In this Update:
Senate Republicans Begin Series of Hearings on Combatting Rising Crime
The Senate Majority Policy Committee kicked off a series of hearings on crime and public safety during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, gathering at the Cambria County Courthouse to get input from police, prosecutors, judges and key community groups.
Pennsylvania has the highest violent crime rate of any state in the Northeast, according to FBI data. Between 2019 and 2020, no other state reported a greater year-over-year increase in violence. Driven by spikes in aggravated assault and homicide, Pennsylvania’s violent crime rate climbed 27.1% from 2019 to 2020.
Testifiers pointed to a growing difficulty in recruiting and retaining police officers, due in part to heated anti-police rhetoric in recent years. Others noted that drugs, mental health issues and the influx of residents from high-crime areas were driving up the number of offenses.
A top priority for Senate Republicans is to ensure Pennsylvanians feel safe in the towns, cities and communities they call home. These hearings will help legislators better understand the trends in crime from law enforcement and key stakeholders, and better match the Commonwealth’s economic goals with community objectives throughout Pennsylvania.
The next hearing on crime and public safety will be held Monday, May 2 in Lancaster County.
Avian Flu in Pennsylvania: What to Know
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed the state’s first positive cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in domestic poultry in several Lancaster County farms.
As of April 26, there have been five affected commercial flocks, zero affected backyard flocks, and a total of 3.8 million birds affected in Lancaster County. The most up-to-date status of confirmed Pennsylvania cases can be viewed on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these avian influenza detections do not present an immediate public health concern. No human cases of avian influenza viruses have been detected in the United States. Poultry products and eggs are safe to consume if stored and cooked at proper temperatures.
Both commercial poultry farms and Pennsylvanians with backyard chickens should be on high alert to protect their flocks from this highly contagious and fatal disease. Domestic poultry, including chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, quail, pheasants, emus and ostriches, are most susceptible to avian influenza.
If you have domestic birds, report sick domestic birds or unusual deaths in your flock to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture at 717-772-2852 option 1. The line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Information about the current state of HPAI in Pennsylvania can be found at the HPAI Address Search Application .
DuBois Regional Airport to Receive $415,000 to Upgrade Facilities
Earlier this week, $10 million in state investments through the Aviation Transportation Assistance Program to support 12 projects at 10 Pennsylvania airports were announced.
One of the recipient airports is Jefferson County’s DuBois Regional Airport which will get $215,000 to rehabilitate T-hangar taxiways and apron pavement and $200,000 to rehabilitate administration building and upgrade the existing utilities.
This money will ensure the airport can continue to operate safely while improving its ability to meet expanding demand and help grow our region’s economy.
Tioga County Dairy Farm Preserved
Earlier this month, Pennsylvania protected an additional 3,528 acres on 40 farms in 19 counties from future development, investing more than $9.7 million in state, and county dollars in preserving prime farmland for tomorrow.
One of those 40 farms is a 210-acre dairy farm in Charleston Township, Tioga County: the Gorda Family Irrevocable Trust. The state invested $128,779 state and Tioga County invested $106,824 to preserve the farmland.
Since the first farmland preservation easement was purchased in December of 1989, Pennsylvania’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program has forever protected 6,044 farms and 611,620 acres of farmland from commercial, industrial or residential development.
PennDOT Schedules Public Hearings for I-80 Canoe Creek Bridges, North Fork Bridges Replacement
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, will host public hearings and receive public comment in-person, online and by mail on environmental assessments prepared for two projects that will toll bridges in Clarion and Jefferson counties.
An in-person hearing about the I-80 North Fork Bridges Project in Jefferson County will take place from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on May 3, 2022, at Chateau d’Argy, 345 Main St. in Brookville.
And on May 4, an in-person hearing about I-80 Canoe Creek Bridges Replacement will take place from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Wolf’s Den Banquet & Conference Facility, 291 Timberwolf Run in Knox.
