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Senator Wayne D. Fontana


The Need for Financial Literacy Skills to be Successful in Life

Below is an opinion editorial I recently penned highlighting April as “Financial Awareness Month”

Financial literacy influences all stages of our lives. The Commonwealth recently recognized the importance of this issue by designating April as Financial Literacy Month in Pennsylvania.

Financial literacy involves making informed decisions about finances including investing, saving - especially for college and borrowing smartly to pay for it - understanding how credit cards work, insurance needs, real estate and retirement planning.

Students are often at risk of making poor financial choices due to their lack of life experience and a limited institutional effort to teach financial literacy skills the same way we teach reading and math. Students who lack financial knowledge are likely to carry their lack of knowledge into adulthood - and poor financial decisions with lasting ramifications are likely to be the result.

According to recent reports, a college student in a 4-year degree program in Pennsylvania who borrows money to pay for school is graduating with an average student loan debt of $31,675 - which is the third highest in the nation.  Excessive student loan debt can force graduates to delay major life decisions, such as purchasing a home, or even getting married or having a child.  Fortunately, free resources are available to help bridge the information gap related to higher education financial issues.

PHEAA PHEAA The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has developed a free tool to help students and their parents early in the college-planning process, helping them make smart choices at each of the decision points as they develop their higher education plan. provides estimators that help determine a student’s possible costs at different schools, future salary expectations in their field of study, availability of related employment opportunities, and their potential ability to repay student loans comfortably while affording an independent lifestyle.

MySmartBorrowing assists users in answering many of the most important questions that can help them avoid unaffordable student loan debt down the road. The first steps in planning for higher education are often the most crucial.

Avoiding unnecessary loan debt is the goal.  This month – Financial Literacy Month – is the perfect time to focus our attention on that goal so our students and families can enjoy the benefits of financial stability every month of the year.

Did You Know…

Did you know that only 28 percent of high school students in Pennsylvania take a course devoted to economics or personal finance?

CHIP Enrollment

CHIP CHIP While the deadline to sign up for insurance coverage on the exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act has passed, that deadline does not apply to enrolling children in the Commonwealth.  Children can be signed up for coverage anytime by visiting

CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, provides health insurance to Pennsylvania’s uninsured children and teens up to age 19 that are not eligible for or enrolled in Medical Assistance.  If you have a child who is uninsured, please visit where you can apply for coverage.

LIHEAP Extended Through April 18th

LIHEAP LIHEAP I want to remind everyone that the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has been extended through April 18th and the Department of Public Welfare is accepting applications from low income families that need assistance in paying their heating bills.  You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website or by calling the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.  You can also pick up an application in my district offices, or download one yourself from DPW’s LIHEAP website.  Completed paper applications should be returned to one of the Allegheny County Assistance Offices.

After your application is reviewed, you will receive a written notice explaining your eligibility and the amount of assistance you will receive.  Payments are generally sent directly to a utility company or fuel provider and are credited to your account.

Funding for LIHEAP is provided by the federal government and eligibility is based on Federal Poverty Income Guidelines.  The income limits this season are as follows:

Household Size

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APPRISE Lunch & Learn

Allegheny County APPRISE/Allegheny Link is hosting their next Lunch and Learn session on April 17th from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Allegheny County Human Service Building, located at 1 Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh.  The session will offer a panel discussion on health care access for the homeless population in Allegheny County.Healthcare

The goal of this discussion is to alert health care and social service professionals about the state of health care availability and the delivery of those services to people who are homeless in Allegheny County.  The panel will include:  Dr. Elizabeth Mason, Chief of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh; Dr. Ken Thompson, Medical Director for the Center for Mental Health Services; Adrienne Walnoha, CEO for Community Human Services; and Dr. Jim Withers, Operation Safety Net, a ministry of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System.

APPRISE is a free health insurance counseling program designed to help Pennsylvanians, age 60 years and older.  For more information on the Lunch and Learn Series and this specific installment or to RSVP, please call 412-661-1438.

Pick it up PA

Great American Clean Up Pennsylvania Great American Clean Up Pennsylvania “Pick it up PA” is the theme this month as April is Earth Month.  The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is encouraging all residents to take time to pick up litter around their homes and in public areas. 

Many cleanup events will be taking place across the Commonwealth during April.  If you are interested in finding a cleanup event near you, you can visit the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania’s website at  If you’re interested in organizing your own cleanup event in your neighborhood, you have the option of listing it on this website. 

As part of the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania, which runs through May 31st, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is offering a video contest, where event organizers can submit a video of their cleanup event and win a cash prize as well as having their video posted online.  More information on the video contest can also be found at

Let’s Redd up Heidelberg

The Borough of Heidelberg is conducting its 7th annual “Let’s Redd up Heidelberg” event on Saturday, April 26th.  Participants will meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Ellsworth Avenue Playground.  Volunteers will be provided with bags, gloves, supplies, and safety vests to pick up litter, repaint areas with graffiti, and plant trees.  Following the event lunch will be provided.  For additional information please contact Joe Kauer, Borough Manager, at 412-276-0363 or

Master Builders Event

MBAThe Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania is hosting a free event for small and emerging companies, particularly minority, women- and veteran-owned firms on April 24th.  The 2014 Meet the Master Builders event is an opportunity to connect these small and emerging firms with commercial contractors.  Attendees can learn about upcoming construction projects to bid on and existing resources that can help small businesses.

The 2014 Meet the Master Builders will take place at the Hill House Kaufmann Center, located at 1835 Center Avenue in the city of Pittsburgh’s Hill District neighborhood from 9 a.m. – noon.  For more information on this event, including a listing of participating companies and organizations, please visit the events calendar at  To register, please email

Pop-Up Canada!

Pop Up CanadaIf you see the Stanley Cup on an early April afternoon or run into a Canadian Mountie in the streets, don’t be alarmed, you’re still in Pittsburgh.  The Consulate General of Canada in New York is spending a week in Pittsburgh, providing us with an opportunity to learn more about our neighbors to the north.  Pop-Up Canada arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday and is set up at 623 Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh where events all week will be geared towards celebrating the relationship between Canada and Pennsylvania. Events include bringing business leaders together to discuss opportunities where Pennsylvania can work more closely with Canada and also include showcasing food, wine and tourist attractions from across Canada.  For more information on Pop-Up Canada and for a listing of events taking place this week, please visit

Supporting Focus on Renewal Food Pantry

FOR Focus on Renewals All food and financial donations made to the Focus On Renewal (FOR) Emergency Food Pantry during the month of April will be matched by The Feinstein Foundation.  For the 17th consecutive year, Alan Shawn Feinstein, a Rhode Island philanthropist, will divide $1 million among hunger-fighting agencies across the country.  Cash, checks and food (valued at $1 per item) will qualify.

If you are interested in contributing by making a financial donation, mark “Feinstein” on the memo line of a check and mail it to:

            Focus On Renewal
            701 Chartiers Avenue
            McKees Rocks, PA  15136

Anyone interested in donating non-perishable items can drop them off at FOR’s Community Center, located at 701 Chartiers Avenue in McKees Rocks during regular business hours Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

WQEDFontana Fact

WQED-TV celebrated its 60th anniversary last week.  On April 1, 1954, the first community-owned station in the world began broadcasting educational television to viewers in southwestern Pennsylvania on Channel 13 on the VHF dial.  Since then the station has won 140 combined National and Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards.  Today, WQED provides 12 hours of daily, free educational programming for children. 

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
Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania Pop-Up Canada!