Senator Ward, J E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Interview with PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding
  • Rural Hospitals Roundtable
  • DCNR Grant Application Round Now Open to Assist Communities with Parks, Recreation, and Conservation Projects
  • Report Details Plan to Maintain and Support PA’s Education System
  • Attracting and Retaining the Best Teachers
  • Denied a Health Care Claim? Request a Review
  • 2023 Accomplishments: Healthy and Safe Communities
  • Fishing and Boating Grants Available Now
  • January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month
  • Out and About in the 30th

Interview with PA Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding

It was a pleasure to sit down with Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding and talk to him about this year’s PA Farm Show. We talked about what some of the highlights were, the future of agriculture in PA, and the milkshakes of course. Check out the interview above.

Rural Hospitals Roundtable

This week I attended a Rural Hospitals Roundtable that included the Commonwealth’s Department of Health, Department of Human Services, Department of Aging, Insurance Department, hospital systems, insurance companies, and legislators. We discussed the issues our rural areas are facing with healthcare. With everyone’s cooperation, the state will continue to try to ensure that all citizens from rural and urban settings have proper care.

Photos include PA Secretary of Aging Jason Kavulich, Mike Makosky, Board Chair and CEO at Fulton Medical Center, and Joseph Gribik, President and CEO of Pennsylvania Mountains Healthcare Alliance.

DCNR Grant Application Round Now Open to Assist Communities with Parks, Recreation, and Conservation Projects

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced that grant applications are now being accepted for recreation and conservation projects in communities across Pennsylvania.

The 2024 Community Conservation Partnerships Program grant application round opened this week and will remain active until 4:00 PM, Wednesday, April 3.

Last year, the program awarded more than $52 million to more than 225 local and community projects statewide. Those awards will help build or renovate more than 80 local parks, 23 miles of trails, and permanently protect 6,000 acres of land for public recreation.

Eligible applicants include local governments and recreation and conservation non-profit organizations. The grants fund:

  • Park and recreation rehabilitation and new development
  • Recreation and conservation planning
  • Trail planning and construction
  • Land acquisition and conservation
  • River access and conservation
  • Community and riparian tree planting
  • Regional and statewide partnerships to better develop and manage resources

Grant applications are only accepted through DCNR’s Grants Customer Service Portal. A portal tutorial video is available on DCNR’s YouTube channel to help potential applicants learn about  grant requirements and how to navigate the application interface.

DCNR staff are available to assist with answering questions, visiting potential project sites, and developing competitive grant applications. Before starting an application, potential applicants should contact the agency regional advisor who serves the county where their project will be located. Contact information is available on the Regional Staff Assignment map (PDF).

Funding for Community Conservation Partnerships Program grants comes from multiple state and federal sources, including:

  • Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund
  • Environmental Stewardship Fund
  • Pennsylvania Heritage Area Program
  • Keystone Tree Fund
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • Recreational Trails Program

Community Conservation Partnerships Program grants have helped permanently protect more than 435,000 acres across Pennsylvania for outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, and water quality. More than 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s 6,200 local parks have received a DCNR grant.

For more information, visit DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program webpage.

Report Details Plan to Maintain and Support PA’s Education System

Republican members of the Basic Education Funding Commission shared a report updating the commonwealth’s funding formula for K-12 education as required by law.

The plan would provide greater budget stability for school districts, ensure students will receive at least the same amount as the current year’s historic budget allocations and seek to institute increased accountability for hard-earned tax dollars paying for public education.

To create a plan that benefits students while respecting the taxpayers who foot the bill, the members of the commission gathered testimony from more than 90 individuals at 14 public hearings and received more than 1,000 comments through the public website. Learn more.

Attracting and Retaining the Best Teachers

As Senate Republicans work to ensure all students have the opportunity to receive a quality education that sets them up for future success, one focus is attracting and retaining great teachers.

In addition to a high rate of teachers retiring or switching professions, fewer students are training to become teachers. To fight that concerning trend, we created a teacher stipend program. Through the program, a $10,000 stipend is available for individuals to complete their student teaching requirement. Students may claim an additional $5,000 stipend if they complete their student teaching in schools that don’t traditionally have student teachers and schools with high teacher vacancies.

Another new law reduces barriers for teachers moving to Pennsylvania by entering the state into the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact. Teachers with eligible certification in other compact states would not be required to complete additional materials, exams or coursework when applying for certification in Pennsylvania. They would still be required to complete background checks and other security clearances.

Denied a Health Care Claim? Request a Review

Because of legislation passed late in 2022, Pennsylvanians who believe their insurer has wrongly denied a health insurance claim can now request a review of the decision to be completed by the Pennsylvania Insurance Department.

The denial can be for a service, treatment or item. An independent group of experienced doctors and health care professionals will review the case. If the review determines the request should have been covered, your health plan must do so. Independent review decisions are final and binding.

Act 46 of 2022 also streamlined the prior authorization – when physicians and other health care providers must obtain advance approval from a health plan before services and treatment are rendered – and step therapy processes for medical treatment.

2023 Accomplishments: Healthy and Safe Communities

Families, not government, are the heart of our commonwealth. To empower families, we must provide healthy and safe communities.

In 2023, Senate Republicans passed a key health care measure that eliminated out-of-pocket costs for genetic testing of hereditary cancer syndromes and supplemental screenings for women at high risk of developing breast cancer. We also addressed crucial public health needs for emergency medical services, hospitals and nursing homes and ensured Pennsylvanians continue to receive access to needed health care services.

Other new laws provide critical nourishment for medically fragile babies and increase access to licensed addiction treatment programs for people facing substance use disorder.

Fishing and Boating Grants Available Now

Organizations that provide hands-on education for the recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) of anglers and boaters in Pennsylvania have until March 1 to apply for grants.

Education programs play a role in R3 by providing experiences that increase fishing and boating knowledge and skills, facilitate social support, and provide information on fishing and boating opportunities close to home.

The funding must be used for eligible expenses for projects running approximately July 1 through June 30, 2025. Grants require at least a 25% match of total project costs.

January is Human Trafficking Prevention Month

In recognition of January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month, the Senate Majority Policy Committee recently held a hearing to help raise awareness about the complexities of human trafficking crime and to discuss strategies for prevention, victim support and the prosecution of traffickers. I was pleased to attend this hearing on such an important issue our country and commonwealth is facing. Law enforcement, policymakers and people on the front lines of raising awareness about and helping victims of human trafficking joined the conversation.

By way of force, fraud and coercion, human traffickers push their victims into sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. In 2021, 315 victims were identified in Pennsylvania. If you suspect human trafficking, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or the ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.

The Senate also passed legislation to ensure sexually exploited children who are human trafficking victims have full access to appropriate services and support. Act 39 of 2023 would ensure that third-party control is never a consideration for access to services, and Senate Bill 45 would eliminate the third-party control requirement to access victim services under the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline Notification Act.

Out and About in the 30th

In spite of frigid temperatures, a robust group of supporters walked 1.25 miles in the 37th Annual Respect for Life March in Tyrone (Blair County). We walked to the gravesite of an unidentified baby named “Baby Agnes” who was found in a trash bin shortly after her birth. We walked to show support and respect for life at all stages.

Shown are Fr. Michael Pleva, Pastor of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Tyrone, Shirley Hall a member of Catholic Daughters, and holding the sign is former State Rep. John McGinnis.


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