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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Creation of the Department of Health and Human Services

In January, Governor Wolf announced his plans to merge four agencies into one department.  The creation of the Department of Health and Human Services would be the combination of the departments of Human Services, Health, Aging and Drug and Alcohol Programs.  Governor Wolf stated that not only would this save taxpayers more than $90 million, but also touted a better delivery of the services offered by these departments. 

The state has launched governor.pa.gov/hhs, a website where you can now find the details of the proposed unification of the departments.  The website offers a myriad of information where one can learn more about this initiative by reviewing the draft legislation that would be needed to make this a reality, organizational charts, as well as a chance for the public to weigh in on this proposal.

healthSome additional highlights of this merger include:

  • The creation of a cabinet-level position focused on coordinating state efforts relating to substance use and addiction policy.
  • No additional Lottery Fund dollars are transferred to offset General Fund expenditures as part of the unification and Lottery Fund revenues will continue to be solely dedicated to support senior programs.
  • Consolidation of front office functions at each agency, including budgeting, procurement and contract management, auditing, and federal reporting.
  • Rather than going to different places for eligibility assessments relating to TANF, LIHEAP, MA, SNAP, PACE, and WIC, individuals will now be able to determine eligibility for each of these at their local County Assistance Office.
  • Providers who are currently subject to multiple inspections and audits will now have one point of contact, the Office of Health Care Quality and Licensure, allowing the commonwealth to reduce bureaucratic hurdles, provide clearer and more cohesive guidance, save taxpayer dollars, and give providers the opportunity to spend more time delivering quality services to Pennsylvanians in need. 
  • The Office of Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services will improve the capacity of and coordination among mental and behavioral health and substance use and addiction programs to provide more efficient, integrated services and systems for Pennsylvanians struggling with one or more related conditions. 

As we approach budget negotiations, I am sure this merger proposal is something that will be discussed in the coming weeks.  I hope you will use this opportunity to go to the website and express your views on this unification.  

Did You Know…

Did you know that currently, at least 21 separate services across the four agencies provide care for seniors and individuals with physical disabilities?

Offices Closed

All Senate offices will be closed next Tuesday, May 16 for Election Day.  My offices will re-open on Wednesday, May 17 as scheduled.

Election Day Information

Vote PA Voter Registration Next Tuesday, May 16 is Election Day!  For any questions related to voting, I encourage everyone to visit www.votespa.com.  The website offers information on voting rights, answers to frequently asked questions, and provides you with the ability to confirm your registration and much more.

Absentee Ballots

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot for the Primary Election is today.  All completed absentee ballot applications must be received by the Allegheny County Division of Elections Office no later than 5 p.m.  The Elections Office is located in the County Office Building at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Ross Street in downtown Pittsburgh:

542 Forbes Avenue, Room 601
Pittsburgh, PA  15219

When applying in person, as long as you are properly registered, you will be given an absentee ballot on the spot and you will be able to cast your vote right then and there.

If you have already applied for and received your absentee ballot, please know all voted absentee ballots must be received in the Elections Office no later than 5 p.m. this Friday in order to be counted.  If you have any questions or need any additional information, please visit the Absentee Ballot page at www.alleghenycounty.us or call 412-350-4520.

Locate Your Polling Place

If you are not sure where to vote on Election Day, or wish to confirm your polling place, Allegheny County and the Pennsylvania Department of State offers a simple-to-use online Polling Place Locator.  Click on the previous link to get started.  Simply enter your county, municipality, house number and street name.  Once you have entered that information, your polling place address will be displayed.  You may also select “View Ballot” to see the ballot as it will appear before you when you go vote.

If you feel your information is inaccurate in any way, or have any further questions regarding your polling place or ballot, please call 412-350-4500.

Polling Place Changes

There are 16 polling place locations in Allegheny County that have changed since the November 2016 General Election.  Voters in these districts have been notified of these changes by mail from the Allegheny County Elections Division. The following are locations in the 42nd Senatorial District that have changed:

Municipality   Ward  District New Location
Pittsburgh  18 8 A Giving Heart, 816 Climax St.
Pittsburgh  18 11 A Giving Heart, 816 Climax St.
20 5 New Life Fellowship Church, 725 Lorenz Avenue
Pittsburgh  25 1 YMWAH Association, 1205 Boyle Street
Stowe Township 4 2 Holy Trinity P.N. Church, 200 Grace Street

How to Register Election Day Complaints

Any registered voter who wishes to file a complaint about alleged election law violations can do so online by visiting www.votespa.com and clicking on the “Election Complaints” tab.  The voter will be asked to enter their first and last name, address, county of residence and date of birth to ensure they are a registered voter.  Once submitted, these complaint forms will be directed to the county election board in the county in which the voter making the complaint resides.

In Allegheny County, written statements of complaint are available at all polling places and the County Board of Elections.  You may also call 1-877-VOTES-PA (1-877-868-3772) to obtain a complaint statement or visit www.votespa.com.

Tax Amnesty Program

PA Tax Amnesty PA Tax Amnesty Program I want to remind everyone again of the Pennsylvania Tax Amnesty program. This program was authorized by Act 84 of 2016.  The PA Tax Amnesty program represents a limited opportunity for individuals and businesses to pay past-due taxes with all penalties and half of the interest waived.  The program opened on April 21 and will close on June 19.

