Senate Approves Carbon Monoxide Bill
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania is a national leader in carbon monoxide (CO) deaths and poisonings. Understanding these deaths are entirely preventable, I introduced a package of bills on this matter including Senate Bill 439 (SB 439). Under this legislation, licensed child care centers across the state would be required to install a working carbon monoxide alarm in their facility. Parents and guardians send their children to daycare thinking this is a safe atmosphere. This bill puts one more mechanism in place to protect the welfare of both the children and staff at these facilitates.
Considered the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced by the incomplete burning of various fuels from items like portable generators, vehicles, power washers as well as malfunctioning fireplaces, furnaces and water heaters. In high concentration, CO can cause flu-like symptoms including headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pains, loss of muscle control, confusion, unconsciousness and ultimately death.
Annually, carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for approximately 15,000 emergency room visits and nearly 500 deaths in the United States. Although CO poisoning can be fatal to anyone, children are particularly vulnerable. Carbon monoxide can make a child seriously ill in amounts that would barely affect an adult.
The only safe way to know if CO is present in a building is with a working alarm. Under SB 439, each child care facility which uses a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, fireplace or has an attached garage, must have an operational, centrally located and approved carbon monoxide alarm installed in the vicinity of the fossil fuel-burning heater or fireplace. The approved carbon monoxide alarm must also be installed in every unit that is located on the same story of the fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance. Failure to do so would result in the Department of Human Services to not issue or renew a daycare license until the facility complies.
As of March 2018, 27 states require carbon monoxide detectors in private dwellings. However, only three states (Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia) mandate them in child care facilities. With Pennsylvania’s status as a national leader in CO poisonings and deaths, I feel that the average cost of $20 for a carbon monoxide detector is a small price tag to put on an individual life.
Senate Bill 439 is now located in the House Health Committee.
Did You Know…
Did you know the CDC believes that only 30 percent of American homes have functioning carbon monoxide alarms?
PHEAA Funding Grants
As Vice Chair of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) I am pleased to report that at last week’s Board of Directors meeting, the Board decided to use additional reserve funds to maintain grants to students at the current amounts for the 2018-19 school year. Without the action, it was anticipated that grant support to students would have been cut by up to 25 percent for the 18-19 school year. The Board’s action will allow the maximum award to remain at $4,123 for 2018-19, consistent with the 2017-18 amount.
The funding strain is due to flat state funding in the face of increased requests for support and additional educational funding obligations. To hold student grant funding harmless, the board agreed to allocate $56 million in fiscal 2019-20 reserve dollars to the 2018-19 funding pool. The decision was reached after PHEAA personnel had several meetings with members of the four state Appropriations Committees, the state budget secretary and chairman and vice chairman of its board.
This grant funding is a financial lifeline for many students and it is imperative that we at least maintain support at current levels. While this move will shield students from funding cutbacks next year, moving forward we need to seek ways to assure the program’s long term fiscal viability.
2018-19 Safe Schools Targeted Grants
The Pennsylvania Department of Education is accepting applications for the 2018-19 Safe Schools Targeted Grants program. These grants provide for school resource and police officers, safety equipment, and prevention programs/training. Eligible applicants include school districts, charter schools, cyber charter schools, and career and technology centers, as well as police agencies and municipalities. Non-public schools may request funding for school resource officers only.
Applications will be accepted through July 31. More information on how to apply online can be found by clicking here or visiting www.education.pa.gov and typing “Safe Schools Targeted Grants” in the Search field.
Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program
Qualifying seniors in Allegheny County will soon be able to pick up vouchers for locally grown fruits and vegetables. The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is a federal program that is administered at the state level by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. This program attempts to provide seniors who are nutritionally at risk a means to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from approved Pennsylvania farmers.
The program provides recipients with four $5 voucher checks for a total year benefit of $20 to redeem at qualified farmers’ markets. Checks may be spent through Nov. 30 on produce that is grown in Pennsylvania or purchased directly from a Pennsylvania farmer.
Some examples of produce that may be purchased under the vouchers are apples, beans, berries, carrots, grapes, melons, spinach and tomatoes. Customers must spend the entire $5 check and change will not be given.
The distribution of voucher checks will take place on June 12 at senior centers throughout Allegheny County. Checks are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Seniors are asked to bring identification showing proof of age and residency to the distribution site.
To be eligible, individuals must be an Allegheny County resident who will be 60 years old by December 31, 2018. The income limit for a one-person household is $22,459 and is $30,451 for a two-person household. Married couples may each receive one set of checks. If an eligible consumer requires a proxy to receive their checks, the proxy is responsible for signing for and spending the checks for the individual. All individuals must completely fill out a proxy form in order to have a proxy receive checks for them.
For a complete listing of voucher check distribution locations and times, or to download a proxy form, please visit the Allegheny County Department of Human Services website at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/dhs/olderadults.aspx. A listing of distribution sites, farmers’ market locations and proxy forms can also be picked up in my district offices. Anyone with questions on the program can also call the Allegheny County SeniorLine at 412-350-5460.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2017 Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. If you filed a paper rebate last year, you should have received 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.
The 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.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30 and rebates will be distributed beginning July 1. The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming.
Upcoming APPRISE Lunch & Learn
The next APPRISE/Allegheny Link Lunch & Learn event is scheduled for Thursday, June 21 at the Human Services Building, located at 1 Smithfield Street in downtown Pittsburgh. The program will begin at noon with greetings and introductions with the presentation and Q&A session running from 12:15 – 3 p.m.
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 June 21 Lunch & Learn is “The Medicare Appeals Process.” The presentation will define and describe a Medicare appeal; what grievances can be appealed; how and when to initiate an appeal; and the specific steps in the appeal process. Presenters will also look at the issue of In-Patient verses Observation status for hospital provided services provided under Medicare.
Anyone interested in attending should R.S.V.P. to Bill McKendree at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-661-1670, ext. 645.
Woods Run Project – Meeting
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) is hosting a community meeting on Monday, June 4 to discuss the Mairdale Avenue stormwater project in Riverview Park. The meeting will take place at Perry High School, located at 3875 Perrysville Avenue, from 6 – 8 p.m.
During the meeting, the project team will share selected design alternatives moving towards final design and the unique ways each will manage stormwater. Attendees will have an opportunity to comment and provide input for additional changes. These design alternatives are based on input from an earlier community meeting.
For more information on this project please visit the Woods Run project page on PWSA’s website or visit http://pgh2o.com/woods-run.
May is National Pet Month and serves as a good reminder to all dog owners to get a license for your dog. It shows you care for your pet and it happens to be the law. Annual dog licenses in Allegheny County are valid from January 1 – December 31 each year. All dogs three months or older must be licensed. Annual licenses cost $8.50 and are $6.50 if your dog is spayed or neutered. Discounts are also available to seniors and people with disabilities.
For more information on getting a dog license or to download an application, please visit the Allegheny County Treasurer’s office at http://www.alleghenycounty.us/treasurers-office/dog-license.aspx or click here. Dog owners in the City of Pittsburgh can visit http://pittsburghpa.gov/publicsafety/animal-control/dog-license.html or click here.
Today Pennsylvania is nearly 60 percent forested, having 17 million acres of woodlands.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
543 Main Capitol |
Harrisburg, PA 17120
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524 Pine Hollow Road
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1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
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Carnegie Library |
1230 Federal Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15212