In this Update:
East Palestine Train Derailment Requires Examination
There has been a great deal of concern and frustration following the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
Although this incident did not take place within our state’s border, it is critical we learn the cause of the derailment and work to mitigate the effects upon the residents of surrounding communities within the commonwealth. Protecting the people of Pennsylvania must always be our primary focus.
While multistate emergency response situations present significant challenges, the public deserves detailed answers about the handling of this incident.
Discussions with Senate committees holding jurisdiction over these areas have begun to take place.
It is imperative the legislature engages in a deeper conversation and examination of our infrastructure system and meaningful ways to further ensure public safety when it comes to these infrequent but gravely serious events.
PA Commonwealth Court Ruling on School Funding
Recently, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a ruling regarding education funding in Pennsylvania. Moving forward, it is incumbent upon the General Assembly and executive branch to thoughtfully and thoroughly examine all aspects of our education system. With any modifications, there must be a balance between addressing the needs of students and respecting the ability of taxpayers to pay the costs. Click here to read the statement I issued in response to the ruling.
The Death Penalty and Criminal Justice Reforms
On Thursday, Gov. Josh Shapiro made an announcement that he will not issue any execution warrants during his term. For us to learn of Gov. Shapiro’s position on the death penalty only minutes before it was announced on his Twitter account is a rash approach to an issue of this magnitude. Any changes to close access to an element of punishment must appropriately consider the families of murder victims and the critical perspective of law enforcement.
Protecting our society while implementing meaningful criminal justice reforms have been ongoing priorities for the Senate Republican Caucus, and we will continue to engage in criminal justice reform discussions this session. Without question, the legal and ethical aspects of the death penalty warrant careful examination before being used. You can find my full statement in response to this announcement here.
Resources Available to Help Pennsylvanians with Rising Energy Costs
As energy costs continue to rise, please be aware that resources are available to minimize the financial burden and to assist with payments already owed.
Ratepayers can immediately lower their energy bills by switching to a competing electric and natural gas supplier using PAPowerSwitch.com and PAGasSwitch.com. Read all terms thoroughly to understand if the contract includes a fixed or variable rate before making a decision.
Those who are having difficulty paying bills currently should call the utility company to work out a payment plan to avoid additional fees associated with the reconnection of service. Financial assistance is also available for many ratepayers through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). New applicants can apply for the program at www.compass.state.pa.us.
Of course, the most effective way for Pennsylvania to combat rising energy costs is for lawmakers to unleash our state’s energy potential, which is why Senate Republicans are prioritizing the advancement of policies that create greater energy independence.
In addition, the Senate advanced Senate Bill 1, which included a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent the executive branch from imposing onerous regulations like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a regulation that will not only cost 22,000 jobs, but also could nearly quadruple new electricity costs for consumers. While the General Assembly can’t undo this already imposed, costly executive action, it can prevent Pennsylvania from being saddled with similar regulations in the future.
Important Message for Unemployment Compensation Recipients
Several important changes are being made to the way Unemployment Compensation benefits are paid onto prepaid debit cards.
Beginning on or about March 6, Money Network prepaid debit cards will be mailed to UC recipients who receive benefit payments via prepaid debit card. The Money Network prepaid debit card will replace the U.S. Bank card currently in use.
Recipients will need to learn how to activate the new money network prepaid debit card and ensure their address is correct, among other steps. PA Treasury explains the process here and provides an extensive Frequently Asked Questions page here.
Medical Assistance and CHIP Recipients Must Submit for Renewal
Starting April 1, Pennsylvania is required by federal law to review the eligibility of Medical Assistance (Medicaid) and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) recipients every year, which means recipients must submit a renewal. Important information is posted here.
While the Department of Human Services (DHS) still sent renewal notices during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, most people were not disenrolled from Medicaid or CHIP because of a change in eligibility. DHS is returning to the normal eligibility processes.
No one will lose their health coverage without having an opportunity to complete a renewal, and renewals will be completed over 12 months. Renewals due in March 2023 will be the first affected by the end of continuous coverage. If a person is found ineligible for their current coverage or does not complete their renewal on time, their coverage will end.
Information about when a person’s annual renewal is scheduled can be found on COMPASS or on the myCOMPASS PA mobile app. Anyone can set up a COMPASS account at www.dhs.pa.gov/compass and, if they have a mobile device, can download the myCOMPASS PA mobile app for free.
Scam Warning: “Final Demand for Payment” Letters
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has issued a warning about scams designed to trick people into turning over sensitive data and personal information.
One recurring scam involves phony letters sent to taxpayers through the mail. The “Final Demand for Payment” letters threaten wage garnishment and the seizure of property or assets unless the recipient calls a phone number to satisfy a lien.
If you are concerned about a potentially fraudulent notice, visit the department’s webpage for verified contact information. This will help you ensure that you are speaking with a legitimate representative of the department.
And if you believe you are a victim of tax fraud or tax-related identity theft, contact the department’s Bureau of Fraud Detection and Analysis by emailing Raemail@example.com or calling 717-772-9297.
Monthly Appropriations Update Details Lagging PIT Payments, Improving Rainy Day Fund
Each month, the Senate Appropriations Committee prepares a monthly update on the financial health of the Commonwealth. The most recent report includes information on:
The full update, including the full monthly revenue report, is available here.
National Cancer Prevention Month: Information on Risk and Research
Every family will be touched by cancer at some point. National Cancer Prevention Month is a good time to consider information that could help prevent heartache.
The National Cancer Institute has comprehensive information on cancer prevention, risk factors, the role of genetics, and the latest research into causes and prevention.
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