At both events an open house display regarding the respective projects will begin at 3:30 p.m. with public testimony starting at 4:30 p.m. All materials that will be presented during the open house, including a project overview, maps, low-income tolling details, diversion route improvements and environmental assessment documents, are available online and accessible on-demand on the PennDOT website. CLICK HERE for the North Fork Bridges information (available from April 18 to May 18) and HERE for the Canoe Creek Bridges (available from April 19 to May 19).
Those who cannot attend the hearings in person can submit comments via the form at the bottom of the respective project web pages, via email (to i80NorthFork@pa.gov or i80CanoeCreek@pa.gov), or by sending a letter to PennDOT District 10 (with the mailing information available on the respective project websites).
I urge Pennsylvanians to voice their concerns regarding the bridge tolling by participating in these PennDOT hearings.
Monday is the Deadline to Register to Vote
The deadline to register to vote in the primary election is May 2. You can register to vote and check your registration status online or download and print a registration form and mail it to your county election board.
Applicants using the online voter registration system must complete and submit their application by 11:59 p.m. May 2 to vote in the primary. Paper voter registration forms must be received in county voter registration offices by close of business on May 2.
People wishing to register to vote in the May 17 primary must be:
The deadline to apply for mail-in and absentee ballots is May 10.
Helping Brookville Girl Scout Troop Achieve “Democracy for Juniors” Badge
It was an honor to have been chosen by Brookville Girl Scout Troops 23038 and 60080 to help them achieve their “Democracy for Juniors” badge. The young ladies had some good questions.
I’m grateful that we have parents and other mentors who are actively involved in raising the young people in our communities to understand the roles of the various government branches and departments and to help them each understand the importance of the freedoms we have from this republic called the United States of America.
Still Time to Apply for PA’s Research and Evaluation Scholar Grant Program
The goal of the grant program is to engage Pennsylvania institutions of higher education in efforts to improve public education within the state. The awards are intended to fund research and evaluations to strengthen Pennsylvania’s education system and inform policy decisions that will improve programs and produce better outcomes for students.
The grant program will offer up to six awards for graduate students or faculty at colleges and universities to conduct research aligned with the department’s research agenda.
Selected applicants will receive $5,000 to fulfill the research or analysis activities for their proposed research project. The department anticipates award recipients will be notified no later than Thursday, May 19.
2022-23 PA Pre-K Counts Application Process Begins
The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning has announced the start to a competitive Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts Request for Applications (RFA) process.
This RFA is intended to support providers in preparing to serve and enroll children by September 2022. The RFA is being released in April 2022 to give providers time to conduct outreach to families; recruit, hire and train staff; and plan for implementing the program pending grant approval.
Applicants must submit Letters of Intent to RA-PAPreKCounts@pa.gov by 3 p.m. on May 11, 2022. Only applicants that submit a complete Letter of Intent by the deadline will be permitted to apply for funding.
For more details, the department encourages potential applicants to review its RFA Guidance.
Merging PA State System of Higher Education Universities Given NCAA Approval to Field Full Complement of Athletic Teams
The integrating universities of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield in the northeast (which will form the new Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania) and California, Clarion, and Edinboro in the west (to form the new Pennsylvania Western University) have received approval from the NCAA Division II Membership Committee to offer a full complement of athletic programs on each campus that currently hosts them.
The student-athletes and their teams will remain in the NCAA and compete for championships when the university integrations take effect on July 1, 2022.
For more about the decision and reaction to it, CLICK HERE to read a story published by the Williamsport Sun-Gazette on April 20.
Help is Available to Start a Small Business
Next week is Small Business Week in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. It’s a good time to note the entrepreneurial opportunities and local economic benefits that small businesses provide.
Pennsylvania is home to 1.1 million small businesses that employ 2.5 million workers.
The Pennsylvania Business One-Stop Shop has resources for planning, registering, operating and growing a business. It includes CommonGoods, a new website helping consumers find and support local PA businesses while shopping online, and an eCommerce section to help small businesses establish and grow their online presence and sales.
