Senator Fontana attended Baldwin Township’s Light Up Night on Sunday, December 1st. Thanks to the Baldwin Township Business & Professional Association for organizing such a wonderful annual event. Senator Fontana is pictured here with Santa and Mrs. Claus and a few of their elves after distributing goody bags to the children in attendance.
“Saluting PA Veterans” Legislative Package
The Senate Democrats recently introduced a comprehensive package of legislation designed to help veterans and their families transition back into civilian life from military service. “Saluting PA Veterans” contains measures that promote veterans’ education, housing and jobs in addition to initiatives that provide monetary assistance, counseling services and relief for families.
I am a co-sponsor to a number of bills and authored Senate Bill 241 which would strengthen the veterans’ preference component in the state’s civil service law by increasing preference points for civil service exams from 10 to 15. This adjustment is a reasonable and fair offering to our service men and women. The proposal is also revenue neutral imposing no cost on the Commonwealth budget.
The other bills in the Saluting PA Veterans package include:
- Senate Bill 1132 (SB 1132) – Authorizes the issuance of up to $40,000,000 in bonds to provide payments to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
- Senate Bill 1133 (SB 1133) – Creates a pilot program for peer-to-peer counseling among veterans to address post traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and rising rates of suicide among returning veterans.
- Senate Bill 1134 (SB 1134) – Authorize veterans’ housing projects as eligible projects for RACP and earmark $20,000,000 from the allocation available to housing units to these projects.
- Senate Bill 1135 (SB 1135) – Amends the Public Housing Authorities Law to require housing authorities to give preference to veterans and families of active duty military when leasing public housing.
- Senate Bill 1136 (SB 1136) – Provides housing assistance grants to homeless or imminently homeless veterans and can be used in conjunction with the federal housing program known as the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH).
- Senate Bill 1137 (SB 1137) – Provides down payment/closing cost assistance in the form of a grant, forgivable loan or deferred no interest loan to veterans seeking to purchase a home.
- Senate Bill 1138 (SB 1138) – Increases the amount of funds available to a veteran under the Veterans’ Emergency Assistance Program to a minimum of $500 per month; allows the veteran to receive monetary assistance under the Public Welfare Code; and double the time the veteran can receive assistance under the program from 3 to 6 months.
- Senate Bill 1139 (SB 1139) – Increases the maximum Military Family Relief Assistance award to $10,000 (currently $3,500) per 12-month period.
- Senate Bill 1140 (SB 1140) – Makes changes to the Educational Gratuity Program including increasing the maximum amount available to a student from $500 to $1,000 per term or semester, increasing the maximum age limit from 23 to 25, increases the maximum number of scholastic years of eligibility from 4 to 5 and reduces the PA residency requirement for eligible applicants from 5 years to 1 year.
- Senate Bill 1141 (SB 1141) – Requires the Department of Health to create a training program for emergency service providers on how to recognize and interact with veterans and other persons suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.
- Senate Bill 1142 (SB 1142) – Gives priority for subsidized child care to veterans and families of active duty military if they qualify for the program.
- Senate Bill 1143 (SB 1143) and Senate Bill 1144 (SB 1144) – Creates the Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Military Sexual Trauma Public Service Announcement Fund to fund public service announcements informing veterans of the services and benefits available under State and federal law, which will be funded through an income tax return check-off program.
- Senate Bill 1145 (SB 1145) – Makes changes to the Disabled Veterans Real Estate Tax Exemption law by defining “income” consistent with the Senior Citizen Property Tax and Rent Rebate Act as well as removes language creating a “rebuttable presumption” of need if the applicant makes less than $75,000 annually and provides that applicants with less than $75,000 in annual income shall receive the exemption.
- Senate Resolution 262 (SR 262) – Establishes a 17-member task force to study health care issues unique to women veterans, along with the quality of and access to care for women veterans.
- Senate Resolution 263 (SR 263) – Urges Congress to increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs
Other bills associated with the Saluting PA Veterans that are a part of the Senate Democrats PA Works plan include:
- Senate Bill 203 (SB 203) – Establishes a training program in DCED to provide veterans with access to training to develop small businesses.
- Senate Bill 215 (SB 215) – Adds a $5 million veteran-owned businesses loan guarantee as a carve-out to the CFA’s loan guarantee program.
- Senate Bill 231 (SB 231) – Creates a tax credit for new jobs for unemployed veterans.
- Senate Bill 232 (SB 232) – Requires Department of Education to work with PASSHE, all state-related universities, and other institutions of higher education to join together with the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to develop standards and methods to apply academic or workforce education credit to veterans and military service members in order to expedite the degree requirements for veterans and service members so they can enter the workforce earlier.
With over 2.6 million of our military personnel returning home since first being deployed to the Middle East 12 years ago, these initiatives in this package will help acclimate individuals from military service back to civilian life at home. More importantly, all of these bills offer veterans a tangible way of recognizing their sacrifice and thanking them for their service to our country while at the same time realizing the promise of a productive and positive future in our communities.
Did You Know…
Did you know according to the Pew Research Center 44 percent of veterans who served since September 11, 2001 have cited difficulty in returning to civilian life?
