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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

PHEAA Encourages Students to Search for Scholarships

As Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) I want to inform students and families that November is National Scholarship Month.  PHEAA encourages students to research and apply for scholarships to help pay for post-secondary education.  Scholarships, along with grants, are free money awards that do not need to be repaid.PHEAA PHEAA

Scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate high achievement in areas such as academics, athletics, music, art and many other fields.  They are also awarded to students who meet a variety of unique criteria as defined by the organization or individual offering the scholarship.  Scholarships can be offered by federal or state governments, schools, civic organizations, anonymous citizens, religious institutions, businesses or trade associations, and private foundations.

Students should ask their school counselor if they are aware of any scholarships that may be available, in addition to exploring free scholarship search engines and databases on the Internet.  Taking the initiative to thoroughly search for scholarships is well worth students’ time as there are tens of thousands of scholarships out there.  The trick is knowing where to search and then investing the time to discover what may be available and applicable.  Scholarships are often as unique as the individual searching for them.

PHEAA offers students the following advice on searching for scholarships:

  • Begin searching for scholarships early.
  • Use FREE scholarship search websites.
  • Do not ignore scholarships with smaller award amounts.
  • Search for scholarships every year.
  • Check corporate and trade association websites, which may offer awards without an employment requirement.
  • Avoid application fees.
  • Do not miss application deadlines.

Education PlannerPHEAA’s career and college-planning website,, is an excellent resource for learning about how to pay for college, including scholarships and other gift aid opportunities. also links to, a free national scholarship search engine.  Students can fill out a brief profile and FastWeb will search for awards for which you may qualify.  Fastweb

While there are thousands of scholarships available for a wide-range of students, PHEAA encourages students and families to be cautious if contacted by organizations offering to provide scholarship searches for a fee.  Some companies are legitimate and others are not.  If students are promised a scholarship, are told they have already won a scholarship and must submit a fee to get the award, or are told they can’t find this information anywhere else, they should be wary of participating.  Students should never provide their Social Security number or bank account information if requested.  Several hundred thousand students and parents are defrauded by scholarship scams every year, costing those victims more than $100 million annually.

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed this Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27 in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.  My offices will re-open as scheduled on Monday, Nov. 30.  I wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving.

TAP Program

penndot PennDOT The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is accepting applications for the federally funded Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) through January 8, 2016.

TAP projects enhance pedestrian and bicycle facilities, improve access to public transportation, create safe routes to school, preserve historic transportation structures, provide environmental mitigation, create trails that serve a transportation purpose, and promote safety and mobility.

Eligible applicants include all Pennsylvania local governments; regional transportation authorities; transit agencies; natural resource or public land agencies; school districts, local education agencies, or schools; Tribal governments; and any other local or regional governmental entity with responsibility for oversight of transportation or recreational trails (other than a metropolitan planning organization or a state agency) that the state determines to be eligible. 

Projects must have a construction cost of at least $50,000 but may not exceed $1 million, unless the project is of exceptional regional or statewide significance.  Applications will be reviewed based on such criteria as safety benefits, reasonableness of cost, readiness for implementation, statewide or regional significance, integration of land use and transportation decision making, collaboration with stakeholders, and leverage of other projects or funding.

There is currently $9 million available to be administered statewide through PennDOT, and up to $11 million to be administered through six large Metropolitan Planning Organizations.  These amounts are subject to change if a new federal long-term transportation bill is enacted.  For more information please click here.

Gaming Revenue Increases

table gamesThe Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced last week that gross revenue from table games play at the state’s 12 casinos increased by more than seven percent in October compared to the same month in 2014.  Gross revenue from table games in October was over $67.5 million compared with just over $63 million in revenue in October 2014.  Total tax revenue generated during October from table games play was over $9.6 million.

The increase in table games revenue coupled with the earlier reported 3.5 percent increase in slots revenue for October resulted in an overall gaming revenue increase for October of 4.4 percent compared with last October.

