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Senator Wayne D. Fontana


PHEAA Extends Grant Program to Online Students

PHEAA PHEAA Since 2000, state higher education grant recipients were limited to taking no more than 50 percent of their courses online to avoid putting their grants in jeopardy by not qualifying for assistance from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA).  This restriction was recently changed through the approval of the Distance Education Pilot Program which will allow students enrolled in any amount of online courses to be eligible for state grants under PHEAA. 

Beginning in the 2013-14 school year, full-time and part-time students who attend public and private institutions in Pennsylvania that offer two-and four-year academic degrees will be eligible to apply for distance learning grants.  This includes all 14 state-owned and the four state-supported schools. This pilot program is currently scheduled to run until 2018 at which time the program will be reevaluated for success and viability.   
Colleges and universities have until September 15th to sign up with PHEAA to be part of the pilot program. Only students from these approved institutions will be eligible for the grants, which average $3,127, with the maximum amount being $4,363.  PHEAA estimates that over 157,000 students will receive some state aid during this upcoming school year.

For students, the criteria for obtaining state aid for online classes is the same as for traditional classroom courses and will be based on the income level of the individual and their family.  Students will not have to complete additional forms.  However, it is up to the student to find out if their institution of higher education will be participating in the Distance Education program for this upcoming school year. 

There are a growing number of nontraditional students enrolled in our state colleges and universities who have other responsibilities such as full-time jobs or families. By lifting the cap on online courses, more individuals will be eligible for financial aid.  This grant money can open up a whole new world of opportunities for students.  For example, of the 484 degree programs offered from the 14 state-owned universities, more than 100 can be completed through distance education. 

With today’s economy and job market, Pennsylvania’s policies should be focusing on giving students the tools to assist them to better their careers and preparing them for the job market verses clinging onto educational models of the past which have created a society of massive student debt. 

Online learning has become an effective delivery tool for some students and provides real-world experiences.  In fact, online learning is the fastest-growing segment of students.  With passage of this pilot program, Pennsylvania will no longer discriminate against nontraditional learners who are trying to further their degree.  In this digital world, we should be encouraging, not discouraging technology use and online courses will help play a role in affordable higher education. 

FontanaFest 2013 FontanaFest!

39 Days Until FontanaFest! – The 9th Annual FontanaFest will be held on Saturday, September 7th from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at South Side’s Riverfront Park (bottom of 18th Street at the river).  The community event highlights many of the family-oriented activities that can be done on or near Pittsburgh’s three rivers.  Join us for a FREE day of family fun with activities on the rivers, free food and drink, inflatables, crafts and pony Pittsburgh Water Limorides.  This year, I’m pleased to announce that once again the Pittsburgh Water Limo will be offering free boat rides during FontanaFest with rides scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.  A limited amount of tickets can be picked up at the Welcome Booth as you enter the park.

Be sure to visit over the next month to view a listing of all participating organizations and sponsors. Several organizations will also be present to provide children and families with important educational information and activities.  It’s rain or shine – but I have every confidence we will have another beautiful day, so please come out and enjoy!

Property Tax/ Rent Rebate Reminder

Property TaxesI want to remind constituents that the deadline to file for the Property Tax & Rent Rebate Program has been extended to December 31st.  If you are a Pennsylvanian age 65 and older, a person with a disability age 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 and half of Social Security income is excluded.  The maximum standard rebate is $650 but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can potentially boost rebates to $975.

You can stop by any one of my district offices to obtain a claim form (PA-1000), receive help from my staff in completing and filing your application, and check on the status of your claim.

Eligible residents who submit their application will receive their claim approximately eight weeks after it is processed.  You may also check the status of claims online by visiting the Department of Revenue website or by calling 1-800-222-9190.  The program is supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

Ask Here PA

Ask Here PA is a new, free, statewide live chat reference service available to all Pennsylvania residents as part of Access Pennsylvania.  By visiting, librarians throughout Pennsylvania can be asked specific questions online, in a chat format, and provide answers and/or guidance in finding answers.  This service utilizes the speed and convenience of the internet joined with the information savvy of librarians.  Whether you’re an avid book reader and need help locating a particular book, are looking for information on a particular product or subject matter, or are a student needing help finding information to complete an assignment, Ask Here PA can help.

Ask Here PATo get started simply visit and click on the box titled “Connect to a Librarian.”  Logon is anonymous and once you are logged on, you will be able to type a specific question which will be received by a professionally trained librarian.  In most cases librarians will respond to questions within 15 minutes and will provide answers and links to relevant websites for further discovery.  This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ask Here PA is part of Access Pennsylvania, a project of the PA Department of Education and the Office of Commonwealth Libraries and for the last 28 years has connected different libraries across Pennsylvania, creating a statewide union catalog in an effort to facilitate resource sharing among all Pennsylvania libraries.  It was the first, and remains the largest, statewide union catalog in North America, containing approximately 22.2 million titles including books, eBooks, periodicals, DVD’s and more.

