Senator Fontana visited the Market on Broadway IGA on Saturday, May 5th. The IGA hosted their first of three Shopping Spree Grocery Grab contests. Sen. Fontana is pictured with Paul and Nadine Spradley of Beechview, last week’s winners, and City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak. Paul and Nadine had two minutes to grab as many groceries as they could.
Pennsylvania Lottery’s Future
Today, Pennsylvania is home to nearly 2 million people over the age of 65, more than 300,000 of whom are 85 or older. These numbers give the Commonwealth the fourth-largest senior population in the country. By 2030, nearly a quarter of the state’s population will be over age 65, and the 85-plus population is expected to grow by 80,000 people. As this population ages, so will the demand for the services the state provides.
The Pennsylvania Lottery was created in 1972 to generate funds to serve older adults. Since the first day of operations, our state’s lottery has provided $21.5 billion in funding for older Pennsylvanians through the Department of Revenue's Property Tax/Rent Rebate program; free and reduced-fare transit program; the low-cost senior prescription drug program (PACE and PACENET); a Department of Public Welfare program providing long-term living services; and 52 Area Agencies on Aging throughout the state, including hundreds of full and part-time senior community centers. Currently, 75 percent of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging budget comes from lottery proceeds.
Pennsylvania’s Lottery system has remained the only lottery in the nation to dedicate the proceeds exclusively to the needs of older residents and still has managed to become the sixth-largest lottery system in the country. Last year alone, a record $3.2 billion in tickets were sold.
Although the Pennsylvania Lottery has a solid track record of providing for its citizens, Gov. Corbett announced in April a “Request for Qualification,” which essentially would permit a private firm to manage day-to-day operations of the Lottery, including game development, sales and marketing, supply of goods and services, among others aspects. The Administration’s hopes are that these efforts would maximize the Lottery’s performance and increase revenues for senior programs.
In accordance with federal guidelines, if a private firm would be hired, the Commonwealth would still own the Lottery and retain audit abilities as well as decision-making authority over operations.
For a private management firm to advance to the next stage in the process, it would need to meet certain criteria including financial capability in an aggregate amount of $100 million or greater to cover any shortfall to financial returns. The bidder is also required to have management experience in connection with a government lottery where the revenue is in excess of $1 billion per year. The contract would be multi-year but maintain short-term termination periods.
In an effort to increase stagnant sales, former Gov. Rendell expanded marketing and availability in retail outlets by an additional 500-plus retailers, driving ticket sales from $2 billion to more than $3 billion during fiscal year 2010-11. Because of these efforts, the Pennsylvania Lottery is now available at more than 9,100 locations throughout the state. Furthermore, during the Rendell Administration, lottery staff worked to cut costs, increase efficiencies and update the business model to meet the economic challenges head on and lead to future success.
When it comes to the idea of privatizing the Pennsylvania Lottery, the theory of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” comes to mind. Our state’s lottery has a long history of being able to provide for our senior citizens. In fact, Todd Rucci, the Pennsylvania Lottery Executive Director, has described the Pennsylvania Lottery as one of the most efficient operations in the nation. The previous Administration has already taken initiatives to make the system more effective and efficient which has proven successful with record sales. In addition, there are no guarantees that privatizing the state’s lottery would make it more profitable in the long run, therefore, privatizing is not always the best solution for enhancing benefits and programs for our growing senior citizen population.
Homeless Children’s Education Fund Summit
|Senator Fontana spoke at the Homeless Children’s Education Fund Summit on May 4th in Pittsburgh. Sen. Fontana talked about the need for all children to have access to a quality education and spoke about his bill, Senate Bill 157, which unanimously passed the Senate last week. This legislation creates a task force that will study and recommend ways to ensure homeless children have access to a quality education.
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF) Annual Summit in downtown Pittsburgh. I spoke to those in attendance about my legislation, Senate Bill 157 (SB 157), that creates a task force to examine the educational needs for homeless children throughout the Commonwealth. SB 157 passed the Senate unanimously last week and now will be considered in the House of Representatives. We need to ensure that all children have the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of their family financial situation. This task force is designed to recommend the ways in which we can support the growing number of homeless children and make sure they receive a quality education.
The HCEF Summit featured presentations from a wide-ranging field of leading experts in education and housing, offering unique perspectives on the issues associated with educating homeless children and included remarks from U.S. Attorney David Hickton and Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald. The program also featured a skit performed by the Sto-Rox High School Anti-Bullying Association, a group of students dedicated towards raising awareness and eliminating bullying that takes place in school.
I want to commend the HCEF for all they do for homeless children in our region and all the participants at the Summit for their efforts. In 12 years, HCEF has established resource centers in 17 homeless housing agencies, creating enrichment programs for the children they serve. They have awarded over $250,000 in mini-grants to these agencies. I also want to give special thanks to Charlie LaVallee, Director of HCEF, and Joe Lagana, the Founder of HCEF, for all they continue to do on behalf of homeless children.
Extended Unemployment Benefits Ending in PA
The U.S. Department of Labor notified Pennsylvania last week that the state’s unemployment rate is now too low to authorize continued payment of Extended Benefits (EB). The EB program provided 13 weeks of unemployment compensation benefits beyond the federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and the 26 weeks of state-funded unemployment compensation.
The last payable week of EB will be this week, ending May 12th. Claimants currently filing for EB may continue to file claims for weeks they are fully or partially unemployed through May 12th.
The PA Department of Labor & Industry will notify, by mail, individuals affected by the end of the program.
Federally funded EB is a separate program from federally funded EUC. The EUC program and participants are not affected by the end of the EB in Pennsylvania. For more information on unemployment compensation please visit the Expanded and Legal Benefits information page on the PA Department of Labor & Industry website.