Upcoming PHEAA Job Fair
I want to remind constituents looking for work that the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is holding a recruitment event on December 11th to continue filling positions at its new Customer Service Center in Green Tree. The recruitment event is scheduled from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the Allegheny County Career Link Center, located on the 22nd floor at 425 6th Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh. If you are interested in working in this new facility as a call center representative, I encourage you to attend this recruitment event. You may also visit www.pheaa.org/jobs to learn more about available positions.
PHEAA expects to train an average of 42 new employees every eight weeks until it reaches the new facility’s 150-person capacity. Employees receive a paid eight-week training program prior to working directly with student loan borrowers to help them manage their student loan debt successfully.
As Vice-Chair of PHEAA’s Board of Directors I appreciate the long-term investment PHEAA has made in our community. With the help of skilled workers from our area, the new Customer Service Center in Green Tree will help PHEAA continue to provide the best possible customer service to millions of student loan borrowers throughout the region, the Commonwealth and all across the nation.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Reminder
If you have not filed for a property tax or rent rebate through the PA Property Tax & Rent Rebate Program, I want to remind you the deadline of December 31st is fast approaching. Property tax/rent rebate applications must be postmarked no later than December 31st to be considered.
If you are a Pennsylvanian age 65 and older, a person with a disability 18 and older, or a widow or widower age 50 and older, you may be eligible. Income limits are $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase rebate amounts. You can stop by any of my district offices to get a claim form (PA-1000), receive help in completing your application, and check on the status of your claim.
You may also check the status of claims by visiting the PA Department of Revenue website or by calling 1-888-PATAXES. The program is supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Environmental Excellence Awards
If you are part of an environmentally-conscious business or organization, consider applying for the 2014 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award through the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The award is open to any Pennsylvania business, farm, government agency, educational institution, non-profit organization, and individual that has developed innovative environmental programs or has implemented projects that balance environmental stewardship and economic development.
Examples of eligible projects include wastewater recycling technology innovation, resource development, renewable and alternative energy innovation, watershed restoration strategies and environmental education outreach among others. The DEP will evaluate each project submitted based on seven criteria including environmental benefits and use of innovative technologies.
To download an application please visit www.depweb.state.pa.us. Projects must have been completed between August 1, 2012 and July 31, 2013 to qualify. The winners will be honored during an evening reception on April 22nd and the winning projects will also be listed on DEP’s website. The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on January 17th and must be submitted by email to RA-EPgovenviroawards@pa.gov. For more information on the application process, please call 717-783-8727.
River of the Year Voting
The PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) is inviting the public to vote online for the 2014 Pennsylvania River of the Year, choosing from among five waterways nominated across the state. This year’s nominees are: Ohio River; Schuylkill River; Brodhead Creek and Watershed; West Branch of the Susquehanna River; and Kiskiminetas-Conemaugh River. Nominations were based on each waterway’s conservation needs and successes, as well as celebration plans should the nominee be voted 2014 River of the Year.
Anyone interested in voting can visit www.pariveroftheyear.org to vote and learn more about the nominated waterways and the River of the Year program. The PA Organization for Watersheds and Rivers (POWR) administers the program with funding from DCNR. The award has been presented annually since 1983 and the 2013 winner was the Monongahela River.
Books in the Burgh
The Heinz History Center is hosting its 12th Annual “Books in the Burgh” holiday book fair on Saturday, December 7th from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Admission for the event is free.
Nearly 60 authors with Pittsburgh ties are scheduled to attend the event, including a special appearance by Augusten Burroughs, the Pittsburgh-born author of the best-selling memoir “Running with Scissors,” which spent more than three years atop the New York Times Best Seller list and eventually was made into a movie. Burroughs will give a special talk for visitors beginning at noon in the History Center’s Detre Library & Archives.
There will also be a chance for visitors to speak with Samuel W. Black, editor of “The Civil War in Pennsylvania: The African American Experience” during an author talk beginning at 11 a.m. This book features essays written by national experts on African American life during the Civil War and was developed in partnership with Pennsylvania Civil War 150, the statewide initiative to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
For more information on “Books in the Burgh,” including a complete list of authors, and other History Center events, please visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
Brookline Business Feature
This week’s featured Brookline business is It’s Greek to Me, located at 1101 Brookline Boulevard. It’s Greek to Me is a family-owned business that has been operating in Brookline along the Boulevard for 13 years. They offer a wide variety of Greek food, salads and sandwiches, spanakopita, and offer daily gyro specials. They are open for business Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. To learn more about their menu, stop in or call 412-531-0400. Please remember to support local merchants during the Brookline Boulevard Streetscape Project and remember:
Brookline is open for business!
This Saturday, December 7th, marks the 72nd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, where over 2,300 people were killed when Japanese fighter planes opened fire on the U.S. base. The U.S.S. Pennsylvania was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack but she was sitting in dry-dock and only suffered minimal damage. The U.S.S. Pennsylvania was one of the first ships to open fire on the Japanese following the attack. She was modernized in 1942 and was the only U.S. battleship to take part in every amphibious operation in the Pacific theatre during World War II, earning eight battle stars for her efforts. The bell from the battleship was permanently loaned by the Department of the Navy to Penn State University where it is displayed today.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
|| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216