In this Update:
Hackers Spamming with Senate E-mail Address
Earlier this week, I was made aware that some hackers are spoofing my Senate e-mail address, sending e-mails pretending to be me.
These emails then offer a link to collect “exclusive awards” if you click on the link to provide your opinion about a commercial company. We never provide such links and will not have an affiliation with a company with which we would make such offers to please never click on such links. People who have received these emails have also indicated that the link to “unsubscribe” does not work either. Don’t click on any links, even the “unsubscribe” links on any suspicious emails. It is better to simply delete the email so as to not alert the spammer that yours is a legitimate email to which they can send more garbage.
After being notified, I contacted our computer services staff with the Senate Republican Caucus. I was told what is being sent out is junk email that spoofs/fakes my Senate e-mail address and it isn’t something our e-mail system can control or for which I or the caucus are responsible. Apparently, this can happen to anyone, but it seems to happen more often with public e-mail addresses.
I urge everyone to be vigilant regarding their e-mail and any online personal information.
Please be vigilant regarding your email and I would recommend you not send your personal information out to anyone in response to an unsolicited email.
2021-2022 Legislative Session Nears the Midway Point
The first year of the 2021-2022 legislative session is coming to a close with enactment of several key measures and more work to do in the second year.
This fall, the Senate passed bills to ease nursing home staff shortages, enable more schools to combat pandemic learning loss, help farmers transport goods and make home deliveries, and make political campaigns more transparent.
That’s just a sample. I’ll highlight these and other bills in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can check a complete rundown here.
VA Alerts Veterans About Printing and Mailing Delays Affecting Claims
Many veterans have been experiencing long delays with receiving correspondence from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The VA this week announced that due to supply chain issues and staffing shortages, the vendor contracted by the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to provide printing services for the VA is experiencing delays in printing and mailing notification letters to veterans and claimants, with the disruption potentially impacting the ability of some claimants to meet required deadlines via written correspondence with the VA.
In response to the mailing delays and to protect the best interest of claimants, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is extending their response period by 90 calendar days for claimants with letters dated between July 13, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2021.
If a claimant does not reply to a time-limited notification, such as making an election of benefits or services or reporting for a scheduled compensation and pension examination, VBA will not take adverse action to deny, reduce or terminate benefits and services unless: 1) the claimant is contacted and there is documentation of their right to respond; 2) the requested information has been received; or 3) the response period has lapsed.
The VA and GPO indicate they are proactively working to quickly address the mailing delays.
Veterans and claimants with questions can contact the VA at 800-827-1000.
Veterans who filed an appeal with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals can click here for information about how the delays are affecting the operations of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals and what the Board is doing to address the situation.
Shopping Local Helps Neighbors, Strengthens Communities
Small businesses create 65% of jobs in Pennsylvania, and these local employers could use our help this holiday shopping season.
Shopping local doesn’t just help the local economy, it builds relationships within the community. Buying from business owners you trust makes shopping experiences more enjoyable because you know where the products are coming from and the people behind those products.
When you shop locally, many of the goods and services are locally sourced or crafted. This means that many of the items are one of a kind and carry a unique story.
It’s important to remember these local businesses are key contributors to the tax base in your community and so many also contribute to our communities in ways that benefit you, your family, neighbors and friends.
I know it’s not always possible, but when you can, I hope you will support your local employers this season and year-round.
Preparing Sites for Jobs: State Assistance is Available
Municipalities, municipal authorities, redevelopment authorities, industrial development agencies and private developers can apply now for funding to prepare sites for jobs-producing development.
The Business in Our Sites program has no maximum or minimum loan amount. However, the amount of the grant may not exceed $4 million or 40% of the total combined grant and loan award, whichever is less. Private developers are only eligible for loans. As the recent grant awards in the 25th District show, I and the five House members in the 25th District are working to get real infrastructure money, money that our people have paid in taxes in one way or another, back to our area in ways that will help us keep our young people gainfully employed.
Applications will be accepted through March 31, 2022. The program is overseen by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
Rural Broadband Loans, Grants Available Through Federal ReConnect Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it has begun accepting applications for up to $1.15 billion in loans and grants to help people in rural areas get access to high-speed internet.