Table games in Pennsylvania are taxed at 14 percent with the majority of that revenue directed into the state’s General Fund and the remaining funds directed to local governments.  Slot machines are taxed at 55 percent in Pennsylvania and directed as follows:  34 percent for property tax reduction; 12 percent supporting the horse racing industry; five percent is placed in a state economic development fund; and two percent goes to local governments that host casinos.

The state’s gaming industry employs over 17,700 people and generates an average of $3.7 million per day in tax revenue from both table games and slot machines.  For more information on gaming in Pennsylvania and to read reports from the Gaming Control Board, please visit

Did You Know…

Did you know this is only the fifth major renovation for the 635-foot Mon Incline since it originally opened in 1870?

Mon Incline Reopens

Mon InclineLast week the Monongahela Incline reopened after closing on Sept. 8 so the Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) could make needed repairs to rails and ties, a catwalk and safety restraint system and the renovation of passenger cars.  This is great news for Mt. Washington, its residents and business owners and our entire city.

Back in August, the Mt. Washington CDC along with businesses and residents expressed their concerns with initial plans that called for construction to begin prior to Labor Day.  The CDC contacted me on behalf of stakeholders and shared information relative to Labor Day weekend being among the most lucrative for area businesses and made a case for lessening the impact that construction would have by advocating for a slight delay in the construction start date.  I was happy to work with them in communicating their concerns and request for a slight delay with County and PAT officials and PAT ultimately made the decision to delay the start date until Sept. 8.

Despite the slight delay, PAT set forth an ambitious schedule and ultimately were still able to reopen the Mon Incline before another big event, the city’s annual Light Up Night.  I commend PAT officials including CEO Ellen McLean and the County Executive Rich Fitzgerald for their roles in working with the community throughout this renovation project.  I am grateful to PAT for completing the work diligently and for the way they tried to make this needed work as painless on the community as possible.

PAT Service Request

Port Authority Port Authority The Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAT) is currently accepting service requests through Nov. 30 from customers and residents.  Anyone interested in submitting a service request can click here to access the online form or visit and read about PAT’s service guidelines.  Requests will also be accepted by mail at the following address:

            Port Authority
            ATTN: Service Request
            345 6th Avenue, Floor 3
            Pittsburgh, PA  15222

All requests must include contact information including a name, phone number, and/or email address in order to be considered.  After proposals are collected, they will be evaluated to determine feasibility of implementation by PAT.  PAT reserves the right to immediately dismiss any proposal it deems unfeasible at any point in order to use staff time and resources efficiently to evaluate realistic and potentially feasible service proposals.  Proposals will be evaluated based on efficiency, effectiveness and equity.  PAT will release a prioritized list of requests along with an Annual Service Report in late spring.

Small Business Saturday

Small Business SaturdayThis Saturday marks the sixth anniversary of what has become Small Business Saturday across the country.  This annual event began in 2010 with the help of American Express, and is held each year on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, as an awareness campaign to support small businesses in neighborhoods across America.

Locally, many communities within the 42nd Senatorial District are participating in Small Business Saturday with deals, sales, and other events.  There are some great local business districts and terrific local merchants with much to offer to a wide variety of clientele. American Express has established a site,, where small businesses can register and shoppers can search for small businesses in their area.

U.S. Treasury Department Retirement Savings Program

A recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette highlighted a retirement savings plan that is operated by the U.S. Treasury Department.  The program, myRA, was designed for people without access to employer-sponsored retirement savings plans and for people looking for a simple, safe, and affordable way to start saving for retirement.  myRA accounts cost nothing to open, have no fees, and don’t require a minimum amount of savings.MyRA

To learn more about this program including frequently asked questions, how to open and manage an account, and more, please visit

turkeyFontana Fact

The average number of turkeys raised in the United States each year is 248 million and about 31 percent of turkey consumption takes place during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

  Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Fax: 412-344-3400
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
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
Fax: 412-331-2079
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
  Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
Phone: 412-343-2080
Fax: 412-343-2418
Tuesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Strip District (Mobile Office)
Pittsburgh Public Market
2401 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Thursdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library
Allegheny Branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Wednesdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Education Planner Fastweb myRA Small Business Saturday