In this Update:
District of Character
The “District of Character” is an initiative I created to enhance character development and promote daily reminders for residents of the 40th Senatorial District about how we can create a stronger community without policy changes. No one is perfect, but we can always work to improve our character daily.
February word of the month is, respect: “Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others.”
My personal belief on respect: “You must always display respect if you expect to receive and gain respect. It doesn’t just go one way.”
Pennsylvania: Black History Month
This month, we will be highlighting African American history throughout Pennsylvania. We learned about the first black member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Harry W. Bass. You can revisit that here. Last week, we learned about Pennsylvania’s contributions to the Underground Railroad, learn about that here.
Locally, the Stroudsburg Little Bethel Historical Association has worked to preserve the Little Bethel AME Church on 3rd Street in Stroudsburg. The church was established in 1868 as a place of worth for free, yet segregated, black Americans. In 1982, the church was added to the Historical Site National Register and the Association has worked diligently on restoration efforts and establishing this historical site as a public museum and library. Learn more about their work 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.
Additionally, it is critical we support policies to increase the energy supply and reduce cost drivers for consumers. I have sponsored Community Solar legislation to expand the state’s current options and add to the electric grid. Community Solar would allow consumers to directly participate in and receive the benefits from a solar project connected to their local distribution company’s grid. You can read more about that proposal here.
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 Rafirstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Around the 40th District
I was honored to attend Frank Lanterman’s 100th Birthday last week at the East Stroudsburg Elks Lodge and present him with an honorary citizen citation. Frank is a Veteran, a dedicated volunteer, and life-long community resident. For years, he would visit our local Animal Shelter to deliver homemade meals to the pets in shelter. Throughout his career as a funeral director, he worked diligently to help our local families create peace during the most difficult times in their lives.
Earlier this week, at Jefferson Township, I had the pleasure of recognizing Jack Edward and Tyler White on attaining the rank of Eagle Scout! Such a wonderful accomplishment and a testament to their hard work and dedication. Wishing them both personal and professional success in the years to come.
RSVP is announcing the return of their Spectacular Program – offering Spanish for Early Childhood for children aged 3 to 5. See flyer below for details!
Our North Office (Jefferson Township) had its first canine visitor this morning! Everyone, say hi to Bella.
Check this out! Penn State Extension is hosting a seminar on “Getting Started in Maple Syrup”! The workshop is FREE but registration is requested. The deadline to register is February 20th. My legislative report this month on BRCTV 13 also introduces you to maple syrup harvesting as a hobby.
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