Those eligible for the funding, which is being made available through the ReConnect Program, include state, local or territory governments; corporations; Native American tribes; limited liability companies; and cooperative organizations.
According to the USDA, the funding is available for projects that serve rural areas where at least 90% of the households lack broadband service at speeds of 100/20 Mbps. USDA says it will give funding priority to projects that will serve people in low-density rural areas and areas lacking internet access services at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps.
North Central Regional Development, Tri-County Electric Co-operative and I have been working to make the most efficient use of the monies we’ve brought back to expand rural broadband. As ranking member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee Congressman Thompson has been working to make the federal requirements easier to navigate. We will all be working to ensure the private businesses which have been given federal money under these and other programs are put to the proper use.
Applications for funding must be submitted by Feb. 22, 2022 through USDA Rural Development’s online application system on the ReConnect webpage. More resources related to the ReConnect Program can be found on the USDA website.
Dealing with the Challenges of Driving in Snow
In our area we know that while our winter driving conditions can be exciting they are not necessarily fun. No one wants to get behind the wheel when it’s snowing, but sometimes we have no choice. PennDOT offers tips for driving in wintry conditions:
PennDOT Soliciting Feedback on Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Plan
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has initiated its Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Action Plan and will received assistance with the effort from national planning and engineering consultants, AECOM and Envision.
Through this endeavor, PennDOT seeks to understand and evaluate stakeholders’ feedback and recommendations for improving grade crossing safety across the state.
Any questions should be directed to info@PAStateActionPlan.com and a team member will reach out to you.
Walk-up COVID-19 Testing Now Available in Clinton County Through Dec. 11
Through Dec. 11, the Pennsylvania Health Department in conjunction with AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, along with Clinton County Department of Emergency Services and Lock Haven University, are providing walk-up COVID-19 testing to Clinton County residents.
The testing will be done at Lock Haven University’s East Campus Gymnasium, located at 340 West Main Street in Lock Haven. The location is open from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and from 8 a.m. through 2 p.m. on Saturday.
All Clinton County residents, age 3 and older, can receive the testing on a first come, first serve basis, with 450 tests to be conducted daily.
The tests being performed are mid-nasal passage swab PCR tests. Turnaround time for the testing is two to seven days. Those seeking testing do not have to have COVID-19 symptoms to be tested, and there is no appointment necessary. You are encouraged to bring a photo-ID or insurance card (children without a photo-ID can have their parent or guardian provide the child’s Social Security Number and complete a HIPPA Form). Those without health insurance will be tested at no charge.
Federal Officials Accepting Comments on Regulation Requiring All Healthcare Workers to get COVID-19 Vaccine
As many of you have probably read and/or heard, the federal government has been implementing policies requiring much of the population to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
And while a Louisiana federal court earlier this week issued a preliminary injunction that halts, nationwide, a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers, the matter is not yet resolved and it will be decided by a higher court at a later date.
CMS is currently accepting public comment about the regulation, with the deadline for comment submission being no later than 5 p.m. on Jan. 4, 2022. Comments can be submitted one of three ways:
CMS states that all comments received before the close of the comment period will be posted as quickly as possible on http://www.regulations.gov. They suggest following the search instructions on that website to view public comments.
I urge everyone interested in this issue to submit comment prior to the Jan. 4, 2022 deadline.
Remembering Pearl Harbor
Tuesday marks the 80th anniversary of Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941. The surprise strike would cost the lives of more than 2,400 military personnel and civilians.
We mark this date knowing that while the attack decimated America’s Pacific fleet, our resilience and industrial might would allow the U.S. to build a military force powerful enough to defeat the Japanese Empire and Nazi Germany.
“This war will give us much trouble in the future,” said Japan’s Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. “The fact that we have had a small success at Pearl Harbor is nothing.” On Tuesday, we will remember the lives lost 80 years ago, and note the fate that awaits any adversary who questions American resolve.
Hanukkah ends at sundown Monday evening, wrapping up an observance that this year began Nov. 28.
To everyone celebrating Hanukkah, chag urim sameach, “Happy Festival of Lights.”
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