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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Newborns and Saving for Higher Education

529 529 On average, Pennsylvanians who pursue a post-secondary education end up approximately $35,000 in debt - higher than any other state in the country. To help alleviate these costs, the Commonwealth has two “529” plans to help families save for college or trade school while giving special tax breaks.  In other words, although contributions are not deductible on federal tax returns, earnings on a 529 plan grow federal tax-free and will not be taxed when the money is taken out for college.  The 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan allows families to save at today’s lower credit rates and growth is based on tuition inflation.  That means if a family saves enough for one semester at a state university today, they’ll have enough for a semester at that school in the future.  In the other plan, the PA 529 Investment Plan, returns on the contributions are based on investment performance of a family’s choice that range from aggressive to conservative. 

Keystone ScholarsResearch has shown that a baby with a higher education savings account at birth is three times more likely to pursue education or training after high school, and four times more likely to graduate.  However, a 2012 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that less than 3 percent of families saved in a 529 plan in 2010.  And those who did tended to be wealthier than those who did not.  Pennsylvania currently has around 126,000 families enrolled in a 529 plan. 

With the hopes of registering more individuals, State Treasurer Joe Torsella, members of the General Assembly and the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) have announced a pilot program dubbed “Keystone Scholars,” which will give every newborn child in certain counties $100 deposited into a 529 savings plan.  Specifically, babies born or adopted between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019 in Delaware, Elk, Indiana, Luzerne, Mifflin and Westmoreland counties will be the first to receive a deposit.  Of the 140,000 infants born in the Commonwealth each year, about 10 percent of them reside in these counties.  It’s important to point out that the pilot program is privately financed with $2.25 million from philanthropic donations. 

While the pilot demonstration program plays out, Senator Hughes and Senator Gordner have announced plans to expand the Keystone Scholars program statewide through legislation.  The program would apply to any infant born in Pennsylvania on or after January 1, 2019 and funded through Treasury investment earnings, donations and endowments from the philanthropic community.  No money would come from the General Fund. 

I am a co-sponsor to this bill and hope to see passage so that all Pennsylvania parents will have an incentive to invest even the minimum contribution.  By allocating $25 a month into the 529 plan, a child would have about $14,000 by time they are 18 years of age to be used towards trade school, vocational school, community college or university.  My hopes are that this “starter” money will inspire families to save more so that not only graduation rates increase but to also help ease the financial burden on future students. 

Did You Know…

Did you know that 73 percent of parents are saving some money for their children’s college and among those actively saving, 66 percent have a financial plan in place?

Upcoming Job Fair

Property TaxOn Thursday, March 15, with Rep. Dan Deasy and in partnership with Building Bridges for Business and U.S. Probation & Pre Trial Services, we will be hosting a Job Fair for any interested job seekers.  The Job Fair is being held in the Social Hall at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, located at 1810 Belasco Avenue in Beechview from 4 – 7 p.m.

The Job Fair will feature local companies looking to fill positions now.  There will also be representatives in attendance to talk about apprenticeships and other technical training programs to help individuals gain information on acquiring new skills to become gainfully employed.

Many job seekers face barriers to employment like issues related to a past criminal record, a suspended driver’s license, lack of high school diploma or necessary job skills. Therefore, the Job Fair will include three breakout sessions that address these barriers.  From 4:30-5 p.m., attendees can join a breakout session to learn more about the driver’s license restoration process.  From 5:30-6 p.m., a session on pardons and record expungement will take place.  Anyone wishing to learn more about improving job skills and short-term training programs can attend the session from 6:30-7 p.m.

If you are looking for work or have difficulty because of any of the barriers listed above please consider attending this Job Fair.  If you have family or friends who may be interested, please share this information with them.

WorkLaunch 2018

WorkLaunch 2018 is a four-day event, Mar. 20-23, featuring workforce development workshops held in local libraries in the region and concludes with a large-scale career and community resource fair on Mar. 23. WorkLaunch, a collaboration of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) and Jewish Family and Community Services of Pittsburgh (JFCS), will take place at the following locations:

Tuesday, Mar. 20
Wednesday, Mar. 21
Thursday, Mar. 22  
Friday, Mar. 23

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-Beechview branch
Andrew Carnegie Free Library (Carnegie Borough)
Sewickley Public Library
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh-main library   
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

WorkLaunchThe WorkLaunch program will provide the opportunity for attendees to learn valuable skills and includes sessions on navigating online applications, how to utilize LinkedIn, interview techniques, preparing for a career fair and more. All locations will have registration to meet one-on-one with a Career Counselor for about 30 minutes.  For more information on this four-day event, please visit or

CLP and JFCS are also partnering to host two workforce sessions specifically designed for Veterans and Foreign-Born job seekers to be held on Mar. 8 and Mar. 15.  These workshops will take place from 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the CLP-Downtown & Business branch, located at 612 Smithfield Street.

