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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Reopening for Appointments

I want to remind constituents that my district offices have reopened for appointments. While we have serviced constituents over the last three-plus months via phone and email, we will now be able to offer in-person assistance on state matters, by appointment. 

To make an appointment in the Brookline office between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday thru Friday, please call 412-344-2551 and to make an appointment in the Kennedy office between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday thru Friday, please call 412-331-1208.

Only one constituent will be permitted in either office at one time and constituents must wear masks and practice six-foot social distancing.

CARES Financial Assistance for Renters and Homeowners

Financial Assistance for Renters and Homeowners

Senate Democrats have focused on protecting homeowners and renters since this pandemic hit us in March. We have led the charge to have a moratorium placed on foreclosures and evictions so people who lost income through no fault of their own still had a place to live. Both the Supreme Court and Governor Wolf acted and a moratorium on evictions has been in place. That moratorium is set to expire later this week and we have requested that the governor extend the moratorium through at least the end of August 2020.

The extension is needed so that a new program that opened yesterday and is being administered by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) has a chance help homeowners and renters and that payments from the program are made prior to the expiration of the moratorium. Any delay in receiving payments from the program could potentially lead to mortgage companies and landlords beginning the foreclosure or eviction process while an application may be pending.

Renters and homeowners who were financially impacted by the economic slowdown related to the coronavirus pandemic are now able to access applications for rent and mortgage relief by visiting the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency’s website at www.phfa.org. PHFA is administering both programs. Please click in the red banner on the website to access the applications and other helpful background information.

The Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed in March, provided $3.9 billion for Pennsylvania and is intended to help people hurt economically during the pandemic.

Again, Senate Democrats strongly pushed that money be invested in a program that keeps homeowners and renters in their homes. In late May, the General Assembly directed $175 million of these CARES dollars to PHFA to provide assistance for struggling renters and homeowners. The portion for rent assistance is at least $150 million, and $25 million was set aside for mortgage assistance.

For renters to be eligible for financial assistance under the CARES Rent Relief Program (RRP), they will need to document at least a 30 percent reduction in annual income since March 1 related to COVID-19, or they must have become unemployed after March 1. If unemployed, they must have filed for unemployment compensation with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Their household income cannot exceed the Area Median Income for their county of residence, adjusted for the number of people in their home. 

Renters who qualify may receive assistance equal to 100 percent of their monthly rent up to $750 a month for a maximum of six months of assistance for the time period between March 1 and Nov. 30, 2020. Payments will be made to their landlord on their behalf. Renters or landlords can apply for rent relief for apartment tenants, but renters are responsible for submitting all the documents needed to ensure their eligibility.

Homeowners who became unemployed after March 1 or who suffered at least a 30 percent reduction in annual income due to reduced work hours and wages related to COVID-19 may be eligible for financial assistance to help with missed mortgage payments. To qualify for the Pandemic Mortgage Assistance Program (PMAP), they must be an owner-occupant of their residence, the dwelling must consist of one or two separate units, the mortgage must be at least 30 days delinquent, and the homeowner’s annual household income must not exceed the Area Median Income for their county of residence, adjusted for the number of people in their home.

The assistance available for homeowners can be up to $1,000 a month for a maximum period of six months. The time period eligible for assistance is for mortgage payments owed from March 2020 through Dec. 2020, however any CARES assistance provided must be disbursed by Nov. 30, 2020. Financial assistance payments through this program will be made directly to the mortgagee. Homeowners or their lenders can apply for mortgage relief, but homeowners are responsible for providing all the documents needed to determine their eligibility.

The agency’s call center is available weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist the public and help with questions about the programs. The toll-free number is 1-855-U-Are-Home (827-3466). Callers should listen for the prompt mentioning CARES assistance for renters and homeowners. The county organizations to which CARES applications are submitted will also have webpages offering useful information.

The CARES funding for renters and homeowners must be completely distributed by Nov. 30, 2020, although it is expected the assistance will be exhausted before the deadline because of the tremendous need by people hurt financially by the pandemic.

COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Grant Program Opens

COVID-19 RELIEF STATEWIDE
SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCEThe Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) has opened the COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Grant Program, which will provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to small businesses that have been economically impacted by COVID-19.

Applications can be submitted online at https://pabusinessgrants.com/ or through one of the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) listed further down. The application window for the first round of funding opened on June 30 is expected to remain open for 10 business days. Applications will continue to be accepted after 10 business days but will be considered for future rounds of funding.

Under the program, $225 million is available for COVID-19 relief to small businesses through a distribution to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) for loan payment deferment and portfolio loan loss reserves, main street business revitalization grants, and historically disadvantaged business revitalization grants.

The funds are available through three programs:

  • $100 million for the Main Street Business Revitalization Program for small businesses that experienced loss as a result of the governor’s March 19, 2020 order relating to the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses and have or will incur costs to adapt to new business operations related to COVID-19;

  • $100 million for the Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program for small businesses that experienced loss as a result of the business closure order, have or will incur costs to adapt to new business operations related to COVID-19, and in which socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least a 51 percent interest and also control management and daily business operations.

  • $25 million for the Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program, which will allow the CDFIs the opportunity to offer forbearance and payment relief for existing portfolio businesses that are struggling due to the impact of COVID, as well as shore up the financial position of the CDFIs that are experiencing significant increased defaults in their existing loan portfolios.

Eligible businesses with 25 or fewer employees may receive a maximum grant of $50,000 so long as the business was in operation on February 15, 2020 and, if required, paid income taxes to the state and federal government, as reported on individual or business tax returns; COVID-19 has had an adverse economic impact and makes this grant request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant; the grant will be used cover COVID-19 related costs; and during the period beginning on June 1, 2020 and ending on December 31, 2020, the applicant has not and will not receive another grant under this state program.

The CDFIs who will be implementing the program in Allegheny County are:

For more information about the program, you can also visit the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) website at https://dced.pa.gov/ and can sign up with DCED to get on their email list by clicking here.

Pennsylvania Extends Unemployment Compensation Benefits 13 More Weeks

UC Update

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) announced last week that people who exhaust their regular unemployment compensation (UC) and federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) may now qualify for 13 additional weeks of payments through the state’s Unemployment Compensation Extended Benefits program.

Extended Benefits (EB) are additional UC benefits payable to qualified workers whenever the state’s unemployment rate reaches a certain level determined by law. The last time the EB program was triggered in Pennsylvania was 2009.

The current EB period began May 3, 2020, but benefits are not payable until an individual has exhausted PEUC benefits. EB payments will begin with the week ending July 4, 2020 and are payable only for weeks of unemployment during an EB period.

Important information about the EB program follows and will be sent by mail to all individuals who potentially qualify for the additional benefits.

Eligibility
 
You may be eligible for EB if:

  • You are totally or partially unemployed;
  • You have exhausted your regular state benefits on your most recent UC claim, or your most recent UC benefit year has ended; and
  • You have received the maximum amount of PEUC that you were eligible to receive.

Additional eligibility information is available here.

How to Receive EB

  • If you collect the maximum amount of PEUC that you are eligible to receive, an EB Notice of Financial Determination will be mailed to you.
  • You must complete your weekly EB online certification in order to claim EB for weeks that you are totally or partially unemployed.
  • Each EB online certification corresponds to one specific week, as indicated on the web form. Individuals who opt to use paper claim forms should only use the form that is specifically dated for the week of unemployment you are claiming.
  • If you do not receive your Financial Determination within two weeks after you receive your final PEUC payment, call the UC Service Center at 1-888-313-7284.

EB Weekly Benefit Amount

  • EB weekly benefit payments are the same as regular UC.
  • The total amount of EB that you may receive is 50 percent of the amount of regular UC you were financially eligible to receive on your most recent claim. Example:
    • If you were financially eligible for 26 weeks of regular UC, you may receive up to 13 weeks of EB.
  • There is an additional wage test for EB eligibility, so not all individuals will financially qualify.
  • EB may only be paid for weeks ending during an EB period.
  • If you are entitled to Trade Readjustment Allowances, you may receive fewer weeks of EB.

EB is currently fully federally-funded through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Public Law (Pub. L.) 116-127, specifically Division D, the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act of 2020 (EUISAA).

Did You Know…

Did you know that since March 15, more than $21.5 billion in UC benefits have been paid in Pennsylvania?

CARES Act Funding Now Available to Museums and Cultural Organizations

The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) recently approved the program guidelines for the COVID-19 Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program, which is funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program provides $20 million in grant funding for cultural organizations and museums to offset lost revenue caused by the COVID-10 pandemic and the resulting shutdown order and will be administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

CARES Act Funding Now Available to Museums and Cultural OrganizationsEligible cultural organizations or museums must be one of the following categories to be eligible for funding through the COVID-19 Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program:

  • Children’s Museum
  • General Museum with at least two equally significant disciplines
  • History Museum or Historical Site
  • Military or Maritime Museum
  • Natural History Museum
  • Accredited Zoo
  • Planetarium
  • Science and Technology Center
  • Orchestra
  • Art Museum
  • Performing Arts Organization

The minimum amount of grant funding will be $25,000 to a maximum of $500,000. Funds may be used to offset lost revenue for eligible cultural organizations and museums that were subject to closure by the proclamation of disaster emergency issued by the Governor on March 6, 2020, and any renewal of the state of disaster emergency and that experienced a loss of revenue related to the closure. Funds cannot be used to offset revenue which has already been offset from other sources, including philanthropic and federal, state and local government sources.  Additional eligibility requirements and program details can be found in the program guidelines.

Applications will be accepted between June 29, 2020, and July 31, 2020, through the online
More information about the Commonwealth Financing Authority can be found on the Department of Community & Economic Development website.

Assistance with Finding Child Care, Summer Camps

Parents looking for child care programs or camps this summer in Allegheny County can find information through the Region 5 Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) and a new child care tool, find.alleghenychildcare.org. The tool is a searchable database of current openings available at licensed child care programs and summer camp facilities around the county.

Users of the tool can search separately for camps or child care; they can also search by zip code to find locations that are most convenient. In addition, they can call the ELCR at 1-888-340-3577 or 412-350-3577 to talk with someone about their child care needs. Walk-in service at the Center’s main office downtown or at any of the satellite offices is currently suspended but began yesterday at most locations by appointment only. For a list of addresses and hours, please visit elrc5.alleghenycounty.us.

The ELRC is a partnership of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL), the Alliance for Infants and Toddlers, and Trying Together that provides access to information and programs in support of early learning services for low-income families.

Fontana Fact

July is National Ice Cream Month

In 1984 President Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month. On average, Americans consume roughly 23 million gallons of ice cream each year and in 2017 about 1.4 billion gallons of ice cream and other frozen treats were produced in the United States.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
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