In this Update:
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. Many utilities also offer budget plans to help smooth out your payments so you are not hit with spikes in your utility bills that make planning your spending difficult and can put you in a crisis situation. 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.
Of course, the most effective way for Pennsylvania to combat rising energy costs is for lawmakers to unleash our state’s energy potential, which is why Senate Republicans are prioritizing the advancement of policies that create greater energy independence.
In addition, the Senate advanced Senate Bill 1, which included a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent the executive branch from imposing onerous regulations like what Gov. Tom Wolf hit us with by imposing 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.
If you have a family member who is currently unemployed or is a seasonal worker and who does not receive this newsletter, please forward this on to them so they can prepare.
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, that will not be the case going forward. 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.
In its warning issued earlier this month, the department focused on a recurring scam that has been reported to involve phony letters sent to taxpayers through the mail. The “Final Demand for Payment” letters (click here) 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 & Analysis by emailing Rafirstname.lastname@example.org or calling 717-772-9297. The bureau’s phone line is open from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday.
For more information on ways to protect yourself, visit the department’s Identity Theft Victim Assistance webpage. You can also find further information about protecting yourself online at PA.gov/Cybersecurity.
Taking on Chronic Wasting Disease in PA
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) – an always-fatal and untreatable neurological disease affecting white-tailed deer and elk – continues to expand across Pennsylvania.
But it’s not going unchallenged.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is working with experts from the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine’s (Penn Vet) Wildlife Futures Program on several research initiatives launching this year aimed at increasing understanding of CWD and developing tools to confront it.
The Department of Agriculture is also involved with combatting CWD – see here for more information about the two program options for premises that have farmed or captive CWD-susceptible species.
Clean Water Project Outreach Events
The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, otherwise known as PENNVEST, will be holding several outreach events across the western half of the commonwealth through April clean water projects.
These events will be informal and provide attendees with information on the PENNVEST program, application procedures, funding opportunities and special types of programs available for emerging contaminant and lead service line projects.
PENNVEST can provide low-interest loan and/or grant funding for pretty much any type of drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, or non-point source pollution mitigation project.
Individuals and municipal authorities with water issues should attend.
A list of all event dates can be found here.
Pre-registration is required for all events – you can pre-register here.
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.
Visit to PA Military Museum in Boalsburg, Centre County
I was thrilled to visit the PA Military Museum, located at 51 Boal Avenue in Boalsburg, Centre County.
Museum Director Tyler Gum was gracious enough to take me on a tour of the museum.
If you’ve never been there, book a tour soon! It is an amazing museum with so much history stored inside its walls.
Congratulations to 2022 Centre County Grange Fair Queen Ella Smith
Ella Smith, the 2022 Centre County Grange Fair Queen, recently was in Hershey, PA, to compete with 58 other fair queens for the title of 2023 Pennsylvania Fair Queen.
Ella said getting the chance to represent her home, Centre County, at the convention was amazing.
“I learned so much not only about the community, but also myself,” said Ella. “It was an opportunity to push myself out of my comfort zone while getting to further my communication and public speaking skills.”
“All the girls, parents, staff and members were very kind and supportive,” she added. “I left the convention having made a ton of new friends who are now like family. But most importantly we are all able to share our common appreciation of agriculture.”
We’re all proud of you Ella and look forward to your future accomplishments!
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.
For anyone who hasn’t already signed up to receive my mission reports, you can get on the e-newsletter mailing list here.
If you do not wish to receive this email, click here to unsubscribe.