Senator Stefano E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Accomplishments: Education
  • COVID Relief for Local Governments
  • Farmers and Mental Health Discussed by Senate Committee
  • Homeowner Assistance Program Opens Feb. 1
  • Funding Workshop Scheduled for First Responders
  • Caring for Dogs in Winter: The Law
  • Jan. 21 Transportation “Innovations Challenge” Deadline
  • Around the District
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Senate Accomplishments: Education

Senate Accomplishments - Education

Building on last year’s efforts, Senate Republicans will continue their work in 2022 to ensure students receive a proper education during the shifting elements of the pandemic.

In 2021, the Senate acted to allocate $500 million in federal funds to help ensure schools reopened, sustained safe operation and addressed student needs resulting from the pandemic. For students who experienced learning loss, the Senate passed a new law allowing parents the option to have their child repeat a grade level during the 2021-22 school year due to COVID-19. 

Other legislation passed by the Senate eased school staffing shortages by making permanent a temporary program that gave schools an option to use teachers-in-training as substitutes and providing schools with more hiring flexibility for day-to-day substitutes.

You can find more key education bills passed by the Senate here.

COVID Relief for Local Governments

The Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) program, a part of the American Rescue Plan, delivers $350 billion to state, local, and Tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The program provides governments across the country with the resources needed to fight the pandemic and support families and businesses struggling with its public health and economic impacts, maintain vital public services, and build a resilient recovery by making investments that support long-term growth and opportunity.

Treasury has released the Final Rule for the program, which will take effect on April 1, 2022. Recipients and stakeholders are also encouraged to consult the Overview of the Final Rule, which provides a summary of Final Rule provisions for informational purposes.

Farmers and Mental Health Discussed by Senate Committee

Mental Health in Agriculture

The Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee this week held a discussion about mental health in agriculture at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center.

The panel heard from Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding, mental health professionals and others about the unique challenges faced by farmers.

Pennsylvania recently received a two-year, $500,000 federal grant to bolster mental health services and resources for the agricultural community, and the Department of Agriculture is launching a statewide education and awareness campaign in February. The department is working with the national AgriSafe Network to provide a 24/7 mental health hotline for agricultural producers in the near future.

Homeowner Assistance Program Opens Feb. 1

Homeowner Assistance Program

Beginning Feb. 1, income-eligible Pennsylvania homeowners facing unforeseen financial hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for assistance.

The Pennsylvania Homeowner Assistance Fund (PAHAF) will help Pennsylvania homeowners whose household income is at or below 150% of the area median to prevent or ease mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, displacement and utility disconnection.

The General Assembly allocated $350 million in federal funds for the program. The legislature also established a Construction Cost Relief Program to support the production of developments by addressing financial deficiencies directly attributed to the effects of the pandemic.

Homeowners can learn about PAHAF and see a list of organizations that can assist them by visiting or by calling the PAHAF call center at 888-987-2423 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Funding Workshop Scheduled for First Responders

I will be hosting a First Responders Funding Workshop on February 2 in Fayette County and February 3 in Somerset County. Many grants are extremely competitive, and I want to make sure you have the information needed to maximize your chances of securing funding for critical needs in our local communities.

The workshop will feature tips on how to find government and foundation grants and to submit applications with a greater chance of success. Participants are welcome to ask questions about current or future projects their organization is considering. The workshop will feature experts from PEMA, Office of the State Fire Commissioner, Department of General Services, and the Senate Republican Caucus Services Grant Team.

These contacts, as well as a reference manual that contains a comprehensive listing of grant programs and important contact information, will be a valuable reference for many years to come.

Again, I hope that you or multiple members of your organization can join us.  If you have any questions, please contact Sue Quinn of my staff at 724-626-1611 or

As always, thank you for your continued service to your community.

Caring for Dogs in Winter: The Law

Winter Dog Care

Now that cold weather is upon us, I’d like to remind you of the 2017 law designed to prevent animal cruelty in harsh conditions, particularly involving dogs.  

Under Act 10 of 2017, an unattended dog may be tethered for no more than nine hours in a 24-hour period and must meet the following criteria: 

  • The dog may not be tethered for longer than 30 minutes in temperatures below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The tether must be of a type commonly used for the size and breed of dog and at least three times the length of the dog or 10 feet, whichever is longer.
  • The tether must be secured to a well-fitted collar or harness by means of a swivel anchor, swivel latch or other mechanism designed to prevent the dog from becoming entangled.
  • The tethered dog must have access to water and an area of shade to escape the direct rays of the sun.

Penalties range from up to 90 days in jail and/or a $300 fine for neglect to seven years in jail and/or a $15,000 for aggravated cruelty. You can read more about Pennsylvania’s animal cruelty laws here.

Jan. 21 Transportation “Innovations Challenge” Deadline

Transportation Innovations Challenge

High school students have until Jan. 21 to submit entries in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s latest Innovations Challenge. The contest encourages students to use their problem-solving and creative abilities to solve real-world transportation challenges in a competition among their peers.

This year’s Innovations Challenge asks students to develop a comprehensive and cost-effective public engagement strategy, beyond the current public engagement procedures (outlined in Publication 295) that uses innovative technologies and tools that PennDOT can implement to more effectively engage and connect with all age groups during the transportation planning and project development process.

Regional challenge winners will be selected and invited to compete for the state championship, which will be held in spring. The first-place team wins $4,000.

Around the District

This week, I had the honor of presenting scholarships to two 32nd District students at the Pennsylvania Farm Show.

Zachary Diamond from Smithfield, Fayette County was the first recipient. He is a sophomore at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus studying Physics, with plans to earn his doctorate studying Magnetic Monopoles.

Lindsey Robertson from Meyersdale, Somerset County was the second recipient. She is a junior at Slippery Rock University, studying Biology to become a Physicians Assistant and provide healthcare to our community.

Congratulations Zach and Lindsey! I wish you the best of luck with your education and future careers.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a press conference at Carnegie Mellon University on Highly Automated Vehicles and their future in Pennsylvania. Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. formally announced Senate Bill 965, which is legislation to create a roadmap for the testing and commercial deployment of Highly Automated Vehicles. This technology is predicted to have a huge impact on Southwestern Pennsylvania, with an estimated 5,000 new jobs and a $10 billion impact by 2026, for just our region of the state. This legislation is a critical step towards the future of transportation, and I am proud to be a part of that future by co-sponsoring the bill.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

  Martin Luther King Day 

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day across America. It’s a time to rededicate ourselves to bridging divides and fostering true racial harmony.

In observance of this holiday, my Senate offices will be closed and will reopen Tuesday.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” – Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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