In this Update:
Water System Improvements in Greene County
The Southwestern Pennsylvania Water Authority (SPWA) will receive nearly $2 million from the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) in the form of a low-interest loan and a grant to extend a water line for customers currently served by Brave Water and Sewer Authority (BWSA) in Wayne Township, Greene County.
The funding will extend the water line approximately 23,000 feet. Additionally, valves, fittings, fire hydrants and service connections will be installed. When the project is completed, BWSA will no longer be a regulated water supplier and SPWA will own, operate and maintain the water system.
The grant, which does not need to be repaid, totals $894,697. The low-interest loan of more than $1 million, which will be repaid over 30 years, will provide the grant equivalent of $514,539 during the life of the loan.
PENNVEST approved the funding at its board meeting today. The state’s PENNVEST Program provides low-interest loans and grants for the design, engineering and construction of drinking water distribution facilities, stormwater conveyance and wastewater treatment and collection systems.
Companion Bill to Improve Health Care Access, Affordability
This week at a news conference, I joined House Members Rep. Nancy Guenst, Rep. Mike Cabell, and Rep. Tarik Khan to help introduce House Bill 1825, a companion bill to my legislation, Senate Bill 25.
Too many Pennsylvanians face extensive wait times for appointments and long travel times to meet with specialists – if they can find someone who is accepting new patients at all. Our bills would improve access and affordability of health care services, especially in rural areas where the need is greatest. In fact, 3.4 million Pennsylvanians live in rural areas, where nurse practitioners are twice as likely – compared to physicians – to practice.
According to a recent study’s findings, the number of patients seen by nurse practitioners per week would increase by almost 1,800 if Pennsylvania adopted full practice authority.
Click the image above to watch my remarks from this week’s news conference.
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.
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.
FAFSA Completion Help Event in Greene County
Students and their families may be aware that the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was released on December 31, 2023. Filing the FAFSA online is the first step for students and families to determine if they qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, PA State Grant, scholarships, institutional awards, and federal student loans.
To help families complete the application, PHEAA, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators will be holding two FAFSA Completion Help Events at PA Career Link Greene County on January 29. The first session will be at 1 p.m. and the second session will be at 2 p.m. Registration not required.
As a member of the Board of Directors for PHEAA, I would like to encourage you to be proactive and take the first step in the 2024-25 FAFSA process by registering your Federal Student Aid accounts today (you’ll need these for the help event): https://studentaid.gov/fsa-id/create-account/launch
To prepare for the FAFSA Completion Help Event, students and families can use this checklist to make sure they have everything they need.
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.
Last week Washington County Agricultural Fair Queen Erica Teagarden was crowned the 2024 Pennsylvania Fair Queen! Erica, a recent McGuffey graduate and student at Penn State University, has been an incredible ambassador for the district and the entire Commonwealth, including the 4-H and FFA programs as well as her dedication to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Junior Committee. I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Erica for the much-deserved recognition of all her incredibly hard work promoting our Pennsylvania agriculture industry.
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