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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Real ID Act Update

real idI want to update everyone on the status of an issue that I first wrote about in November, the REAL ID Act.  In 2005, the United States Congress passed this law, acting upon recommendations from the 9/11 Commission which was formed after the terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.  This Act “established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibits federal agencies from accepting for official purposes licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards.”

Pennsylvania is one of six states currently that are not compliant with REAL ID or that have been granted an extension by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  As such, Pennsylvanians are facing two deadlines that will cause issues for those who do not have a United States passport.  As of Jan. 30, 2017, federal agencies will be prohibited from accepting Pennsylvania driver’s licenses and identification cards.  In a little over a year, Jan. 22, 2018, Pennsylvanians over the age of 18 will need a passport to travel on any commercial airplane as the federal Transportation Security Administration will no longer accept Pennsylvania driver’s licenses or identification cards.

In 2012, the Pennsylvania legislature overwhelmingly passed Act 38, to address several concerns with REAL ID at that time, which prohibited the state from participating.  Many of those concerns that led to the passage of Act 38 may not be valid today considering the federal REAL ID Act required states to adopt and institute 38 specific standards to come into compliance and Pennsylvania now currently meets 32 of them.  Most states that have complied with REAL ID have allowed residents the option of obtaining a REAL ID-compliant identification or non-compliant identification which reduces cost and allows the costumer to opt-in.  However, PennDOT is not able to even consider giving Pennsylvanians this option because of Act 38.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has indicated to PennDOT that an extension may be granted “if there are new developments or additional information regarding your jurisdiction’s progress towards meeting outstanding requirements,” which consideration of a repeal of Act 38 could be.  Given the monumental inconvenience that non-compliance will have on many Pennsylvanians, the level of compliance PennDOT already has achieved with REAL ID, and the few outstanding issues that remain, many believe it is time the General Assembly gives thoughtful reconsideration of Act 38. 

As the new legislative session begins, legislation is being introduced I support that would repeal Act 38 of 2012, require PennDOT to apply to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for an extension, and ultimately move Pennsylvania into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act.  I will continue to keep everyone informed as developments on this issue unfold.

Unemployment Update

In the Nov. 22 edition of my News & Views I spoke about the decision by the Senate majority party to not bring up for a vote legislation, which passed the House of Representatives, that would have transferred $57.5 million and extended the funding deadline for the Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund through 2017. As a result, we have an unfortunate situation - the closure of three out of the eight Unemployment Compensation Service Centers which resulted in 280 employees being laid off effective last Dec. 19.  Moreover, anyone currently seeking unemployment benefits is having a miserable time attempting to connect with the appropriate personnel to assist them with their claim.

First, if you are having difficulty reaching a UC service center please contact my district offices and my staff will be glad to assist you. 

You can also visit the UC website, and click on the “Alert” link for assistance or simply click here.

Radon Awareness Month

DEP Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) With January being National Radon Awareness Month, I want to remind everyone about the dangers of Radon and that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is encouraging residents to test their homes for Radon, a leading cause of lung cancer. 

Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally through the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks.  It can enter a home through cracks in the foundation or other openings.  The DEP suggests that homeowners buy a radon home test kit as the weather gets colder since the gas becomes trapped inside when doors and windows are closed.  Testing is the only way to know if a home or other structure has elevated levels of radon.  An easy home test kit can be purchased at hardware or home improvement stores for about $20 to $30.  State-certified testing companies can also be hired.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set an action level for radon concentration in homes at 4 pCi/L.  Homes testing above this level should have a radon mitigation, or reduction system installed.  This is essentially a pipe with a fan to suction the gas from the ground and discharge it above the roofline, where the radon is dispersed.  DEP recommends that home builders install radon reduction systems during construction.

DEP certifies all radon testers, mitigators, and laboratories doing business in the state, to ensure reliable results.  For more information, including information on interpreting radon test results and finding a Pennsylvania-certified radon contractor, please visit the DEP Radon Division website by clicking here or by calling the Radon Hotline at 1-800-23-RADON.

Did You Know…

Did you know the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General’s Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon?


LIHEAP LIHEAP I want to remind everyone that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services is accepting applications for this season’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  The program helps low income families pay their heating bills.  You can apply and check the status of your application on the state’s COMPASS website.  You can also pick up an application in my district offices or download one yourself from the DHS LIHEAP website.  Completed paper applications should be returned to the Allegheny County Assistance Office, 5947 Penn Avenue, 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA, 15206.

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

Household Size Income Limit
1 $17,820
2 $24,030
3 $30,240
4 $36,450
5 $42,660
6 $48,870
7 $55,095
8 $61,335
9 $67,575
10 $73,815

After your application is received 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 will be credited to your heating account.  Crisis grants may also be available if you have an emergency situation and are in jeopardy of losing your heat.  For more information, please contact the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.

ALCOSAN Clean Water Assistance Fund

ALCOSAN ALCOSAN The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN) has launched its Clean Water Assistance Fund, which will help low-income families and individuals pay their ALCOSAN bills. ALCOSAN has committed nearly one million dollars to this vital customer assistance program for qualifying residents in the 83 municipalities that make up the authority’s service area.

The fund will provide a $30 credit every three months to homeowners as well as tenants who have accounts in their own names for sewage service.  To be eligible, applicants must meet income limits set by the federal government.  Currently, that means that a family of four earning $36,450 or less per year would be eligible.   The authority’s board of directors created the fund to make sure low-income residents have access to adequate wastewater services for their homes.

The fund is being administered for ALCOSAN by Dollar Energy Fund, Inc., which partners with dozens of local social service agencies to process applications.  They are taken in person and applicants must provide a copy of their water/sewage bill, Social Security numbers for all members of their household, and proof of the household’s monthly income.  In most cases residents should call in advance for an appointment. 

For more information on this program, including eligibility, participating agencies, and a program fact sheet, please visit

Fontana Fact

Inauguration Day This Friday is Inauguration Day in the United States where the peaceful transfer of power between the outgoing Obama Administration and the incoming Trump Administration takes place with the President-Elect taking the oath of office on the Capitol steps in Washington D.C. at noon.  All but six presidents have taken the presidential oath in Washington D.C.  President George Washington was sworn in in 1789 in New York City and 1793 in Philadelphia.  President John Adams also took the oath of office in Philadelphia in 1797.  President Chester Arthur in 1881 was sworn in in New York City, President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901 in Buffalo, President Calvin Coolidge in 1923 in Plymouth, VT, and President Lyndon Johnson in 1963 in Dallas.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
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
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
By Appointment
Northside (Mobile Office)
Carnegie Library | Allegheny Branch
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
By Appointment