Did You Know…

Did you know since April 2002, over one million items including books, eBooks, DVD’s, journals and more have been loaned throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania through the Access Pennsylvania Database and that over 99 percent of school districts in Pennsylvania participate in the program?

Retiree Health Benefit Planning

The American-Heathcare Group is hosting Strategic Retiree Health Benefit Planning sessions on August 8th at the Manor Oak Office Complex, located at 1910 Cochran Road.  The two sessions are scheduled from noon – 1p.m. and 4 – 5 p.m. and will cover topics including:  Medicare basics; managing health care costs; impact of health care reform; Medicare benefits; state and federal entitlement programs; and Medicare Part D Prescription benefits.  If you are near retirement or recently retired, information presented at these sessions may be beneficial to you.  The sessions are free but registration is required.  For more information on the sessions or to register, please contact Erin Hart, Director of Health Benefit Services at 412-563-7807 or

Supporting B&B’s

B & B'sIf you’re traveling the Commonwealth this summer and are looking for a bed & breakfast location, I want to inform you of the newly formed Pennsylvania Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns (PABBI).  The PABBI was formed with the mission to elevate and grow the B&B industry in Pennsylvania by providing support, guidance, and education to innkeepers and is committed to making Pennsylvania a top tourist destination.  Many of the B&B’s around the Commonwealth are family-owned businesses and rely on tourism to sustain their businesses.  The B&B industry serves as a significant community and economic booster by generating thousands of overnight stays that creates over $6 million in sales taxes and $3 million in occupancy taxes each year.

If you’re considering visiting a B&B on your travels or you are an innkeeper looking to grow your business, you may visit to learn more about joining the PABBI.  Travelers can visit this site and find discounted packages, nearby events and attractions, and view the free industry newsletter.  Business owners can visit to learn about participating in cooperative marketing initiatives and learn about promoting their business.  To learn more, please visit

National Night Out

National Night OutNext Tuesday night, August 6th, 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.

The city of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood will hold a National Night Out Against Crime Street Party on August 6th, in conjunction with National Night Out, from 7 – 9 p.m. in the parking lot at the intersection of Broadway and Beechview Avenues.  The event will feature an old-fashioned free hot dog cookout for the residents and provide a venue where public officials and law enforcement can meet with the community to discuss crime prevention and public safety.  For more information about the city of Pittsburgh’s National Night Out please visit the city of Pittsburgh's Public Safety page on their website.

Point Park Women’s Basketball Honored “Off the Court”

Point ParkI want to recognize the Point Park University women’s basketball team for being one of the top academic teams in the country, for the second year in a row.  As a member of the school’s Board of Trustees, I am especially proud of the team’s accomplishment.  The Pioneers had a team grade point average of 3.31 during the 2012-13 academic year to rank 21st in the nation among National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) institutions.  In addition to their success in the classroom, the women’s basketball team at Point Park has won two straight conference tournament championships and qualified for the NAIA tournament both years, setting a school record for most wins in a season with 25 in 2012-13.  Congratulations to team members for your hard work both in the classroom and on the hardwood, and to head coach Tony Grenek and the wonderful support staff at Point Park that assists all the students in their educational endeavors!

Brookline Business Feature

Vinny's PizzaThis week’s featured Brookline business is Vinny's Pizza, located at 618 Brookline Boulevard.  Vinny’s offers a wide selection of pizzas, including an extensive list of specialty pizzas, wraps, burgers, salads, soups, hoagies, pasta dishes, appetizers and desserts.  In addition to Brookline, Vinny’s delivers to nearby communities including Dormont, Beechview, Castle Shannon, and Green Tree and is open seven days a week.  For more information on their selections and to view a menu, please visit  You may also reach them at 412-344-8500.  Please continue to support local merchants during the Brookline Boulevard Streetscape Project and remember:

Brookline is open for business!

Fontana Fact

Last Saturday, July 27th, marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War after three years of fighting.  Of the nearly 1.8 million Americans that served in Korea, over 200,000 were Pennsylvanians and more than 26,000 came from the Pittsburgh region.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
543 Main Capitol
Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plz.
524 Pine Hollow Rd
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Fax: 412-331-2079
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
Point Park University Vinny's Pizza National Night OUt PA Association of Bed & Breakfast Inns Ask Here PA Pittsburgh Water Limo