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In this email update:
Wolf veto protects welfare system status quo
Recently, Governor Wolf vetoed bipartisan legislation that would have established basic work requirements for able-bodied Medicaid recipients. House Bill 2138 would have required able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work at least 20 hours a week or complete job training and educational tasks. Those excluded from the legislation included pregnant mothers, high school students, individuals over the age of 65, those receiving disability benefits and other groups who could not reasonably perform any work duties.
We were given a real opportunity to help control climbing costs while ensuring that funds are reserved for those who truly need it. In the last ten years, Medicaid expenses increased over 35 percent while our overall state spending increased eight percent. The Department of Human Services acknowledged earlier this year that more than half (486,000 of 942,000) non-disabled Pennsylvania adults on Medicaid are not working.
In both Schuylkill and Berks Counties, both with record-low unemployment, many employers are telling me they need more new employees for good-paying jobs. How can we have good jobs with vacancies, while at the same time we have able-bodied workers without jobs? Rather than filing these vacancies with able-bodied workers and increasing their income, the governor has decided to continue the disastrous status quo.
New optimism at our state system universities, including Kutztown State University
On Thursday, I joined Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and Dr. Daniel Greenstein, the Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to discuss the future of the PASSHE system. Speaking at the open forum at Kutztown University, the new Chancellor was both optimistic about the universities’ future, as well as realistic about the challenges ahead, as noted in this story in the Reading Eagle.
Dr. Greenstein and I have discussed the various routes that can be taken to help address the problems of the system. It is important to remember that our state system is the largest provider of higher education in Pennsylvania, the tenth largest university system in the United States and the 43rdd largest in the world. I look forward to continue to work with all parties to address these issues head on.
School safety funds awarded to Schuylkill and Berks school districts
All of the school districts in the 29th District will receive a $25,000 grant through $60 million in new funding for the School Safety and Security Grant Program. This program was created during the 2018-2019 budget to help improve student and school safety.
Program funding can be used to hire school security officers, purchasing security-related technology, completing safety and security assessments, implementing violence prevention curricula, offering counseling services for students and other programs to protect students.
As chair of the Senate Majority Policy Committee, I held a series of roundtables across Pennsylvania this summer to discuss different ways to improve the safety of our students and teachers. I spoke with a variety of academic and law enforcement experts. You can view all the roundtable discussions and additional information about school safety at the link provided here.
Unemployment falls in the 29th District
With a strong economy, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate has been reduced significantly. At this time last year, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was 4.8 percent. The state’s current unemployment rate is 4.2 percent.
According to the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Schuylkill County’s unemployment rate since this time last year has fallen from 6.2 percent to 5.5 percent. Berks County’s unemployment rate has fallen from 5 percent to 4.3 percent.
With the good economy, employers across the 29th District are looking for qualified employees to fill family sustaining jobs. Residents of both counties can find valuable career resources through Pennsylvania Career Link. Schuylkill County residents can follow the link provided here. Berks County residents can follow the link provided here.
Set your clocks back!
Daylight Saving Time officially ends on Sunday, November 4th so don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour. Though there will be more light in the morning for your early commute, you’ll have a darker ride home. On the bright side, at least you’ll have an extra hour of sleep on Sunday!
Founding Father and famous Pennsylvanian Benjamin Franklin proposed an idea in 1784 to conserve candle wax (most believe Franklin joked regarding the idea) but Germany was the first country to adopt Daylight Saving Time in 1916 as an effort to conserve coal during WWI. The United States would adopt Daylight Saving Time in 1918 but ceased its practice when WWI ended. America re-adopted Daylight Saving Time in 1974 as a response to the nation-wide energy crisis.
PA Forward Student Loan Program
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) has announced that it is launching a new student financial aid option starting in the 2019-2020 academic year.
The PA Forward Student Loan Program can assist Pennsylvania students, families and schools with higher education tuition costs that are not covered by grants, schoalrships, federal student loans or other forms of aid. This program is designed for undergraduates, graduates, parents and those looking to refinance their student loans. Coverage is up to the total cost of attendance with no application or prepayment fees.
More information on this program can be found at the link provided here.
Leaf Peepers Fall for PA
Penn’s Woods 2018 Fall Foliage schedule focuses on 23 prime PA locations to experience autumn’s blaze of color, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (PA DCNR).
VisitPA Road Trips showcase a colorful Commonwealth for year round adventure. Choose a Leaf Peepers Road Trip and find yourself on Route 6, one of America’s most scenic drives, according to National Geographic, for breathtaking views of northwestern Pennsylvania’s forests and mountains.
The Northern Tier of Pennsylvania also offers an eastern Leaf Peepers Road Trip. East, west, north, or south, VisitPA is your year round guide for things to do, dining, and places to stay along the way.
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