The Mar. 8 workshop will provide a basic overview of three key areas of the career development process, helping attendees successfully transition from military service to a new civilian career.  The Mar. 15 workshop will discuss the challenges facing immigrants and foreign-born job seekers when trying to advance their careers in the American job market.

To register for the Mar. 8 and Mar. 15 programs, please visit or call 412-281-7141.

PLCB Accepting Sealed Bids for Fifth Auction of Expired Restaurant Licenses

RestaurantThe Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) has issued an invitation for bids to award 30 expired restaurant licenses in the fifth license auction since Act 39 became effective in August 2016. This auction includes one license in each in Allegheny County and 29 other counties.

The fifth auction will again use a sealed bid process, which has successfully awarded 165 licenses in the previous four auctions. Bids for the 30 licenses offered in this restaurant license auction are due by noon on Thursday, April 19. Bids will be opened Friday, April 27, and auction winners will be determined soon thereafter. The minimum bid for each license is $25,000, and each bid must be accompanied by a bid surety of $5,000 or 5 percent of the total bid amount – whichever is higher – to avoid frivolous and underfunded bids.

The highest responsive bidder for each license will win the right to submit an application for the license to the PLCB within six months of auction award. If bid payment is not received within two weeks of auction award, the second-highest bidder will have the opportunity to apply for the license. Bids will be held in escrow by the PLCB, pending approval of the license application.

Bidders with questions regarding this invitation for bids must submit inquiries via email to by noon today. Questions and answers will be posted to the Department of General Services e-marketplace website by 3 p.m. this Thursday.

Lists of winning bids from each of the four previous auctions are available on the license auction page of the PLCB website. Auction revenue recognized in fiscal year 2016-17 and thus far in 2017-18 totals $14.1 million, while another $9 million remains in escrow, pending license approvals.

For more information about the PLCB, visit

Multimodal Transportation Fund

penndot PennDOT The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is now accepting applications for grant funding available through the 2018-19 Multimodal Transportation Fund. The program is intended to provide financial assistance to municipalities, councils of governments, businesses, economic development organizations, public transportation agencies, rail freight, passenger rail, and ports in order to improve transportation assets that enhance communities, pedestrian safety, and transit revitalization.

Applications will be accepted for this round of funding through Mar. 30.  More information on the program including guidelines, eligible projects, and an application, can be found by clicking here.

Low-Interest Loan Opportunities

LoanThe PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) is offering low-interest loan opportunities through the PA Minority Business Development Authority (PMBDA).  PMBDA is a low-interest loan program designed to stimulate the creation, retention and expansion of minority-owned businesses and create jobs in Pennsylvania. Through this program, low-interest loans are used to finance a portion of the costs of land, building, machinery and equipment, and working capital to minority business enterprises unable to fully finance these projects with equity, bank financing, or other private and public sources.

Any businesses owned and operated by ethnic minorities, except non-franchised restaurants, are eligible to apply.  PMBDA can finance up to 90 percent of the eligible total project costs, or $250,000, whichever is less. Funds from other sources must equal at least 10 percent of PMBDA eligible project costs.

For more information please visit and click on the “Programs & Funding” tab at the top of the page, or click here.

Benefit to Fight Addiction

Friends on a Mission for the Mission is sponsoring an event to raise funds to fight addiction.  On Saturday, March 24, Pittsburgh’s premier Beatles tribute band, COME TOGETHER, will perform at the Georgetown Center with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. and a buffet dinner being served at 7 p.m.  The Georgetown Center is located at 536 East Bruceton Road in Pleasant Hills.  The event also features a 50/50 raffle and cash bar.

To read more on the event or to purchase tickets, please click here. A ticket provides admission, buffet dinner, and the opportunity to support the great work of the Light of Life Rescue Mission, dedicated to the homeless and addicted. COME TOGETHER will entertain guests with everyone’s favorite Beatles’ hits.  Gather family and friends for this event, share some laughs, and dance the night away while helping to fight addiction.

Register to VoteFontana Fact

Last week, Pennsylvania’s online voter registration site logged its one millionth user since first launched in August 2015.  Roughly 60 percent of those users were registering to vote while the remainder were changing their name, address or party affiliation.

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
Job Fair Keystone Scholars