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In this Update:
- Mastriano Announces $8.4 Million to Improve Water Service Reliability in Washington Township
- Notice of VA Burial Benefits for Veterans
- Protecting PA Farmers: Prohibiting the Sale and Distribution of Lab-Grown Meat
- Fire & EMS Grant Reauthorization
- 2023 Accomplishments: Public Safety
- Healthy Rainy Day Fund Cushions Against Hard Times
- Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Now Serves More People
- Free FAFSA Workshops Across PA
- Prioritizing Mental Health at All Ages
Mastriano Announces $8.4 Million to Improve Water Service Reliability in Washington Township
Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) today announced $8.4 million in state funding has been approved to improve the reliability of the water system in Washington Township, Franklin County.
“Residents want to know the water will flow when they turn on their faucets,” Mastriano said. “These state dollars will ensure Washington Township residents have reliable access to clean water. The state support for this project will reduce the cost and protect customers against expensive rate increases.”
The Washington Township Municipal Authority water system is susceptible to service interruptions that can last several days.
The system’s Brookdale Water Treatment Plant works with three water storage tanks – the Green Ridge tank, Pine Hill tank and Tall tank. When there is a spike in demand – due to a fire, main break or other event – the Green Ridge tank water level is reduced. When the water level is too low, the booster pump station adjacent to the Green Ridge tank cannot pump water up to the Tall tank. The water level in the Tall tank decreases and customers begin to lose water service. Depending on how long it takes to refill the Green Ridge tank and Tall tank, customers may go without service for days.
The state dollars will be used to install approximately 9,700 feet of new ductile iron 12-inch diameter water main between the Brookdale Water Treatment Plant and the Pine Hill tank. The Green Ridge tank will be decommissioned and the Green Ridge booster pumping station will be relocated to the Pine Hill tank. Approximately 4,800 feet of new 12-inch diameter water main will be installed between the new Pine Hill booster pumping station and the distribution system that feeds the Tall tank.
The $8.4 million in state funding is being provided as a low-interest loan. The funding was approved by the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST). PENNVEST is an independent agency of the commonwealth providing financial assistance to fund construction of drinking water, sewer and stormwater projects in communities throughout Pennsylvania.
Notice of VA Burial Benefits for Veterans
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation a Senate version of House Bill 325.
This legislation would require licensed funeral directors, funeral entities or cemetery companies to notify the county veterans affairs director of a deceased serviceperson having legal residence in the county and to notify the decedent’s family with the contact information for the county veterans affairs director. This legislation is aimed at assisting the families of our deceased service personnel during their most difficult times by connecting to the county director, who will be able to guide them through any available benefits for deceased servicepersons and their families.
Protecting PA Farmers: Prohibiting the Sale and Distribution of Lab-Grown Meat
I will be introducing legislation to prohibit the sale and distribution of any meat in Pennsylvania produced from cultured animal cells (lab-grown).
Pennsylvania is home to almost 3,000 pig farms, nearly 10,000 poultry farms, and over 13,000 beef cattle farms. These industries combine for $20 billion in economic output and over 80,000 jobs.
In June 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the first time approved the sale of chicken made from lab-grown animal cells, permitting two California companies to serve lab-grown meat at restaurants and supermarkets nationwide.
Lab-grown meat products are grown in steel tanks, using cells that come from a living animal, a fertilized egg or a special bank of stored cells.
There are currently no uniform rules or regulations that require labeling for lab-grown meat. This means consumers could conceivably consume this meat while at a restaurant or ordering take out without even knowing it was produced synthetically.
The prevalence of lab-grown meat production will have detrimental effects on our local farming communities. The nation of Italy recently realized the damage that would be done to their agriculture industry and banned lab-grown meats on a national level.
While large corporate farms may have the capital to survive this new threat, many smaller family-owned farms here in PA will be put out of business.
My legislation will protect our farmers and consumers by prohibiting the sale and distribution of lab-grown meat products in Pennsylvania.
Fire & EMS Grant Reauthorization
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to reauthorize the Fire & EMS Grant Program, which is due to expire on June 30, 2024.
Currently, the program provides $30 million to fire companies and EMS agencies. Fire companies are eligible for up to $20,000 and EMS agencies can receive up to $15,000.
My bill would reauthorize the program for 10 years – repeal outdated language (like the expired COVID Grants) – re-purpose the Firefighter 1 incentive (which is difficult to determine which fire company should receive credit for firefighters that serve in multiple companies) – and make other minor changes.
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.
Free FAFSA Workshops Across PA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) underwent changes resulting from the FAFSA Simplification Act, a federal law intended to streamline the financial aid application process.
Filing the FAFSA online is the first step for students and families to determine if they qualify for a Federal Pell Grant, Pennsylvania State Grant, scholarships, institutional awards and federal student loans.
Because of the changes, free FAFSA workshops are being held across the state. Find one near you.
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.
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