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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

General Assistance Ending

General Assistance EndingLegislation was passed at the end of June, ultimately becoming Act 12 of 2019, that ended General Assistance (GA) as of August 1, 2019. Notices informing recipients of the closure of the program were mailed to most recipients at the beginning of July.

GA is state-funded cash assistance that provides money and other services for eligible individuals who do not meet the requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).  GA cash assistance is on average $200 per month and recipients also receive Medical Assistance coverage as a part of the program. 

Current recipients of GA cash assistance will continue to receive Medical Assistance when their GA cash assistance ends. Those recipients who are also receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will continue to receive SNAP as long as they are eligible. Recipients will receive separate notices reflecting any changes in their SNAP or Medicaid benefits.  Some recipients will see an increase in their SNAP benefits as a result of the discontinuance of GA. 

Please know I opposed this legislation and joined Senate Democrats in fighting its passage. I am co-sponsor to a bill, Senate Bill 799 (SB 799), that was introduced last week that would establish the Emergency Relief Program, designed to help Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable and impoverished populations previously receiving support from General Assistance. Specifically, Emergency Relief goes to people with disabilities who cannot work, people in treatment for a substance use disorder, orphaned children cared for by neighbors or friends, people fleeing domestic violence, qualified veterans or people caring for someone with a disability.

I am hopeful this legislation will move forward when the Senate reconvenes next month. In the meantime, I encourage anyone who had been receiving GA cash assistance to contact PA 2-1-1 to be connected to services that may be able to help people meet basic needs. The Allegheny County Department of Human Services can also serve as a resource and can be reached at 412-350-5701.

Did You Know…

Did you know that 9 percent of Pennsylvanians who were receiving General Assistance reside in Allegheny County?

$15 Million in State Grants for 17 Local Projects

GrantsI am happy to announce that a total of $15 million in state grants for 17 Pittsburgh development projects were awarded last week within the 42nd Senatorial District. These state dollars will support and speed up progress on innovative projects that will help create jobs, attract investment and strengthen our region’s growing economy.

The projects include:

  • $1 million for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to redevelop the 119 Sixth Street Fitness Club into a six—theater cineplex.

  • $1 million for the Brashear Hilltop Community Center to purchase and redevelop the Lifespan Building. The project will also include constructing an addition to the 320 Brownsville Road building;

  • $500,000 to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Branch to renovate its first and second floors;

  • $1.5 million to renovate the Centre Avenue YMCA. Renovating the historic building aligns with the Greater Hill District Master Plan;

  • $1 million to the Community College of Allegheny County to renovate the school’s Faculty Innovation Center;

  • $500,000 to Contemporary Craft to renovate and transform a cement industrial building into its new community arts center with a sustainable modern design;

  • $500,000 to renovate and revitalize a historic and underutilized downtown/strip district industrial building. The completed building will accommodate both office and retail activity;

  • $500,000 to construct a facility at 62nd Street and Butler Street in Lawrenceville, and a 400,000-square-foot facility to house Forms and Surfaces’ manufacturing and operations;

  • $1 million to expand and improve parking access to Highmark Stadium in Station Square. The stadium is home to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Soccer Club;

  • $1 million to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh to renovate the historic Carnegie Library to create a Museum Lab, making the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh the largest cultural campus for children in the nation;

  • $1 million to the Hill Community Development Corporation to create the New Granada Theater III. Workers will restore the historic façade of the four-story Art-Deco building, which was designed by Louis Bellinger, one of the nation’s earliest African-American architects;

  • $1 million to renovate the Pittsburgh Musical Theater at 327 South Main Street;

  • $2 million for the Produce Terminal Redevelopment Project in the Strip District. The project will transform the languishing produce terminal into a mixed-use space featuring a food-centric market and over 1,600 square feet of office and retail space;

  • $500,000 to Renewal, Inc., to purchase and renovate a building on Third Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh to provide drug and alcohol treatment and mental health services;

  • $500,000 to renovate and upgrade the Roberto Clemente Museum at 3339 Penn Avenue;

  • $500,000 to redevelop the Stevens Elementary School into the Special Deployment Headquarters to enhance community policing in the city’s west end; and

  • $1 million to the Wigle Whiskey Distillery to redevelop and expand a pre-Prohibition brewery structure in the strip district. As part of the project, the distillery will build a Whiskey Rebellion Museum.

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) is used for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects. Qualifying projects have a regional or multi-jurisdictional impact, help create or maintain jobs, and generate economic activity. Going forward, I will continue to work closely with local officials to obtain state funds for worthy projects.

New Senior Citizen ConnectCards

Senior Citizen ConnectCardsThe Port Authority of Allegheny County is in the process of issuing new Senior Citizen Connect Cards and my office can assist. The new cards will replace the current blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards and will have a photo of the cardholder on the card. These new cards will enable the user to ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Both my Brookline and Kennedy Township offices are equipped to help seniors get their new cards. Simply visit either office and bring with you ONE valid document that shows proof-of-age.  This includes a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID card, birth certificate, PACE ID card, or passport to name a few. My staff will enter your information into Port Authority’s system and upload your photo and a copy of your proof-of-age document. 

Upon receiving the information from my office, the Port Authority will produce a new Senior Citizen ConnectCard and then mail the card to my office where you can return to pick up the card. New cards should take a couple weeks to arrive at my office from the time Port Authority receives the information. When you return to get your new card, please bring with you your current senior bus pass so we can exchange it for your new ConnectCard.

Anyone age 65 or over is eligible to receive this new card and ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free.

