HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – Nearly $370,000 in state grants will expand job-training opportunities and broaden STEM learning for students and workers in western Pennsylvania, including Lawrence County, state Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, announced today. The grants are part of the PAsmart initiative. Two grants totaling more than $323,000 will fund efforts to identify local needs and connect students and other job seekers to regional industries, with a focus on strengthening and expanding apprenticeship programs. “Apprenticeships offer terrific ‘learn while you earn’ opportunities for young Pennsylvanians by teaching real-world skills under the guidance of an experienced mentor,” Sainato said. “At the same time, the programs allow area industries to develop a highly skilled workforce that’s targeted to their needs.” A third grant of nearly $46,000 will develop high school students’ interest and skills in STEM subjects through the Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ robotics program. “There is no substitute for hands-on learning, particularly in STEM fields, where science and engineering concepts lend themselves perfectly to projects that engage students’ minds,” Sainato said. “We’re stimulating kids’ creativity and at the same time creating a new generation of workers who are engaged with technology and ready to take on the demands of the modern workforce.” The specific funding Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, issued the following statement today in response to news that state Attorney General Josh Shapiro is suing UPMC seeking to modify and indefinitely extend the UPMC-Highmark Health consent decree set to expire June 30. “I support the attorney general’s lawsuit wholeheartedly,” Merski said. “The end of the UPMC-Highmark relationship stands to affect our entire community, and those hardest hit will be low-income working families, children and seniors, who will lose access to the lower-priced, in-network care that is so critically important. “This isn’t just an access issue – it’s a matter of preserving residents’ rights to their own health care choices and enabling them to continue with the care that’s best for them. Nowhere is choice more important than in the health care field, where it most affects quality of life. “UPMC’s argument that residents can select other, in-network providers ignores the fact that patients develop special, long-term relationships with their doctors, who are familiar with their patients’ histories. UPMC’s refusal to extend the consent decree is essentially giving thousands of Erie residents the Hobson’s choice of shouldering higher costs or finding new doctors. “As a charitable organization subsidized by workers’ taxpayer dollars, it’s reasonable to expect UPMC to do the right Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – To make sure attacks on healthcare coverage don’t hurt Pennsylvania’s working families, a group of House Democratic lawmakers are introducing a package of proposals to make sure people can always afford to see a doctor when they get sick. The “Healthy People, Stronger Economy” plan protects consumers even if special interests are able to overturn the Affordable Care Act. The plan contains four bills putting people first, including: Protecting Your Coverage, Protecting Your Health – sponsored by Reps. Tony DeLuca and Dan Frankel, both of Allegheny County – recognizes that a consumer paying for an insurance plan that doesn't cover items as basic as hospitalization and emergency services has insurance that is almost worse than having no insurance at all. The bill guarantees all insurance plans sold in the state cover 10 essential benefits: emergency services; hospitalization; prescription drugs; maternity & newborn care; mental health & substance abuse disorder services; prescription drugs; rehabilitation; laboratory services to aid in diagnosis and treatment; chronic disease management; ambulatory patient services pediatric services, including oral and vision care. “If the Federal Health Care Reform law is ever abolished by the United States Supreme Court or the Congress, you could be left with health insurance policies that don’t cover the essential services Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 – State Rep. Tony DeLuca, D-Allegheny, Democratic chairman of the House Insurance Committee, today released the following statement regarding Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s decision to take legal action against UPMC and his calls for reconciliation between UPMC and Highmark: “I was proud to stand with Attorney General Josh Shapiro today on behalf of my district and the residents of western PA as we push to allow access to affordable, quality healthcare services for all residents, regardless of a their insurance provider. “This is a dispute that has gone on for far too long, prompting Shapiro’s office to intervene. What’s reassuring, though, is that the legal action taken by his office is for all the right reasons – the public’s health. “The health and well-being of residents has clearly taken a backseat to the ongoing dispute between both entities, but Shapiro’s actions seek to reverse this effect by ensuring patients have access to quality health services, which they fund through premiums, tax dollars and donations. “My colleagues and I are evaluating legislation that may or may not be needed to rectify this problem, but in the meantime I will continue to fully support Shapiro and his office in their initiative to rectify this problem and making the public’s health a priority.” Read more
CLAIRTON, Feb. 7 – State Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, today released the following statement applauding Attorney General Josh Shapiro for calling upon UPMC and Highmark to end their dispute and get back to doing what they do best – putting the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians first: “The dispute between UPMC and Highmark has gone on for quite some time, publicly and privately. Despite continued efforts to rectify this problem, a solution has yet to be found, which has led the Attorney General’s Office to take legal action. “While it’s unfortunate that this dispute has spiraled so far out of control that the Attorney General’s Office had to step in, it’s also reassuring to know that the office’s motive is geared toward ensuring all residents – regardless of their insurance provider – will have access to quality health care services. “The public’s health has and always will be of utmost importance to my office, which is why I find it necessary to speak out regarding this matter and applaud state Attorney General Josh Shapiro for staying true to the commonwealth’s core values and putting the health and well-being of Pennsylvania’s residents first and above all else. “It’s my hope that both UPMC and Highmark can come to terms in the near future and get back to providing high-quality health care and medical treatment to those who need it.” Read more
