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Senator Wayne D. Fontana
Senator Fontana spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 14 for the Centre Avenue YMCA rehabilitation project.
Senator Fontana spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 14 for the Centre Avenue YMCA rehabilitation project. The 97-year old facility in the Hill District will be undergoing a major renovation. Senator Fontana was proud to support the $1.5 million RACP grant that is being used to help fund part of the project.

PHEAA Launches New Student Loan Refinance Option

PHEAA Loan RefinanceAs Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), I want to make students and families aware of the newest expansion of PHEAA’s successful PA Forward Student Loan Program, offering borrowers a more streamlined way to manage their debt by combining all of their federal and private student loans into a single monthly payment.

The PA Forward Student Loan Refinance Program offers competitive fixed interest rates, currently as low as 3.72 percent APR, which is significantly lower than the average private student loan rate of 8.86 percent and the average Federal PLUS loan rate of 6.97 percent.

PHEAA’s PA Forward Student Loan Program offers a suite of borrower-friendly loans for undergraduate and graduate students, for parent borrowers and, now, for borrowers in repayment seeking a simple and straightforward way to manage their debt.

Eligible federal loans include Stafford, PLUS, Graduate PLUS, Consolidation, and Perkins Loans. Borrowers should be aware that refinancing federal student loans will result in the loss of current or future federal loan-specific loan benefits. Eligible private loans include any student loan used for qualified postsecondary education expenses.

While this new program helps borrowers manage their debt during repayment, students should avoid taking out any loan, if possible, by first taking full advantage of federal and state grant and scholarship opportunities. When borrowing is absolutely necessary, PHEAA works to make sure that students have the resources needed to make smart choices - this includes access to free planning tools such as MySmartBorrowing.org and to low-cost loans through the PA Forward Student Loan Program.

PHEAA’s PA Forward Refinance Loan offers several benefits, including:

  • No application or origination fees
  • No pre-payment penalty
  • Flexible repayment terms of 5, 7, 10, 15, or 20 years
  • Potential for lower monthly payments
  • 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrolling in Direct Debit
  • Available biweekly payment options that can pay off a 10-year loan, 10 months sooner; saving significantly more money in interest

While the PA Forward Refinance Loan does not require a co-signer, applicants may benefit from a creditworthy co-signer if they do not meet minimum credit requirements. A creditworthy co-signer may also increase an applicant’s chances for approval and could result in a lower interest rate. The program is available to eligible Pennsylvania residents or eligible residents of an approved state (MD, NJ, DE, NY, VA, and OH) who are borrowers of the student loans that are to be refinanced. For more information, visit www.PHEAA.org/refi.  For specific questions, call 1-844-PAFORWD (1-844-723-6793).

Absentee, Mail-in Ballot Online Applications Available

Mail in ballotBeing a long-time supporter of Early Voting, I again want to remind voters of the changes made to election law in Pennsylvania that will allow Pennsylvanians the opportunity to vote early. As I wrote about in the Jan. 21 edition of my News & Views, Act 77 makes changes to voting in Pennsylvania, beginning with the upcoming April 28 Primary Election. One of the biggest changes is allowing voters to vote by mail, without having to qualify for an absentee ballot.

Both absentee ballot applications and mail-in ballot applications are available online at www.votespa.com. Simply click on “Mail-in and Absentee Ballot” to get started. If you plan to be out of the municipality on election day or if you have a disability or illness, you can request an absentee ballot, which still requires you to list a reason for your ballot. If you aren’t an absentee voter, you may apply for a mail-in ballot. You may simply request this ballot without a reason.

Vote PAVoters may also download and print absentee ballot and mail-in ballot applications by visiting www.votespa.com.  Once completing either ballot application, voters can mail the application to the Allegheny County Elections Division at:

542 Forbes Avenue, Suite 609
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Voters can also obtain copies of absentee ballot applications and mail-in ballot applications at either of my district offices.

Absentee and mail-in ballot applications for the April 28, primary election must be received by the county election office by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 21. The deadline to return your voted absentee or mail-in ballot is 8 p.m. on election day. If you are unable to return your ballot by the deadline either in person or mail, you may only vote by a provisional ballot at your polling place.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

HomeThe Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is now accepting applications for the 2019 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.  If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail. Applications are 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 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded.

Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30 and rebates will be distributed beginning July 1. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

New Senior Citizen ConnectCards

Senior Citizen ConnectCardsThe Port Authority of Allegheny County continues to issue new Senior Citizen ConnectCards 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.

Please note that effective January 1, 2020, seniors are no longer be able to use a Medicare ID card to ride free on Port Authority buses, inclines or light rail vehicles.  The Port Authority will continue to accept blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards indefinitely, but customers are encouraged to get the new ConnectCard.

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.

Adult Trout Stocking Schedules

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has made its 2020 adult trout stocking schedules available online and on the PFBC’s “FishBoatPA” mobile app. You can click here or visit www.fishandboat.com to get started.

Adult Trout Stocking SchedulesThe schedule is searchable by county, lists the waterways in alphabetical order, and indicates stocking dates and the species of trout that will be stocked. 2020 Pennsylvania fishing licenses are available for purchase online through The Outdoor Shop (www.pa.wildlifelicense.com), or by visiting any of the more than 700 retail license issuing agents across the state. To participate in trout fishing and keep trout, anglers ages 16 and older require both a fishing license and a trout/salmon permit.

In 2020, anglers will have a better chance than ever before to catch large, trophy-sized trout. This year, the PFBC will stock approximately 60,000 brood fish, which are 2 ½ year-old and 3 ½ year-old hatchery-raised Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout, and Brook Trout measuring 14”-20”. The allocation of these large trout will be more than double the allocation in 2019. Roughly 70% of these large fish will be stocked into streams and lakes during the preseason prior to opening days of trout season, and 30% will be stocked during in-season replenishment stockings.

The PFBC will also increase the number of golden Rainbow Trout that will be stocked in 2020. In addition to being stocked during the preseason period before opening day, these highly prized fish featuring vibrant golden-orange pigmentation and weighing an average of 1.5 pounds, will be stocked during in-season replenishment stockings. The allocation of approximately 13,000 golden Rainbow Trout in 2020 exceeds the 2019 allocation (9,500) by roughly 40%. Approximately 80% of golden Rainbow Trout will be stocked during the preseason, and approximately 20% will be stocked in-season.

In addition to trout raised at state fish hatcheries, PFBC cooperative nurseries operated by sportsmen’s clubs across the state will add another 1 million trout to waters open to public angling.

Once again included in this year’s stocking lists are the Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters, a program where sections of 23 streams across the state are stocked with large 14” - 20” trout and managed under Delayed Harvest Artificial Lures Only catch-and-release regulations. Under the program, approximately 9,600 large trout will be distributed among the streams. The trout will be stocked at a rate of 175 to 225 per mile of stream, which is comparable to the numbers of similarly sized fish in Pennsylvania’s best wild trout waters. Locate Keystone Select waters by clicking here.

Did You Know…

Did you know the PFBC will continue to stock approximately 3.2 million adult trout in 707 streams and 130 lakes open to public angling? These figures, which are consistent with the number of trout stocked over the past decade, include approximately 2.2 million Rainbow Trout; 660,000 Brown Trout; and 360,000 Brook Trout.

Narcan Workshop

NarcanThe Carnegie, Green Tree, and Scott Substance Addiction Ministry is hosting a Narcan Workshop tomorrow from 7 – 8 p.m. The event will take place in the grade school cafeteria at St. Margaret of Scotland Church, located at 310 Mansfield Avenue.

The workshop will provide attendees with hands-on training performed by local EMS on how to distribute Narcan to someone in need. Attendees will also learn how to obtain and use Narcan, how to spot an overdose and what to do before the ambulance arrives and will hear experiences from local EMS about how Narcan has played a role in their job.

For more information on the workshop please visit www.cgscatholic.org or call 412-276-1011.

Fontana Fact

Miracle on IceThis Saturday marks the 40th anniversary of one our nation’s top sports moments. The “Miracle on Ice” as it was later named, took place on Feb. 22, 1980, during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. The U.S. team, made up mostly of college players, defeated a team of professionals from the Soviet Union, who were considered the best team in the world. The 4-3 win that day inspired a nation and grew the sport of hockey in ways nobody would have imagined at the time. The architect of that U.S. team, Herb Brooks, and his assistant coach, Craig Patrick, later continued their hockey careers in Pittsburgh. Brooks worked in the Penguins’ front office and coached the team for part of one season. Patrick was the Penguins’ general manager from 1989-2006 and won two Stanley Cups.

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
By appointment