In this Update:
Punxsutawney Phil is Here to Stay!
Click the photo above to watch my video about Groundhog Day – one of Pennsylvania’s best annual traditions which takes place at Gobbler’s Knob! Next Friday, crowds will gather to hear Punxsutawney Phil’s predication for when winter will end.
Earlier this week, PETA announced they think Phil should be replaced with a coin flip. That’s just silly. Anybody who knows Phil’s Inner Circle of supporters knows how well he is cared for, and his every need is met.
In fact, on Feb. 2, Phil’s life is about to get even better! Our own PETA, “Phil’s Epic Transit Authority” is about to launch. Tune in on #Groundhog Day for all the details!
Cherryhill Township Fire/Rescue Appreciation Banquet
I had a great time at Cherryhill Township Fire/Rescue’s appreciation banquet. Volunteer firefighters deserve our gratitude and recognition for the time and effort they put forth in keeping our local communities safe and protected. Volunteer fire department members give up much of their personal time not only while making emergency calls, but also as they work to complete ongoing training and fundraising.
Thank you for inviting me to attend this special event and share my gratitude for your service!
$24.1 Million in PENNVEST Funding Approved for Local Projects
The PA Infrastructure Investment Authority – PENNVEST – has awarded more than $24.1 million in grants and low-interest loans to make needed #wastewatertreatment improvements for four projects in Armstrong, Indiana and Westmoreland Counties.
I commend local leaders for undertaking these important projects. Water systems are extremely vital to the health of a community, but very expensive to build and maintain. I’m pleased these substantial grants and low-interest loans were approved by PENNVEST and will provide support for critical improvements. The funding will certainly be a central part of helping to safeguard our local water supplies and protect #publichealth.
The following funding was approved on January 24, 2024:
💧 Ford City Borough in Armstrong County is being awarded nearly $20 million in funding for two waterline improvement projects.
Cast Iron Waterline Replacement project – $14,325,000 (this funding includes a $9,554,500 grant and a $4,770,500 low-interest loan).
Lead Service Line Replacement project – $5,600,000 (this funding consists of a $2,407,081 grant and a $3,192,919 low-interest loan).
💧Kiski Valley Water Pollution Control Authority, which provides services in Armstrong and Westmoreland Counties, is being awarded a $2,205,000 low-interest loan for the Sludge Digester Expansion Enhancement project.
💧Central Indiana County Joint Sanitary Authority is being awarded the $2 million low-interest loan for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Renovation project.
Best of the Nest
We talked about career paths and opportunities in our region along with my path into public service. Students enrolled in TV Production and related courses at the high school in Kittanning produce the show, and conduct interviews at their in-house studio. The episode recently aired on WIUP-TV.
2023 Accomplishments: Public Safety
The men and women of law enforcement and emergency response work hard to keep us safe. As their jobs become even more difficult, they need our support.
Last year, we passed legislation to combat different forms of theft. We have new laws that target looting and organized retail theft by increasing penalties and crack down on “porch pirating” by setting penalties for theft of mail, which includes a package, bag or letter.
We also passed measures to prevent the exploitation of older Pennsylvanians and update 911 funding to meet the expanding cost of services so help is available when Pennsylvanians face emergencies. We also provided an additional $20 million for county mental health programs. Ensuring safe communities is among the Senate Republican priorities to protect jobs, empower families and defend freedoms.
Project SEED – New Kensington-Arnold School District
Project SEED (Something to Eat Every Day) addresses childhood hunger in a simple and direct way by providing a bag of food every Friday during the school year for students to take home. The bag contains nourishing food and snacks for the weekend to supplement the free lunch program children receive at school during the week.
I was pleased to participate in this wonderful program, which was founded by Joanne Cecchi and Ruth Carson, two retired educators from the New Kensington-Arnold School District who devoted a combined 74 years of service to the district.
Sadly, Ruth passed away in August 2016, but the program has continued into its 11th year with the strong leadership of Joanne and her team of volunteers from the community.
Thank you for having me and keep up the great work!
Healthy Rainy Day Fund Cushions Against Hard Times
As of the beginning of January, the state’s Rainy Day Fund sits at a record high of $6.1 billion thanks to prudent decisions the Senate made in the past three years. Most recently, we deposited $900 million as part of the current state budget. While others wanted to spend the money on all sorts of things, we prioritized smart saving so we would have a cushion in the event of hard times.
To build on the benefits of smart budgeting, Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced a new investment pool specifically for the Rainy Day Fund. It’s designed to earn even better returns while continuing to ensure that money will be available when needed.
A strong Rainy Day Fund offers more than just a financial buffer. Because of the state’s healthy nest egg, Pennsylvania received rating improvements from three rating agencies: Moody’s, S&P and Fitch. The better ratings help Pennsylvania taxpayers by reducing the cost of borrowing for the state.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Now Serves More People
Financial relief is available to more people than ever through the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate (PTRR) Program, which supports homeowners and renters across the commonwealth using gaming and Pennsylvania Lottery proceeds.
New this year, the income cap increased to $45,000 for both homeowners and renters. Only half of an applicant’s Social Security income is included in the calculations for eligibility. Starting this year, income caps are tied to the annual cost-of-living increases. Additionally, the maximum standard rebate on property taxes or rent paid increased to $1,000. The program is open to state residents 65 and older, widows and widowers 50 or older, or anyone age 18 and over who is 100% disabled.
My office can provide free PTRR application assistance to residents. If interested, please call my office and bring all proof of income, your ID and a voided check if you wish to have the rebate direct deposited. In addition, property owners must have paid property taxes stamped or signed by the tax collector. Renters must have a rent certificate filled out and signed by their landlord.
Free FAFSA Workshops Across PA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) underwent changes resulting from the FAFSA Simplification Act, a federal law intended to streamline the financial aid application process.
Filing the FAFSA online is the first step for students and families to determine if they qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, Pennsylvania State Grant, scholarships, institutional awards and federal student loans.
Because of the changes, free FAFSA workshops are being held across the state. Find one near you.
Prioritizing Mental Health at All Ages
January is Mental Wellness Awareness Month, which is a great reminder of how important it is to focus on our mental health, particularly as mental health challenges increased for so many people in the past few years because of the pandemic and the many impacts it had on all of us.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in 20 adults in the United States experience serious mental illness each year. With 50% of all lifetime mental illness beginning by age 14, it’s important to support young people.
As part of this fiscal year’s budget, Senate Republicans dedicated $100 million for school mental health, helping to address a major need as mental health needs for young people continue to rise.
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