million is in the budget to move individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) off waiting lists and into services: 100 individuals into the Consolidated Waiver Program and 765 individuals into the Community Living Waiver Program. Additionally, $3 million is included to transition 45 individuals from state hospitals into Community ID Services.
- Total of $17.1 million is included to provide Attendant Care services to 480 individuals through the Department of Aging and 840 individuals through the Department of Human Services.
- The expansion of home visiting programs will take place thanks to an additional $5 million.
- Funding for the Department of Aging includes $2.8 million for increased inspections and licensing of personal care homes, assisted living residences, and residential and day-treatment programs that serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- The spending plan includes a 10 percent increase in funding for Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis programs.
- Funding for Services for the Visually Impaired increased by $518,000, with $431,000 going to the PA Association for the Blind and $150,000 going to Associated Services for the Blind.
Jobs and Economic Development
- The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation receives a $2.3 million increase to help individuals with disabilities get jobs.
- An additional 2 percent for the Centers for Independent Living.
- Funding is doubled for the New Choices/New Options program representing $250,000 in additional funding. This is a one-stop shop career program for women where they can learn job search and interview skills.
- Boosts the PAsmart initiative by $10 million for a total of $40 million for apprenticeships, computer science training and other technical education training programs.
All Senate offices will be closed on Thursday, July 4 in observance of the Independence Day holiday. My offices will re-open as scheduled on Friday, July 5. Have a very happy and safe 4th of July!
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program – Deadline Extended
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue recently announced it will be accepting applications for the 2018 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program through Dec. 31. The original deadline to apply was June 30.
If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received an application in the mail. Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190. As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.
Rebates began being distributed by the PA Department of Revenue yesterday. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Grant Funding Available to Expand Brewing Industry in PA
The PA Department of Agriculture recently announced the availability of grants to conduct promotion, marketing, and research projects to increase the quality, profitability, production, and sale of malt and brewed beverages produced in Pennsylvania.
Projects that will be prioritized are those that would increase the production, quality or yield, or both, of Pennsylvania-produced raw agricultural commodities (e.g. hops, barley) used by the beer industry, and those interested in marketing and integrating the commonwealth's beer industry into new or existing regional and statewide tourism initiatives.
Interested applicants must deliver a one-page concept paper, plus a one-page draft budget, by e-mail by Friday, August 2, 2019 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants whose concept papers are approved by the board will be invited to submit a project proposal and grant application. Proposals should be sent electronically to email@example.com and 12 copies must be hand-delivered or sent by United States Mail and postmarked on or before the same date.
Applications should be addressed and delivered to the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Market Development, Attn: Agricultural Commodity Board Grant Program, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9408.
Additionally, the board may request that applicants participate in person or by conference call to provide a brief presentation of their proposal, followed by questions, at a future meeting. Application instructions can be found by clicking here.
Did You Know…
Did you know that last year 13 projects were awarded grants totaling $704,985 to increase the production of Pennsylvania-made malt and brewed beverages and enhance the Pennsylvania beer industry through promotion, marketing, and research-based programs and projects?
Protection from Ticks, Mosquitoes When Outdoors
The Pennsylvania Department of Health wants to remind all Pennsylvanians that ticks and mosquitoes can transmit dangerous diseases in their bites and encourage residents to learn the proper ways to protect against them when outside this summer.
Pennsylvania leads the nation with the greatest number of cases of Lyme disease, with approximately 10,000 cases reported in 2018. Over time, if not treated, Lyme disease can lead to severe symptoms that affect the heart, nervous system and joints.
If you have been bitten by a tick, make sure to monitor the area for any symptoms, which can include:
- A red, swollen bulls-eye shape rash
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Ticks are usually found in shrubs, weeds, leaf litter, and tall grasses, but can be found anywhere there is grass, so it is important to take the proper steps to decrease your chances of getting bitten. When outside, cover exposed skin, wear light colors to help see if ticks are on you, and use insect repellent that contains 20 percent or more DEET. After being outside, check yourself, your kids and your pets thoroughly for ticks and remove any that are attached. Then, take a shower to help remove any ticks that you may have missed. You can also throw your clothes in the dryer using high heat to help kill any ticks that might still be left.
West Nile virus is another dangerous disease that Pennsylvanians should be aware of. In 2018, there were 130 human cases of West Nile virus reported in the state. Mosquitoes that transmit West Nile breed in areas with standing water. Most people infected with West Nile virus do not develop any symptoms, but about one in five will have symptoms that resemble other illnesses, which might include:
- Body aches
- Joint pains
West Nile virus can also lead to other serious conditions like encephalitis (brain swelling) or meningitis (inflammation of the membrane around the brain). Other severe symptoms can include neck stiffness, confusion disorientation, coma, tremors, muscle weakness, and paralysis.
The best way to protect yourself from getting bitten by West Nile-infected mosquitoes is to wear insect repellent containing DEET during the April to October mosquito season, especially during dusk and dawn when many mosquitoes are actively feeding. It is also important to reduce the amount of standing water around your home. Cleaning the gutters on your house, emptying any outside containers, turning over any plastic pools and wheelbarrows when they’re not being used and using landscaping to get rid of standing water that collects around your property are all ways to decrease the number of mosquitoes with West Nile virus.
If you are having symptoms consistent with those caused from an insect or tick bite, contact your health care provider right away. For more information on ticks and Lyme disease, or on mosquitoes and West Nile virus, visit the Department of Health website at www.health.pa.gov.
Summer Food Program
Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Summer Food Service Program which began in mid-June. This is a federal program providing free meals and fun activities to kids 18 and under during the summer months when school is out of session. Children can receive breakfast and lunch during summer recess at many locations in Allegheny County.
To learn more please call 412-460-FOOD or click here to search for locations near you.
Dormont Searching for Volunteers
Dormont Borough is in need of volunteers to assist in the borough’s annual Dormont Day celebration on July 4. Dormont Day is a wonderful tradition that residents of all ages enjoy. From grab bags, to the wonderful Zambelli Fireworks show, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Volunteers are needed to help set up, run the game booths, assist with the inflatables as well as the dunk tank. They also need volunteers to help clean up and sell merchandise to help cover the costs of this event. Most of the volunteer blocks are only a little over two hours: 10:45am-1pm; 12:45pm-3pm; and 2:45pm-5pm. Anyone interested in signing up to volunteer can click here.
There are more lifeforms living on you than there are people on the planet. About 1,000 unique species live on human skin. Many of these species play an important role in living a healthy life.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
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
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – First Tuesday of each month or by appointment