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 7 – State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., today applauded the announcement of a federal initiative to combat climate change across the nation. “The Green New Deal proposed today by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York and U.S. Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts is an ambitious and aggressive beginning in the fight against climate change. From record rainfall and deadly wildfires to frigid cold temperatures, these unusual weather patterns are a constant indication that climate change is real and we need to act fast. “Today’s announcement also serves as a reminder that the Pennsylvania General Assembly must look to itself and redouble its efforts on climate change, renewable energy and cutting carbon emissions in the commonwealth. Last summer, Philadelphians dealt with several days of scorching heat, resulting in an increase in pollution and poor air quality and creating breathing difficulties for the young and old. The decline in our climate and increase in pollution is a social justice issue that hits poor and working-class communities the hardest. “The legislature could start by supporting legislation, of which I am a cosponsor, written by my Philadelphia colleague state Representative Chris Rabb. The bill would transition the commonwealth to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 . He and I, along with many of our fellow lawmakers, agree the change must start now. “I also stood today with Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 – As Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro pursues a legal remedy to the years-long struggle between UPMC and its customers who have Highmark insurance, House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody will seek a legislative solution. Dermody is proposing a state constitutional amendment requiring tax-exempt hospital systems to accept reasonable reimbursement payments from uninsured patients and patients covered by other health insurance plans. “Imagine riding in an ambulance with lights flashing and sirens blaring as your spouse or child is rushed to the nearest emergency room. Then imagine being handed a large bill because that hospital has its own health insurance plan and won’t accept your insurance,” Dermody said. “This is not hypothetical. It’s happening to people every day. “We are lucky to have these world-class institutions in Pennsylvania and, with generous support from taxpayers, they provide some of the best care and treatment available anywhere in the world,” he said. “It’s time to make sure tax-exempt hospital systems live up to their charitable missions, and that includes UPMC. These giants of health care provide life-saving care,” Dermody said, “and we are blessed to have them. But these entities must learn to get along with each other and put their patients first. For too long they have not. “We need to make sure that nobody faces bankruptcy because an Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, today announced a total of $55,000 in job training grants through PAsmart , a program designed to increase STEM and computer science education and on-the-job training to prepare workers with the skills businesses need. A $30,000 Next Generation Advanced Manufacturing Partnership grant and a $25,000 Next Generation Business Services Partnership grant were awarded to the Tri-County Workforce Investment Board, a consortium of local businesses, colleges, universities and community partners, to support economic growth and development in Armstrong, Butler and Indiana counties. “These grants will be extremely helpful in encouraging employers and community organizations to work together to provide vital job training to help our communities succeed and grow,” Petrarca said. “These investments will ensure our state has a highly trained and educated workforce now and in the years to come.” The PAsmart program was launched in 2018 to provide funding for computer science and STEM (science, technology, education and math) education, and support apprenticeship and industry partnership efforts with businesses throughout the commonwealth. Read more
Today state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, stood with Attorney General Josh Shapiro in calling for UPMC and Highmark to end their dispute and to do the right thing by putting patients, families and the people of Pennsylvania first. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 – More than $460,000 in state grants will expand job training opportunities for Erie County residents, while helping regional industries become more competitive, according to state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie. Five grants – all part of the PAsmart initiative – will connect students and other area job seekers with regional employers in the advanced manufacturing, plastics, and building and construction industries. Apprenticeships are a major focus of the initiative. “Apprenticeships in high-tech industries are especially exciting because they introduce students to jobs in a real-world setting that teaches real-world skills,” Bizzarro said. “For example, students doing a pre-apprenticeship program in the plastics industry will get both an overview of the industry and specific training on working with injection-molding machinery.” “Programs like these are incredibly valuable because they offer young Pennsylvanians an opportunity to earn as they learn,” Merski added. “Students gain skills and confidence while working under the guidance and encouragement of a mentor, which is the ideal setting for developing career and technical skills.” Harkins agreed, saying, “There’s no replacement for on-the-job training, particularly where high-skill careers are involved. Registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs are a win-win for everyone Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 – State Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington, today said her staff will be on hand throughout the district to help eligible residents file for the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. “We want to ensure we can help people promptly file their forms, as claimants must reapply for rebates each year, since the rebates are based on annual income and property taxes or rent paid annually,” Snyder said. “If you are a new applicant, my office staff will be happy to assist you.” The deadline to apply is June 30, but it is routinely extended until the end of the year. However, filing early means you’ll get your rebate sooner. A representative from Snyder’s office will be present to help residents file on the following dates and locations: Thursday, Feb. 7 – 10 a.m.