Learn About Medical Marijuana, Get a Flu Shot at Annual Senior Fair

Annual Senior FairOn Thursday, Sept. 5, I will be hosting a FREE Senior Fair at the Dormont Recreation Center, located at 1801 Dormont Avenue.  The Senior Fair will run from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Light refreshments will be served.

New this year, attendees will have the chance to learn about Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program!

Do you suffer from chronic pain, cancer, anxiety disorders, or one of the other 23 qualifying medical conditions? Do you have questions about medical marijuana or need help obtaining your Pennsylvania medical marijuana card? Join Dr. John Metcalf and pharmacists from Maitri Medicinals at my Senior Fair for on-site medical marijuana card certifications and education. Contact 1-833-667-4665 or shelly@mms4relief.com to ensure you come prepared to the event with the necessary medical information.

American Healthcare Group will once again be on hand to provide flu shots for attendees.  There is no charge for the flu shots to anyone with a Medicare Part B card.  Please bring your card with you.

At the Sept. 5 Senior Fair, attendees can also:

  • Drop off unwanted medications as part of Sheriff Mullen’s Project D.U.M.P.
  • Have your photo taken to receive a new, updated Senior ConnectCard that will allow you to ride Port Authority buses and light rail for free
  • Visit with a pharmacist from Duquesne University’s School of Pharmacy to ask about medications
  • Get blood pressure checked
  • Receive important information from participating organizations on services and resources available to seniors

Anyone with questions can contact my district office at 412-344-2551.  If you need a flu shot, want to learn more about medical marijuana, have unwanted medications you need to dispose of, or want to receive important information from some of our region’s finest organizations and senior advocates, I hope you’ll consider attending this free event.

DEP Offering Grants to Small Businesses and Farmers

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced the availability of $1 million in grant funding to Pennsylvania small businesses and farmers for energy efficiency, pollution prevention, and natural resource protection projects through the Small Business Advantage grant program. New to the program this year is the opportunity for small business owners to install solar hot water systems for their business operations.

Eligible projects include adopting or acquiring equipment or processes that reduce energy use or pollution. Examples of eligible projects are HVAC and boiler upgrades, high-efficiency LED lighting, solvent recovery and waste recycling systems, and auxiliary power units deployed as anti-idling technology for trucks.

Last year, around 200 small businesses were awarded more than $947,000 in grants for their projects. Natural resource protection projects may include planting riparian buffers, installation of streambank fencing to keep livestock out of streams, and investing in agricultural stormwater management projects, with the goal of reducing sediment and nutrient loads in our waterways.

Pennsylvania-based small business owners with 100 or fewer full-time equivalent employees are eligible. Projects must save the business a minimum of $500 and 25 percent annually in energy consumption, or pollution-related expenses.

Businesses can apply for 50 percent matching funds of up to $7,000 to adopt or acquire energy-efficient or pollution prevention equipment or processes. Only costs incurred between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, are eligible.

Applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis, and will be accepted until fiscal year 2019-20 funds are exhausted or April 12, 2020, whichever occurs first. All applications must be submitted through the commonwealth’s Single Application for Assistance website. Printed, faxed, and mailed applications are not accepted.

The complete grant application package, which includes step-by-step instructions and instructional videos for completing the online application, is available by visiting the DEP Small Business Ombudsman’s Office website by clicking here.

National Night Out – TONIGHT!National Night Out

Tonight, is National Night Out across the country.  This event, which began in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch, is held on a selected night each year to raise crime and drug prevention awareness and generate support for local anti-crime programs while strengthening partnerships between communities and local law enforcement.

Last year more than 50 events were held in neighborhoods throughout the City of Pittsburgh and many more events took place in suburban communities throughout Allegheny County.  To find an event in your neighborhood click here or visit the City of Pittsburgh's Public Safety website. If you live in a suburban community, check with your local municipality.

Children EatingSummer 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.

Breezefest

BreezefestThe 37th annual Brookline Breeze 5K Run and Fitness Walk is scheduled for Saturday, August 10 in Brookline.  Brookline Boulevard will be closed to traffic at 8 a.m. to clear the way for hundreds of runners, joggers and walkers.

Fun begins with the Annual Brookline BreezeFest at 10 a.m. with the reopening of the street.  Stroll the sidewalks of Brookline Boulevard for the 48+ arts & crafts vendors, farmers market, food trucks and merchant specials.  A Children’s area will be located at Tree of Life Church with Bounce Castle, crafts and games.

For more information go on Brookline Together website at www.BrooklineTogether.org.

Tutors Needed

OASISAn hour a week can change a child’s life!  Become an Oasis tutor and have the opportunity to give back, have fun and make a difference.  Oasis is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains older adults (50+) to tutor children in the Pittsburgh Public, Wilkinsburg and Woodland Hills School Districts in grades K-4 in reading and writing. 

Oasis has tutors in over 32 schools serving over 200 students yearly.   All training, materials and clearances are free.  Training sessions will be held on Tuesday, August 20 and Thursday, August 22 from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Oasis Office located in the Duquesne Light Building, 411 Seventh Avenue, Suite 525 in downtown Pittsburgh. 

For more information on how to become an Oasis tutor, please call John D. Spehar, Director, Pittsburgh Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring Program at (412) 393-4768 or email him at jdspehar@oasisnet.org. Oasis is a program of Literacy Pittsburgh.

President Lyndon B. Johnson shakes hands with Dr. Martin Luther King after signing the Voting Rights Act. (Yoichi Okamoto/LBJ Library)
Fontana Fact

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law on this date in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson. It was designed to protect the rights of racial minorities to vote, a right which had been previously de-facto abolished across large sections of the country. The act has since been expanded in scope on five separate occasions.  

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