Individuals and businesses with unfiled or unpaid Pennsylvania taxes due as of the end of 2015 are generally eligible for the Tax Amnesty program.  Delinquent taxpayers known to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue will receive a written notice by mail informing them of tax delinquencies and the availability of the PA Tax Amnesty program.  Those who are eligible but do not take advantage of the Tax Amnesty program will receive a five percent penalty on amnesty eligible liabilities that remain unpaid after June 19.

While tax amnesty is an incentive for individuals who are delinquent on their taxes to pay immediately, they will still pay more than if they paid their taxes on time.

There are currently 862,598 taxpayers eligible for the program with more than 680,000 from Pennsylvania.  There are nearly 60,000 delinquent taxpayers in Allegheny County.

Anyone interested in applying or learning more can call 1-844-PA-STATE-TAX (1-844-727-8283).  You can also apply online at www.backtax.pa.gov and click on the “Apply Now” tab.  Applications must be submitted by June 19.

Upcoming Shredding Event

shreddingThis Saturday, May 13, along with Rep. Deasy and Green Tree Borough, we are hosting a shredding event in Green Tree Park from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.  Documents will be shredded on-site by a reputable and bonded company.  Also, all papers must be loose, no binder clips, and documents cannot be in binders.

With consumer fraud and identity theft continuing to be an issue, we are hosting this event, along with an earlier event in Crafton, to not only to raise awareness and promote prevention, but also to provide individuals with the opportunity to have unneeded, confidential documents destroyed free of charge.  You may bring documents that contain personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers and bank account numbers. 

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

I want to remind everyone that the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.  If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should receive an application in the mail.  Applications are also available at my district offices, online at www.revenue.pa.gov or by calling 1-888-222-9190.  As always, my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.

Property TaxesThe Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older.  The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters.  Please keep in mind, half of Social Security income is excluded. Some applicants who previously received rebates may continue to qualify despite Social Security cost-of-living adjustments that may have pushed their income past the eligibility limits.

Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.

Upcoming APPRISE Lunch & Learn

apprise Apprise The next APPRISE/Allegheny Link Lunch & Learn event is scheduled for May 18 at the Human Services Building, located at 1 Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh.  Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. – noon with the program beginning at noon.

APPRISE is the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) for Pennsylvania’s Medicare beneficiaries.  The Pennsylvania Department of Aging created APPRISE to help citizens with Medicare understand their health insurance options so they can make informed decisions about which plan is best for them.

The topic for the May 18 Lunch & Learn is “Medicare Basics – A Primer for Understanding the Medicare System.”  This presentation will provide a general overview of Medicare and how the Medicare system works in delivering health care coverage for over 50 million individuals.  The presentation will cover: the eligibility and enrollment in Medicare; the various components of the Medicare system (Parts A and B, Medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans, and Part D prescription drug plans); the characteristics and function of each component; and how to compare and evaluate the available options to achieve the most effective and affordable health care coverage.

Anyone interested in attending should R.S.V.P. no later than May 15 to Bill McKendree at mckendreew@fswp.org or 412-661-1670, ext. 645.

Career Fair in Bellevue

Career Development Center Career Development Center The Career Development Center, a program of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service, is hosting career fair this Thursday, May 11 from 9 a.m. – noon.  The career fair is being held at the Knights of Columbus, located at 450 Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue Borough.  More than 15 employers, including some of the largest in the region, will be present.

For more information and to register, please call Tanya Bashor at 412-586-3728 or visit www.cdcpgh.org.

Northside Sandwich Week

Northside Sandwich Week Northside Sandwich Week The 6th annual Northside Sandwich Week is scheduled from May 18 – 28.  The annual event celebrates the best sandwiches in restaurants and pubs.  Look for the Sandwich Week banners to identify participating establishments.

Kicking off Northside Sandwich Week on May 18 is the Northside Sandwich Sampler where attendees can sample all the sandwiches beginning at 1 p.m. at Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory, located at 614 Pressley Street.  This year’s Sandwich Sampler will feature complimentary onion rings provided by the Priory Grand Hall Kitchen and a Beer Garden with beer from local breweries.

Also, taking place during Northside Sandwich Week is the 3rd annual Le Tour de Sandwich, a short bike ride through the Northside with stops at participating Sandwich Week locations.

For more information on Northside Sandwich Week events and to purchase tickets, please visit sandwichweek.pittsburghnorthside.com

Ohio Valley Hospital 5K

Ohio Valley HospitalThe 36th annual Ohio Valley Hospital & Kennedy Township 5K is scheduled for Saturday, May 13.  The race kicks off at 8 a.m. from the Ohio Valley Hospital’s front door, located at 25 Heckel Road in Kennedy Township.  The course winds through the hills of Kennedy Township, where volunteers, family, and friends will be cheering on participants along the way, alongside a DJ who plays runners and walkers off onto the course. An after-party will feature a continental breakfast and an awards ceremony.

For more information on how to register please contact Kati Campbell at 412-777-6313 or kcampbell@ohiovalleyhospital.org.

Fontana Fact

The development of a state park in downtown Pittsburgh was authorized in 1945 and the first parcel of the 36-acre property was purchased the next year. Point State Park was completed and dedicated in 1974. In 1975, Point State Park was designated a National Historic Landmark.

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