Shoppers can support local employers and the local economy by patronizing small businesses. For every $100 spent at a small business, $48 goes back into the local economy in which the business is located. If that same $100 is spent at a big box store or national retailer, only $14 makes it back to the local economy.
Manufacturing Advanced Expo on May 3 at The Red Fern in Kersey, Elk County
After a several-year hiatus, the Manufacturing Advanced Expo in returning to our region, with the event planned for Tuesday, May 3, from 10:30 a.m. through 3 p.m., at The Red Fern Banquet and Conference Center located in Kersey, Elk County.
The expo is a big deal for regional manufacturers to have this opportunity to see, locally and all in one place, so many technology solutions to improve their operations. It’ll showcase over 35 exhibits with the latest advancements in robotics and automation technology. Vendors will demonstrate how manufacturing technology solutions can ease workforce challenges for a smarter, more productive shop floor. Educational sessions will be held to highlight advanced technology and applications.
CLICK HERE for more details about the event found in the expo flyer.
New Small Business Size Standards Announced by U.S. Small Business Administration
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced it issued four final rules to modify revenues-based small business size standards in 16 North American Industrial Classification System sectors that will increase small business eligibility for SBA’s federal contracting and loan programs for about 59,000 additional firms.
According to the SBA, the increases in size standards in 16 sectors will enable some mid-sized businesses to regain their small business status and current small businesses to retain their small business status for a longer period, thereby allowing them to benefit from SBA’s procurement and loan programs.
For more about the SBA’s size standards, CLICK HERE.
In addition to expanding access to SBA programs for approximately 59,000 additional firms, SBA estimates that the four final rules will create contracting opportunities estimated at $1 billion for 844 newly qualified small businesses and extend 96 7(a) and 504 loans to newly qualified small businesses worth nearly $45 million.
The loan amounts, terms and permissible uses vary for the SBA 7(a) and 504 loan programs. SBA 7(a) loans are more often used for working capital or business expansion, while SBA 504 loans are normally used to finance the purchase or improvement of commercial property or equipment.
Free Resources Available for Small Businesses
The Small Business Digital Alliance (SBDA), a new public-private co-sponsorship between the U.S. Small Business Administration and Business Forward, Inc., published a comprehensive suite of free resources to help small businesses expand their customer base, manage their growth, find and retain talent and enter new markets.
According to the SBDA, the resources come from some of our nation’s most respected leaders in business, government, economic development and other aligned spaces. The SBDA’s national members include Amazon, Comcast, Google, LinkedIn, Meta, Microsoft, PayPal, Principal Financial Group, Square (Block, Inc.), TriNet, Venmo, Verizon, Visa and ZenBusiness.
The SBDA resources library will be updated monthly with new resources. The available resources include tools geared toward establishing a digital presence, reaching new markets, managing growth, finding and retaining talent, improving operations, expanding customer bases, e-commerce and raising capital; live workshops and curricula tailored to business leaders’ needs; development and support in accelerating online and social media strategies; and trainings to assist in accessing and utilizing digital tools provided by national members.
Tips on Door-to-Door and In-Person Energy Sales
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission is providing consumer tips on door-to-door sales and marketing activities by agents of competitive electric and natural gas suppliers, reminding consumers of their rights as well as their options when it comes to shopping for and selecting a competitive supplier for natural gas or electric service.
With the change of seasons and more daylight, there’s an uptick in door-to-door sales and marketing activity by competitive suppliers. In Pennsylvania, from April 1 through Sept. 30, hours for door-to-door sales and marketing expand one hour, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. When a local ordinance has stricter limitations, a supplier must comply with the local ordinance.
You are not required to choose a competitive supplier for electricity or natural gas supply. Agents who conduct door-to-door activities, or appear at public events, are required to wear an identification badge. They must immediately leave a residence when requested and must honor a customer’s request to be exempted from future door-to-door sales and marketing activities. You can find tips on avoiding deceptive or high-pressure sales here.
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