If you are currently without a job, looking for a job, or know someone who is, there are over 5,200 available positions listed on my most recent News & Views Special Edition: JOBS!
Around the District
|Senator Fontana visited the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Beechview branch, on Saturday, May 5th and met with library staff and volunteers as part of the Friends of the Library State Advocacy Day.
|Senator Fontana addressed 40 members of the
Golden Triangle Council for the Blind on
Saturday, May 5th and answered questions on a variety of topics from the association’s membership.
Health Care Centers Receive Grants
The Sto-Rox Neighborhood Health Center and Hilltop Community Healthcare Center were awarded a $1.9 million federal grant last week made possible by the Affordable Care Act. I was happy to offer my support to both applications as each is a valuable community asset that provides health care services to those most in need.
The Sto-Rox Neighborhood Health Center has provided basic health care for the citizens of McKees Rocks and Stowe neighborhoods for 28 years. This funding will allow them to renovate the current facility and make needed plumbing, roof and HVAC repairs while also re-configuring the nursing station areas and installing new digital radiographic equipment for the Dental Department. These improvements will allow them to serve more patients in the remodeled space.
For the past seven years, the Hilltop Community Healthcare Center has provided healthcare services to residents in Beltzhoover, Allentown, Knoxville, Mt. Oliver, South Side, Mt. Washington, Carrick and the surrounding communities. They continue to experience an increased caseload of patients and this funding will allow them to add more space and facilities to better serve patients.
Congratulations to the Sto-Rox Neighborhood Health Center and the Hilltop Community Healthcare Center on receiving these funds and thank you for all you do for the community!
Columbia Gas Free Energy Audit
Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania is offering qualified and approved customers a free home energy audit. Columbia Gas heat customers who schedule and receive a free home energy audit by August 31st have a chance to win a $1,000 Visa gift card. The program, WarmWise Audits & Rebates offers a comprehensive in-home energy audit identifying and recommending energy saving improvements throughout the home. Customers can also choose to take advantage of up to $1,800 in financial incentives for audit-recommended energy saving improvements.
To qualify you must be a Columbia Gas heat customer and have a gross annual household income between 151% and 250% of the federal poverty level. Customers can find out if they qualify for WarmWise Audits and Rebates by calling 1-866-956-0308 or by visiting www.ColumbiaGasPA.com/WarmWiseARContest.
Take Me Fishing in PA
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) has highlighted May as the month to get out and enjoy fishing. As part of that celebration, the PFBC is hosting Family Fishing Festivals on Saturdays in May – on May 12th at Keystone State Park, Westmoreland County, Pavilion #1 and May 19th at Lake Luxembourg in Core Creek County Park, Bucks County. Both festivals are scheduled from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Family Fishing Festivals are educational events designed for families with little or no fishing experience. Families will learn basic fishing skills and have an opportunity to practice those skills while fishing together during the program. The PFBC is waiving the fishing license requirement during the program for registered Family Fishing Festival participants ages 16 and older. The program is open to all ages however is designed for children ages 5 and older. The PFBC will provide equipment, bait and tackle, and will have staff on hand to teach skills and assist those who fish.
To learn more about the Family Fishing Festivals, please visit www.takemefishingpa.com. Space is limited and there will be no registration taken the day of the event. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit www.fishandboat.com.
UPMC Hosting Job Fair
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) is hosting a three-day Job Fair, May 17th – 19th at the Technology Development Center at Bakery Square. The UPMC Technology Development Center is located at 6425 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, 15206. The job fair will feature over 200 service-oriented positions located in Oakland and Shadyside including patient transport, environmental services, and food services. The positions available are both full and part-time and there are a variety of shifts available.
If you are interested in attending one of the job fairs, please bring a copy of your resume. You will have the opportunity to ask questions and fill out an application.
The hours are as follows:
Thursday, May 17th – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Friday, May 18th – 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 19th – 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Communities all across the country this week are celebrating nurses as part of National Nurses Week. Registered nurses play a vital role in meeting the health care needs of citizens everywhere. Whether in emergency rooms, schools, clinics, offices, or homeless shelters, the nursing profession is dedicated to providing high-quality care to patients. Please join me in thanking our nurses for all they do. To read more about the nursing profession please visit the American Nurses Association website.
Did You Know…
Did you know there are 3.1 million licensed registered nurses in the United States?
Today is National Teacher Day all across America and this week is National Teacher Week. In communities across the county, local educators are being honored and acknowledged for the crucial role they play in ensuring that every student receives a quality education. The National Education Association
provides several opportunities on their website
to honor teachers throughout the week. If you had a special teacher while you were in school or are currently in school and have a teacher you wish to acknowledge, you can visit the NEA website
to nominate a Classroom Superhero. Thanks to all the teachers out there for your tireless efforts in educating tomorrow’s leaders!
Mt. Washington CDC Seeking Flower Planters
The Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) is looking for volunteers as they spruce up Bigbee Field on Mt. Washington. On May 12th, MWCDC will be planting colorful flowers, tending to the trail and removing invasive plants from 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers will be meeting at the Bigbee Field entrance at Bigbee and Aline Streets on Mt. Washington. MWCDC will provide tools, instruction, water and snacks. Volunteers should wear sturdy shoes and bring a water bottle. To register as a volunteer please email email@example.com or call 412-481-3220, ext. 200.
Since its founding in 1999, the Homeless Children's Education Fund (HCEF) has served as a voice for the homeless children of Allegheny County, ensuring they are afforded equal access to the same educational opportunities and experiences as their peers. In 2011, 330 children participated in hands-on enrichment programming including science, printmaking, global arts and languages, and music workshops. HCEF’s 72 trained volunteers served as tutors and logged over 3,000 hours of one-on-one and small group tutoring with children throughout Allegheny County.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana