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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Senator Fontana participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Spray Park at Nelson Mandela Park in Garfield. Senator Fontana provided grant funding for the project.

The project was the idea of the late Aggie Brose, a longtime community advocate who passed away last year. Aggie dedicated her life to making the communities she lived and worked better for everyone.

The City of Pittsburgh led by Mayor Bill Peduto and Councilperson Rev. Ricky Burgess, dedicated a bench in her honor and Aggie’s family was in attendance to join the ceremony.

I Support the Heroes Act. Ask your US Senators to do the same. Call 202-224-3121

Voting in Pennsylvania

I want to remind everyone the Pennsylvania Department of State is accepting applications from voters for mail-in ballots for the Nov. 3 General Election. Applications can be requested online at www.votespa.com and must be received by the Allegheny County Elections Division by 5 p.m. on Oct. 27. But don’t wait! If you’d like to vote mail by this fall, you can apply today.

In addition to applying online, voters may also download a paper application by clicking here or visiting www.votespa.com. The completed paper application should be mailed to the Allegheny County Elections Division at: 542 Forbes Avenue, Suite 609, Pittsburgh, PA 15219.

Mail-in BallotsRecently, the governor announced that anyone applying for a mail-in ballot will receive a postage-paid envelope along with their ballot.

As a reminder, unlike absentee ballots, which require an excuse that includes illness, disability or a known absence from the municipality where the voter lives, any voter can apply for a mail-in ballot.

When applying for a mail-in ballot, every voter is afforded the opportunity to a make an “annual mail-in ballot request” on the mail-in ballot application. Any voter checking the box for an annual mail-in request, will then receive a mail-in ballot for the remainder of the current year and will automatically receive an annual application for mail-in ballots each year.

As an example, anyone who requested to receive the annual mail-in application at any point in 2020 will receive a new mail-in ballot application in Feb. 2021. Once the voter completes that application, they will receive mail-in ballots for any election in 2021. This process will continue year after year unless, or until, the voter asks to be removed. So, the voter will receive an application for a mail-in ballot each year, but the voter still needs to complete the application each year in order to receive mail-in ballots for elections in that particular year. 

For 2020, if you requested an annual mail-in ballot before the primary election, then you should receive a mail-in ballot this fall prior to the Nov. 3 general election. If you don’t remember if you selected the annual mail-in option, you can call the Allegheny County Elections Division at 412-350-4500 or you can visit www.votespa.com and track the status of your ballot, or click here to do so.

If you apply for a mail-in ballot for the general election and it turns out you already applied for the annual mail-in ballot earlier this year, your application will simply be marked as a duplicate and you will still receive the mail-in ballot in the fall.

In an effort to simplify the election process in Pennsylvania, in April, I introduced Senate Bill 1129 (SB 1129), legislation that would change Pennsylvania’s voting system so that all elections are conducted entirely by mail. As the June 2 Primary Election demonstrated, mail-in ballots are a safer and more efficient way of voting, especially as we continue to deal with this pandemic.

Under a bipartisan law approved last year, Act 77, Pennsylvanians already have the option of voting by mail. Beginning with this November’s general election, my legislation would conduct all elections exclusively by mail.

SB 1129 would require county election officials to mail ballots along with postage-free return envelopes to all registered voters weeks before an election. Voters could request a replacement ballot if they lose or misplace their ballot. Citizens could mail in their ballot any time prior to election day.

While I continue to support exclusive mail-in voting elections, I want to remind constituents about the availability of the mail-in voting option that currently exists.

Voters are still able to vote in person if they choose. Recently the Pennsylvania Department of State put together a site that shows each county’s voting system, to allow voters to be better prepared before going to their polling place. Visit https://www.votespa.com/readytovote/Pages/default.aspx or click here to get started.

Last week, the Allegheny County Elections Division announced the launch of a new e-newsletter, Allegheny Votes, to share information on what the division is doing in preparation for the upcoming election. Residents can sign up to receive the newsletter by clicking here and providing their email address and zip code.

During the months of August and September, the e-news will be issued every other week. In October, the e-news will come out on a weekly basis. In the 10 days leading up to the election, the e-news will come out daily. Following the election, there will be a more frequent release as updates are provided on the Return Board and certification process. Following certification of the election results, the e-newsletter will move to a monthly basis.  Allegheny County is accepting suggestions regarding what items should be included in the e-news and what other information may be helpful for future editions. Anyone wanting to suggest an item can email web.comm@alleghenycounty.us.

Did You Know…

Did you know that the deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania is now 15 days before an election? The last day to register for the Nov. 3 general election is Oct. 19. You can register online at www.votespa.com.

Round Two - COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Grant Program

Statewide Small Business Assistance Grant ProgramThe Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) has opened round two of the COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Grant Program, which 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 second round of funding opened on yesterday and will remain open for 15 business days, closing on Aug. 28 at 11:59 p.m. If you applied during the first window, you don’t need to reapply. Qualified applications will be automatically rolled over into this funding round for consideration.

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 Dec. 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.

Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief Fund – Application Deadline FRIDAY!

Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief FundLast month, the Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief Fund opened with $10 million available to for-profit, nonprofit, or cooperative entities impacted by COVID-19, including grocery stores, corner stores, convenience stores, neighborhood markets, bodegas, food hubs, mobile markets, farmers markets, on-farm markets, urban farms, and food aggregation centers with a direct connection to direct-to-consumer retail outlets.

To be eligible, more than 50 percent of sales must be from staple and perishable foods to consumers and the retailer must serve customers that live in a low-to-moderate income area. Applicants must also provide access to affordable, high-quality fresh produce, meat and dairy products and other healthy grocery items for low-to-moderate income shoppers and must accept SNAP and WIC to the maximum extent possible.

In recognition of the disproportionate impacts of both COVID-19 and food apartheid on communities made up of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and especially Black and African American communities, prioritization will be given to businesses owned by minorities and serving low-income BIPOC communities. Additional prioritization criteria include businesses located in or serving a USDA-designated food desert; businesses sourcing and selling Pennsylvania grown or processed products to the extent practicable; and applicants with supplier diversity and offering increased business opportunities for Minority Business Enterprises, Women Business Enterprises, Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprises, Veteran Business Enterprises, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Business Enterprises; and Disability-Owned Business Enterprises.

The program is administered by the Department of Agriculture in partnership with the Department of Community and Economic Development. Applications will be accepted through this Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. Grant funds will be distributed to eligible applicants for impacts related to COVID-19 that have been incurred between March 1, 2020 and Nov. 30, 2020, such as:

  • Higher operating costs related to cleaning and social distancing requirements, including costs related to outside contracting associated with managing social distancing, limited occupancy, and cleaning;
  • Infrastructure improvements including renovation, new construction, or adaptive reuse directly related to COVID-19;
  • Equipment purchases that improve the availability of quality fresh food, such as additional refrigeration to manage volume, or personal protective equipment such as plexiglass dividers;
  • Inventory (higher cost of goods, higher transportation or delivery costs, or procuring Pennsylvania-grown produce, meat, and dairy products, or loss of product);
  • Innovative food access technology such as mobile or pop-up markets, or mobile EBT reader technology;
  • Costs to expand access to Pennsylvania grown or processed produce, dairy and meat products or provide stable market access for Pennsylvania farmers that have lost or limited markets; and
  • Other one-time or increased expenses incurred related to COVID-19.

For more information on this program including eligibility, award amounts, additional prioritizations and criteria, please visit https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Food_Security/Pages/default.aspx.

Neighborhood Assistance Program Accepting Applications

The Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) is accepting applications for the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) and the Neighborhood Assistance Program, Enterprise Zone Tax Credit (EZP) for the 2020-21 program year.

Applications for the 2020-21 program year will be accepted until Aug. 31, 2020.

There will be a special emphasis on and priority given to projects that seek to address the critical problems that have arisen related to the pandemic and its aftermath, social justice and support for policy changing movements, and improving opportunities for marginalized populations during the pandemic for the 2020-21 program year.

The department will also prioritize any EZP projects that provide for the manufacturing of critical and necessary medical supplies such as masks, face shields, ventilators, and other similar products, or focus on job creation. EZP is an incentive program that provides tax credits to private companies investing in rehabilitating, expanding, or improving buildings or land located within designated enterprise zones.

NAP encourages private sector investment into projects that will help improve distressed communities by providing tax credits to businesses that donate capital to support projects that address neighborhood and community problems. NAP can be used for projects in categories including affordable housing, community service, crime prevention, education, job training, charitable food, blight, special population issues, veterans’ initiatives, and long-term revitalization.

NAP has served as a resource for nonprofits, businesses, and neighborhoods for more than 30 years. The goals of NAP are to promote community participation and collaboration among nonprofits, businesses, and residents while producing outcomes that assist a distressed area or the low-income population in a neighborhood.

DEP Offering Grants to Small Businesses & Farmers for Energy, Environmental Projects

FarmThe Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)  has announced the availability of $1 million in grant funding to Pennsylvania small businesses and farmers for energy efficiency, pollution prevention, and natural resource protection projects through the Small Business Advantage grant program. New to the program this year is the opportunity for farmers to install solar pumping systems for their agricultural operations.

Eligible projects include adopting or acquiring equipment or processes that reduce energy use or pollution. Examples of eligible projects are HVAC and boiler upgrades, high-efficiency LED lighting, solvent recovery and waste recycling systems, and auxiliary power units deployed as anti-idling technology for trucks.

Last year, 233 small businesses were awarded grants for their projects. Natural resource protection projects may include planting riparian buffers, installation of streambank fencing to keep livestock out of streams, and investing in agricultural storm water management projects, with the goal of reducing sediment and nutrient loads in our waterways.

Pennsylvania-based small business owners with 100 or fewer full-time equivalent employees are eligible. Projects must save the business a minimum of $500 and 25 percent annually in energy consumption, or pollution related expenses.

Businesses can apply for 50 percent matching funds of up to $7,000 to adopt or acquire energy-efficient or pollution prevention equipment or processes. Only costs incurred between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, are eligible.

Applications will be considered on a first come, first served basis, and will be accepted until fiscal year 2020-21 funds are exhausted or April 12, 2021, whichever occurs first. All applications must be submitted through the Commonwealth's Single Application for Assistance. Printed, faxed, and mailed applications are not accepted.

The complete grant application package, which includes step-by-step instructions and instructional videos for completing the online application, is available by visiting the DEP Small Business Advantage Grant.

Upcoming Public Input Hearings – Proposed PA-American Water Rate Increase

PUCThe Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has scheduled eight video conference/telephone public input hearings to gather information from ratepayers regarding the proposed rate increase request filed by Pennsylvania-American Water Company.

The PUC is the state agency that is investigating the proposed rate increase and will make the final determination as to what increase, if any, is just and reasonable. The Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate represents consumer interests and encourages all customers affected by this proposed rate increase to participate.

The Public Input Hearings will be held by video conference/telephone on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 18 – 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 25 – 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 26 – 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, Aug. 27 – 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Anyone interested in testifying in any of the upcoming hearings can click here to register. For additional information please visit www.oca.state.pa.us or call the Office of Consumer Advocate at 1-800-684-6560.

OASIS Tutoring

OASIS TutoringThe OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program is seeking adults ages 50 and older who are interested in tutoring students in grades K-4 who attend Pittsburgh Public Schools, Duquesne City, McKeesport and Woodland Hills School Districts in writing and reading. This year OASIS is also partnering with the Environmental Charter School District.

OASIS has tutors in more than 37 schools, serving 230 students each year. All training, materials, and clearances are free.

Training sessions will be conducted by OASIS during the weeks of August 17 and August 24. OASIS follows all state and local regulations and guidance on social distancing in setting up and conducting the training.

For more information on how to become an OASIS tutor, specific training sites, and days and/or times, please call John D. Spehar, Pittsburgh OASIS Intergenerational Tutoring Program Director at 412-393-4768 or email him at jdspehar@oasisnet.org. OASIS Tutoring is a Program of Literacy Pittsburgh.

SandwichFontana Fact

August is National Sandwich Month and according to a 2019 YouGov national survey, the most popular sandwich in the United States is a grilled cheese sandwich and the most popular cheese used in the sandwich is cheddar cheese.

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