In this Update:
Student Opportunities for Success Examined by Senate Committee
Parents and advocates said they need expanded learning opportunities during a public hearing of the Senate Education Committee.
The version of the 2023-24 state budget, approved by a bipartisan majority in the Senate, contains $100 million to fund the PASS (Pennsylvania Award for Student Success) Program, which would provide low-income students in low-performing schools with scholarships to attend the school of their choice. Gov. Josh Shapiro has threatened to line-item veto this funding after previously voicing support for the program.
Funding the PASS Program would empower parents and families in the education of their children and would not take a single dollar away from public schools. The state budget passed by the Senate also includes a $567 million increase in basic education funding.
The Importance of a Complete Budget to Support PASSHE PennWest
Alleviates the need for other PASSHE Universities to subsidize
As part of this year’s budget, $65 million will be allocated to the Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to provide relief on years-old debt for academic and student services buildings at Clarion University, Edinboro University, and California University. The support will be held in a separate account and PASSHE will draw funds down to make debt service payments on specific series of bonds. Implementation language in the fiscal code is necessary to create the account and outline the bond series for which the funds can be used. We continue our work to complete a full budget, which will allow realization of these investments.
Preserving access to affordable higher education options for families has been one of our top priorities within the 2023-2024 fiscal year budget. Between debt relief measures and a 6% increase in the PASSHE appropriation, PASSHE is able to not increase tuition again for the fifth year in a row, while also alleviating the need for other PASSHE schools to subsidize the PennWest Universities. These substantial investments will work together to provide for the long-term viability of our state institutions, which are a pivotal part of our communities and help students to learn needed skillsets to compete in the workforce.
Donations to Local Non-Profits – Indiana County
Pictured (l to r): Carolyn Hainaut, Office Manager, United Way; Chris Adams, United Way Board Vice President and Business Executive at First Commonwealth Bank; Colin Fitzimmons, Director of Government Affairs, Vistra; Angela Jackson, Executive Director of the United Way of Indiana County; myself; and Patricia Berezansky, United Way Board President and Superintendent of Purchase Line School District.
I was pleased to participate in donation presentations this week by Vistra and its leading Pennsylvania retail electricity brand, Dynegy for two nonprofit organizations.
Vistra donated $5,000 to the United Way of Indiana County for education, health, and financial stability programs that help build a stronger community and support the lives of individuals, children, and families.
Another $5,000 went to the Purchase Line Red Dragon Foundation to support Purchase Line School District students through post-secondary scholarships, enhancements to classroom technology, and extracurricular activities. This grant is allocated specifically for technology and STEM initiatives.
These two organizations do good work to serve residents, strengthen communities, and help those in need. I’m grateful for the commitment that Vistra and Dynegy have made to support these local efforts, and I’m proud to partner with these organizations to keep Indiana County and the surrounding region strong.
REAL ID Extension Allows Access Through May 2025
Pennsylvania residents will be able to use their current driver license to access federal facilities through May 7, 2025, under an extension granted by the federal government last week.
REAL ID is a federal law that affects how states issue driver’s licenses and ID cards if they are going to be acceptable for federal purposes, such as boarding a domestic commercial flight, or entering a military installation or federal facility that requires ID.
REAL ID-compliant driver licenses and identification cards are available now to consumers who wish to obtain them. Learn more, including whether you need a REAL ID and what information you must provide if you do, here.
Free Help Available to PA Small Businesses
There are 15 Small Business Development Centers in Pennsylvania that provide free, confidential consulting and low-cost training to small businesses across the state. Trainings cover a range of business issues including testing a new business proposition, shaping a business plan, investing funding opportunities and more.
Whether you have an idea for a new business, want to improve your existing business or would like to buy or sell a business in Pennsylvania, experienced business consultants are available to help you. Read more here.
Observing World Day Against Trafficking in Persons
Sunday, July 30, is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. By observing this solemn day, we hope to raise awareness of this disturbing exploitation and how to spot trafficking in action. If you suspect human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or the ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.
The Senate unanimously voted to help child human trafficking victims by granting them full access to appropriate services and support. Tragically, under current Pennsylvania law, any minor who is exploited for commercial sex must identify their third-party perpetrator to be considered a victim of human trafficking, unless their purchaser is charged as a trafficker.
Senate Bill 44 would ensure that third-party control is never a consideration for access to services, and Senate Bill 45 would eliminate the third-party control requirement to access victim services under the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act.
Connecting PA Veterans with the Benefits They Earned
Ensuring Pennsylvania’s 700,000 veterans get all of the benefits they have earned is an important mission of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) and state lawmakers.
My office hosts veterans’ outreach hours with the American Legion to assist veterans with issues they may be having accessing benefits and services from the state or U.S. Veterans Administration.
Veterans are encouraged to sign up for the DMVA’s Veterans Registry to get timely information about state benefits, programs and services.
DMVA also offers two Mobile Veterans Outreach Vans that travel the state to give veterans one-on-one assistance so they can learn about and apply for the benefits they have earned. Each van is staffed with accredited veterans service officers and is wheelchair accessible. Learn more about the vans and schedule one for a community event here.
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