-noon at Brownsville Senior Housing, Brownsville; 1-3 p.m. at Parkview Knoll, Carmichaels. Friday, Feb. 8 – 10 a.m.-noon at the Waynesburg Senior Center; 1505 Morris Street, Waynesburg. Monday, Feb. 11 – 10 a.m.-noon at the Mt. Morris Senior Center, 303 Mt. Morris Road, Mount Morris. Tuesday, Feb. 12 – 10 a.m.-noon at the Bobtown Senior Center, 305 Grant Street, Bobtown. Wednesday, Feb. 13 – 10 a.m.-noon at Gateway Senior Housing, 330 Nazer St., Waynesburg. Thursday, Feb. 14 - 10 a.m.-noon at the West Greene Senior Center, 106 Grange Road, Graysville. Friday, Feb. 15 Read more
State Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, today announced the Hanover Township Community Ambulance Association Inc. received a $217,915 low-interest loan through the Volunteer Loan Assistance Program administered by the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 6 – State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne, announced today a new low-interest loan approval through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority for a local business in Luzerne County. American Paper Bag, located in Sugar Notch, was approved for a $1.4 million, 10-year loan at a 3.75 percent interest rate. A manufacturer of paper shopping bags and mailers, the loan will allow the business to expand and purchase equipment, including two bag production machines and one flex printer. “I am happy to see assistance coming to a quality business here in Luzerne County,” Mullery said. “When investments are made in local businesses, family-sustaining jobs are created, benefiting our whole community. I look forward to seeing how this loan will further the success of American Paper Bag.” American Paper Bag was one of three recipients approved for a loan. The project will enable a new printing process to offer clients an enhanced variety of shapes, sizes and designs for products, and is expected to create 38 full-time jobs in three years. PIDA is an independent authority staffed and regulated through the Department of Community and Economic Development. The authority provides capital for building acquisition, construction and renovation work, machinery and equipment loans, along with working capital lines of credit, primarily for manufacturers, industrial developers, research and development firms, Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 5 – State Rep. Morgan Cephas, D-Phila., today announced her support for Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2019-20 proposed budget. “Recently, my colleagues in the Philadelphia House Delegation stood together to announce our plan to reduce poverty in Philadelphia,” Cephas said. “House Democrats are on the same page as Governor Wolf when it comes to helping our most vulnerable citizens get back on their feet while avoiding new taxes.” Wolf’s 2019-20 budget proposal includes: • No new taxes. • A new Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center. • A minimum wage increase to $12 per hour. • Lowering the age of mandatory school attendance from 8 to 6. • Increasing the dropout age from 17 to 18. • A study on the benefits of providing free full-day kindergarten to all children 5 and older. • $200 million more for basic education. • $50 million more for pre-K and Head Start. • $50 million more for special education. • $7 million more for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. • $8 million in one-time grants for community college students/graduates working in Pennsylvania. “This is the first step in a long budget review process and I look forward to learning more details through my committee roles this session,” Cephas said. “I want to make sure that the final budget continues to reflect the values Read more
EBENSBURG, Feb. 6 – Urging counties and municipalities to potentially avail themselves of gas well impact fee monies, state Rep. Frank Burns, D-Cambria, is announcing that the Commonwealth Financing Authority is accepting grant applications today through May 31. Burns said numerous grants, sourced through the Marcellus Legacy Fund known as Act 13, will be awarded later this year for projects such as: abandoned mine drainage abatement; abandoned well plugging; sewage treatment; greenways, trails and recreation; baseline water quality data; watershed restoration; and flood control. “As in years past, I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who is eligible to apply,” Burns said. “My office can help, either by providing information and guidance, or assistance in helping prepare and submit your grant application.” Burns’ in-house grant writer/assistance is Brittany Blackham, who is available in his Portage office at (814) 736-7339. The CFA grants can be applied for in these categories: Abandoned Mine Drainage Abatement and Treatment Program – Grants for abatement of AMD and/or treatment of AMD through treatment facility system construction. Grants may also be awarded for treatment system repair, upgrade or operation and maintenance of existing passive and active treatment systems. Baseline Water Quality Data Program – Grants to fund statewide initiatives to establish baseline water quality Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 6 – Legislation introduced this week by state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, would help deter the theft and quick resale of stolen electronic devices – a problem being fueled by the ongoing opioid addiction epidemic. House Bill 403 would require pawn shops and other secondhand dealers that purchase electronics to retain the seller’s name and address and report that information, together with the devices’ serial numbers, to the district attorney’s office so the devices could tracked and recovered. "The opioid addiction crisis claims a lot of innocent victims, and homeowners are among them," Bizzarro said. "Every day, addicts burglarize homes for electronics, which they then resell for quick cash to feed their addiction. My bill would help to deter these thefts while also working to make the crime victims whole." Bizzarro added that the dealer reporting requirement has worked for other stolen property. "We know this kind of reporting works because after Pennsylvania enacted similar requirements for precious metal dealers, jewelry thefts decreased,” Bizzarro said. “There’s every reason to believe the same would work for electronics." The bill would exempt nonprofit donation centers. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 6 – In an effort to make it easier for Pennsylvanians to have their voices heard at the ballot box, state Rep. Pam Snyder has introduced legislation to provide an early voting period and allow for absentee voting without requiring an excuse. “My bill would help voters who may have a difficult time getting to the polls, including workers like nurses and coal miners, who often work long hours,” said Snyder, D-Greene/Fayette/Washington. “In addition, it would significantly increase overall voter turnout across Pennsylvania.” In the 2018 general election, Snyder said, states offering early voting experienced record levels of those casting early ballots. While Pennsylvania also had a significant voter increase compared to 2014, 25 other states surpassed Pennsylvania in terms of voter turnout. By Election Day, over 5 million people in other states had voted before polls opened. Snyder’s legislation, part of the House Democrats’ Your Vote Counts package, would end the 19 th century practice of having Election Day only on a single Tuesday, instead allowing people to vote up to a month in advance at designated locations. Forty other states already offer this option, said Snyder, noting her bill would curb long lines at voting precincts, and reduce stress on poll workers and reliance on obsolete voting machines. House Bill 43 is currently before the House State Government Committee for consideration. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 5 – State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, released the following response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address for the 2018-19 fiscal year: “I’m looking forward to working with Governor Wolf and my colleagues to continue to move Pennsylvania forward with quality investments in education and workforce development. That, partnered with a raise in Pennsylvania’s stagnant minimum wage, will make a big difference for Pennsylvania families and their children. “Every investment we make in education will have a direct impact on improving our workforce and economy. If we can educate our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow, Pennsylvanians will continue to thrive as innovators and we will retain the bright, well-educated individuals who are being educated at our state’s great institutions. “Addressing adverse childhood experiences is a personal goal of mine that I believe will make a longstanding impact on our educational system. Helping children who experience trauma will have a further-reaching impact on improving communities, reducing correction spending, and ultimately giving a voice and strong foundation to those who need it most. I hope to work closely with Governor Wolf to implement a system that can make a difference. “I am excited that House Democrats’ Plan4PA for quality schools and a fair economy fall in line with many of the governor’s efforts. I hope that we can get our colleagues Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 5 – State Rep. Dan Deasy, D-Allegheny, today issued the following statement regarding Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address: “Today, Governor Tom Wolf presented his annual budget address before the state House of Representatives, and I’m encouraged by what I heard. “I support Governor Wolf’s Plan for PA as detailed in his budget address. I’m also committed to continuing the fight to increase the state minimum wage, improving school safety, increasing education funding, fighting the opioid epidemic, helping adults struggling with intellectual disabilities, and so much more. “There’s also a need to address our infrastructure needs, as well as increase the minimum pay for teachers to $45,000. The current base salary of $18,500 was set 30-something years ago, and nobody pays that little now. This increase would primarily impact small, rural districts. “Nonetheless, I’m hopeful for a positive, progressive budget situation come June. The foundation provided by the governor gives us all something to work with, and if the House and Senate can work in bipartisan manner, I am hopeful we will be able to get it done on time.” Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 5 – State Rep. Mary Isaacson, D-Phila., thanked Gov. Tom Wolf for the initiatives contained in his proposed 2019-20 budget. Wolf delivered his proposal to a joint session of the House and Senate today. “Governor Wolf has really impressed me with his ability to find ways to increase funding for education while simultaneously creating no new taxes,” Isaacson said. “I look forward to his continued leadership and working side-by-side with my colleagues in the House to make sure the final budget he receives is just as innovative as proposed.” Wolf’s 2019-20 budget proposal includes: No new taxes; A new Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center; A minimum wage increase to $12 per hour; Lowering the age of mandatory school attendance from 8 to 6; Increasing the dropout age from 17 to 18; A study on the benefits of providing free full day kindergarten to all children 5 and up; $200 million more for basic education; $50 million more for pre-k and Head Start; $50 million more for special education; $7 million more for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education; $8 million in one-time grants for community college students/graduates working in Pennsylvania. “A stronger economy that works for all of us needs a workforce educated enough to fill in all of the gaps,” Isaacson said. “As we fight for working families and affordable quality education, a robust Read more
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