As you are all aware, the State Budget was signed into law on June 30th. The $27.15 billion spending plan will impose deep cuts and a heavy burden on many families throughout Pennsylvania – and that is the reason that I voted against it. Education is the area that has been cut the deepest. Even more troubling is that the cuts, totaling more than $900 million, will hit poorer school districts the hardest and eliminate targeted programs for early learning initiatives and programs for struggling students. In Allegheny County, where property taxes are already high enough, it could likely result in actions by the local school board to either raise property taxes or cut services, programs and employees to be able to survive.
This is not the budget we fought for and worked toward. This is not the budget that the majority of my constituents asked for – and certainly doesn’t address the issues with which they had a concern. While it may be a budget that doesn’t raise taxes, its impact could very well be exactly that at the local level – which doesn’t make things any better. Unfortunately, it is the final budget we have now been given. Please know that we are not going to give up or stop speaking to the issues that you are facing, or will be facing, because of this budget. I still want to hear from you about what effect this budget will have or is having on you, your families and friends, your jobs and your lives. Each of us wears many hats, and I have no doubt that it will impact us all in many ways – as parents, employees, taxpayers, students, seniors and more. I will continue to speak to how you are impacted – but I need to hear from you.
New Law Protects PACE/PACENET Recipients
If you received a small Social Security cost of living increase (COLA) that puts you over the income limit for participation in the PACE/PACENET programs, you can still retain these benefits thanks to a new law that the Senate passed in June. Act 21 says that if the Social Security COLA is the only change in income that puts a recipient over the income threshold, that it will not be counted toward their income. Without the change, about 9,000 people receiving PACENET would have lost their benefits, while an estimated 21,000 PACE enrollees would have had to move to PACENET, making them responsible for higher co-pays.
If you believe that you may be eligible for PACE or PACENET, please contact my office for an application and assistance.
Property Tax & Rent Rebate Program Deadline Extended
The application period for the Property Tax & Rent Rebate Program has been extended through the end of the year. If you haven’t already applied, please visit my office for an application and assistance in completing the form. If you have already applied, the state began issuing checks on July 1st. If you are a Pennsylvanian age 65 and older, a person with a disability 18 and older, or a widow or widower age 50 and older, you may be eligible. Income limits are $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase rebates to $975.
Do you need food and shelter? Child care resources? Special services for children? Information about human services agencies? Do you know someone who does? A new service is available in Southwestern PA to connect people with important community services and volunteer opportunities. Just dial 2-1-1. Certified call specialists are trained to assist callers with referrals and make them aware of other resources that may prevent further crises, such as foreclosure counseling services or avoiding a shut off of utilities.
Senator Wayne D. Fontana
42nd Senatorial District