In this Update:
Stefano, Pittman and Senate Committees Receive Update on Veteran Homelessness in PA
As chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, along with Sen. Joe Pittman (R-41), chair of the Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, I hosted a joint hearing to learn about the progress made to combat veteran homelessness, as well as what improvements can still be made.
Testifiers explained that a strong collaboration between federal, state and community partners is critical to most effectively help veterans – particularly when they have circumstances that present unique challenges like being responsible for a larger family or a pet.
“Housing instability affecting the older veteran population, women veterans or veterans caring for children, and veterans who have a companion animal, need to be considered when developing plans for emergency shelter beds, transitional housing, and creating more affordable, accessible housing,” said Brig. Gen. Maureen Weigl, Deputy Adjutant General for Veterans Affairs, Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Other testifiers highlighted struggles including not having DD-214 papers for veterans, which delays being able to connect veterans with services and programs that are designated for them, and the income cutoff for those services being too low.
One example of a community program to help veterans is Veterans Place on Washington Boulevard in Pittsburgh, which provides a safe haven where veterans can continue their recovery from chronic mental illness.
Today, we heard about the great work being done at Veterans Place on Washington Boulevard, as well as other ways groups are trying to help veterans, including tiny homes and faith-based counseling. A lot is being done for the benefit of our veterans, and it’s important to get the word out so they know about the services available to assist them in moving forward in their life.
“While we heard some stories about despair, we also heard incredible stories from veterans who were struggling but got the help that we’re here to highlight today. Hearing how dedicated they are to doing the work to help others who are experiencing the same issues was truly inspirational,” Pittman said.
After the hearing, Senator Devlin Robinson and I were provided a tour by staff of Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard. Veterans Place of Washington Boulevard was established in 1996 by Sidney Singer, a member of the Jewish War Veterans, Post 718, to provide a safe-haven where military Veterans could continue their recovery from chronic mental illness.
Today, the mission of Veterans Place is to empower veterans’ transition from homeless to home, ending the cycle of homelessness and to assist all at-risk veterans to become engaged, valuable citizens who contribute to their communities. In 2021, Veterans Place served over 800 veterans and families – aiming to make Veterans’ lives better by connecting them to tools that will help them build lives and become self-sufficient.
Strengthening the Integrity of Pennsylvania’s Elections
Most Pennsylvanians say they are dissatisfied with the way elections are conducted in the state, according to a recent poll. To address this, the General Assembly passed one of the most significant election integrity packages in America.
The General Assembly passed two proposed amendments to the Pennsylvania Constitution addressing elections. If approved again in the 2023-24 legislative session, the questions will be put on the ballot for voters to decide.
One of these amendments would require all voters to present a valid form of identification prior to voting in person or by mail. Seventy-four percent of Pennsylvanians support requiring voters to present identification to vote.
A separate proposed amendment would require the General Assembly to provide for audits of elections, including the administration of elections and the results. This crucial work would be performed by the state Auditor General.
In addition to moving these constitutional questions one step closer to voters, the General Assembly passed Act 88 of 2022 to get private money out of the administration of our elections. The legislation was created after certain counties received millions of dollars from a group funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg during the 2020 Election.
The new law creates grants for counties to cover costs such as hiring and training staff, printing ballots and managing voting machines and tabulation equipment. In return, counties who accept the money are required to take several critical steps to ensure the integrity of the process.
Pennsylvanians have advocated for real and meaningful changes that will promote confidence in the fairness of our election system. As elected officials, it is our responsibility to ensure every part of our voting system is above reproach.
Special Education Additional School Year Notification Deadline is Monday
The General Assembly recently passed a proposal to provide an additional year of instruction to special education students who reached the age of 21 during the 2021-22 school year or before the 2022-23 school year starts.
Due to COVID-19, many of these students suffered immense learning loss and need a bridge before aging out of the public school system.
Information about this provision is available here. Parents must submit the Act 55 of 2022 Student Enrollment Notification Form to their school district by this Monday, Aug. 1.
New Law Improves Access to Home Health Care Services
Legislation recently passed by the General Assembly and enacted into law will help improve access to home health care services by making permanent two regulations waived during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, non-physician practitioners were unable to order or oversee orders for home health care services. Additionally, registered nurses were not able to perform remote visits to patients in need of home health care services.
Due to great need, those regulations were waived during the pandemic. Act 30 of 2022 makes these exceptions permanent, so health care services are more accessible to those individuals who cannot leave their homes to obtain care or treatment.
Help for Veterans and Beneficiaries Facing Unexpected Hardships
Pennsylvania veterans and beneficiaries facing a crisis can receive financial relief for necessities of life such as food, shelter, fuel and clothing through the Veterans Temporary Assistance program.
Eligible veterans or their beneficiaries can qualify for up to $1,600 in a 12-month period. Eligibility requirements include: a person who served in the U.S. Armed Forces (discharged under honorable conditions), died in service or was killed in action, or suffered a service-connected disability.
To apply, contact the County Veterans Affairs Director in your county.
Watch Out for Energy Marketing Scams
Consumers should be alert for potential energy marketing scams, especially unsolicited telemarketing calls requesting immediate action and promising far-reaching savings on energy bills.
One type of misleading solicitation involves robocalls from unidentified sources making vague and potentially misleading statements about customer discounts, refunds, rebates and bonuses if the customer acts now. The calls often appear as a local telephone number on recipients’ caller ID, which is often fake or “spoofed,” or the calls fail to display any number at all.
According to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, if the sales agent fails to immediately identify themselves and the reason for the call, the consumer should end the call. Find out more about scammers and how to avoid them here.
Please Support Local Independent Retailers
Local, independent retailers reinvest more of their revenues than chain retailers and much more of their revenues than Amazon. Shopping local and supporting independent retailers contributes to the health and prosperity of our communities. I hope you give them a chance to earn your business year-round.
Around the District
Check out these amazing murals in Scottdale by District 32 artists, including one by my amazing wife, Vice President of the GPAC board. This past weekend, I helped her finish her mural design and seal coat it. Thank you to The Geyer Performing Arts Center folks for all the time, effort, and talent you put into this project.
ATTENTION DISTRICT 32 PARENTS: BehaviorWorx of Southwestern PA is holding an incredible event at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus on August 12th.
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