In this Update:
Support Students in Failing Schools
Senate Republicans and Democrat Gov. Josh Shapiro compromised on a state budget agreement for the 2023-24 fiscal year. That agreement included an increase of more than half a billion dollars to fund public education in Pennsylvania.
In addition to the substantial public education funding, the budget deal also reflected the reality that many students are trapped in failing public schools. It included $100 million for the Pennsylvania Award for Student Success (PASS) Program, which would give thousands of students increased educational opportunities.
Unfortunately, House Democrats refused to pass a budget until the governor pledged to abandon his own stated priority and to veto this opportunity for students, which he did. You may make your support known for PASS scholarships by signing a petition here.
Higher Property Tax/Rent Rebates Available Next Year
The Senate passed legislation that will increase the amount of rebates for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program and expand the income eligibility for it, beginning next year.
Because income eligibility limits weren’t raised for 16 years, the number of recipients of the program dropped from about 600,000 individuals to an estimated 398,000 in the current year. The legislation also includes an annual cost of living adjustment so the program will keep pace with inflation and people won’t lose their rebate just because they received a modest increase in their Social Security benefits.
Review the new rebate amounts, available next year, here.
$36 Million in Grants Will Improve Traffic Safety
Nearly $36 million will be used to relieve traffic in 77 Pennsylvania municipalities through traffic signal upgrades and measures to increase safety and mobility.
The Green Light-Go grants are provided as reimbursement to municipalities for updates to improve the efficiency and operation of existing traffic signals. They may be used for LED technology installation and traffic signal retiming.
Area grant recipients are:
Call 988 for Suicide Prevention and Crisis Support
To support Pennsylvanians facing mental health challenges, Senate Republicans have dedicated funding to mental health services in schools and more support staff in nursing facilities. The budget passed this year by Senate Republicans will provide $100 million for student mental health.
This effort complements other resources. Dialing 988 connects callers considering suicide, self-harm or any behavioral or mental health need with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It can also assist people looking for help for a loved one. Lifeline services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to the caller.
Trained professionals can provide therapeutic interventions, make referrals for outpatient services or transportation for further evaluation and even activate a mobile mental health crisis team to arrive on site. Learn more here.
DMAP Permits for State Game Lands on Sale Now
Permits are on sale now for hunters to harvest antlerless deer – one per tag – on some state game lands through Pennsylvania’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) to enable successful forest management. Overbrowsing by deer is hurting those efforts, changing the composition of the forest.
While DMAP has been around for years, it was previously offered only on other public lands and private lands to help landowners achieve land use goals or to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease.
Keep Your Pets Safe in the Summer Heat
As the dog days of summer drag on, we have to protect our pets from the heat. The American Red Cross has tips to help your pets stay safe:
Even taking proper precautions, pets can overheat. Heat stroke is a common problem for pets. Learn the signs and what to do if you suspect your pet has heat stroke here.
In addition to elevated temperatures, summer brings other potential safety issues for pets. Swimming in a pool is a great way to stay cool, but it can be dangerous for animals. Never leave your pets unsupervised around a pool. Barbecues can also be unsafe, so keep your pets away from the grill and know what foods can be poisonous to them.
Celebrating Back to School Month by Brushing Up on School Bus Safety
Parents, students and teachers are preparing to head back to school to start the new academic year. Soon, school buses will be transporting students again, and that requires additional caution from all drivers.
Pennsylvania law requires motorists to stop at least 10 feet away from school buses when their red lights are flashing and their stop arm is extended. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety. Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety. Read more about school bus safety here.
Penalties for failure to obey school bus safety laws can result in a $250 fine, five points on a driving record and a 60-day license suspension.