From the desk of...
State Senator Lisa Boscola
Boscola secured a $100,000 grant for the Bethlehem Food Co-Op to assist in the construction of the kitchen at the community owned grocery store to be located in Bethlehem’s downtown.
Boscola has proposed legislation designed to extend the popular Property Tax & Rent Rebate Program, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, to include more Pennsylvanians over the age of 65. The proposed legislation will increase income eligibility, raising the limits for the first time in nearly 15 years. Under Boscola’s proposal, homeowners eligible to apply will now be able to receive a rebate check toward their property taxes if they make up to $50,000. Current law excludes homeowners if their income was over $35,000. Additionally, the bill will increase income limits for renters, from $15,000 to $30,000.
With a record high rainy day fund, Boscola is introducing legislation to repeal the elimination of gaming table revenue (over $130 million), to assist homeowners with property tax relief in a time of high inflation.
Boscola also announced $5.46 million in school safety, security and mental health grants. This includes more than $655,000 for Bethlehem, about $369,000 for Northampton Area SD and $263,000 for Saucon Valley.
State Rep. Jeane McNeill
The Lehigh Valley will receive economic development funding to support area small businesses from $246.8 million of American Rescue Plan funding that is being distributed across Pennsylvania, State Representative Jeanne McNeill announced recently.
The funding will be distributed through the State Small Business Credit Initiative to grow and expand job opportunities throughout the commonwealth, including in the Lehigh Valley. Local economic development partners will benefit through direct equity investments and loans to small businesses.
Insurance companies would be required to provide coverage for prostate cancer screenings under legislation introduced by McNeill. According to data from the American Cancer Society, one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. The illness can also be dormant for many years without going detected; screenings can help find the cancer at an early stage.
Under McNeill’s bill, insurers would be required to provide access to prostate-specific antigen blood tests and digital rectal examinations annually to those identified as being at average or high risk of prostate cancer. These screenings would be administered under the screening guidelines provided by the American Cancer Society.
Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure
McClure has vetoed bills seeking bidders to conduct comprehensive studies of Gracedale Nursing Home and county wages and benefits.
“Gracedale’s rating on overall health quality from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently rose from one star to stars, which included a four star rating for the Health Inspection.
“In May 2022, County Council passed Resolution No. 70-2022 and Resolution No. 71-2022, collectively known as ‘Saving Gracedale Again.’ These resolutions allocated $15 million in ARP funds for retention bonuses, staff recruitment bonuses, Agency nursing costs, making capital improvements to the facility, as well as construction of an on-site daycare center. Before moving ahead with an expensive study, council should allow some time to see how these incentives improve operations at Gracedale,” he said.
Likewise, McClure said, “Wage and Benefit studies can be extraordinarily expensive and don’t always provide usable action items. Such data should not be relied upon for long-term planning as it could have the unfortunate consequence of trigging a tax increase.”
State Treasurer Stacy Garrity
Garrity has announced the deposit of $2.1 billion into Pennsylvania’s Rainy Day Fund, formally known as the Budget Stabilization Reserve Fund. The transfer, which was officially made recently, was authorized as part of the state budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23. The Rainy Day Fund serves as a safety net for state spending, alleviating pressure to raise taxes or cut discretionary program spending during an economic downturn.
The new balance, $4.979 billion, would cover General Fund expenses for approximately 42.6 days, near the national median.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey
U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging Chairman Bob Casey (D-PA) and Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) recently held a hearing to examine the most common scams targeting older adults and released the Aging Committee’s annual Fraud Book in English and Spanish, which details the top 10 scams reported to the Aging Committee’s Fraud Hotline in 2021. During the hearing, the Senators highlighted the passage of their bipartisan Stop Senior Scams Act, which directs the Federal Trade Commission to create a federal advisory council charged with improving education and training efforts so that businesses and financial institutions can better identify and prevent scams. In one week, the FTC will convene its first meeting of the federal advisory council.
Read more about the Stop Senior Scams Act at aging.senate.gov/download/117th-stop-senior-scams-act.
The 2022 Fraud Book can be found in English at https://www.aging.senate.gov/download/aging-committee-fraud-book-2022 and in Spanish at https://www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/aging_committee_spanish_fraud_book_2022.pdf.
The U.S. Department of Education is awarding $177 million across 14 states to begin phasing out the practice of paying people with disabilities subminimum wage and encourage the creation of inclusive jobs for people with disabilities. Casey led the fight to include funding for this pilot program in the FY21 federal spending bill. The Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation will receive $13 million.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding Pennsylvania $240,167,000 from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to improve water infrastructure. This funding will supplement the $67 million awarded to Pennsylvania for its Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds in fiscal year 2022. The funding will be used to help communities access safe clean water, repair aging pipes, collect and treat wastewater and build resiliency in the face of extreme weather events.
Casey has introduced legislation to lower costs for the many millions of Americans seeking opioid treatment, including life-saving medication and outpatient treatment programs. The Maximizing Opioid Recovery Emergency (MORE) Savings Act would eliminate costs for opioid treatment and recovery support services for people with private insurance plans and for people enrolled under a new Medicare pilot program, while increasing federal funding for Medicaid treatment programs.
This legislation is supported by the Drug & Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Recovery Organizations Alliance.
State Rep. Susan Wild
The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 8520, the Countering Untrusted Telecommunications Abroad Act, by a resounding margin of 361-69. Rep. Wild’s bipartisan bill would investigate and respond to security vulnerabilities caused by Chinese telecommunications companies in U.S. embassies overseas and among U.S. collective defense allies.