Senator Judy Ward E-Newsletter

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In This Update:

  • Governor’s Budget Plan Features Massive Spending and Tax Increases
  • Hearing Details Shortfalls of Wolf Administration’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
  • Secretary of State Resigns After Critical Error on Constitutional Amendment
  • Resources Available to Answer Unemployment Claimants’ Year-End Tax Questions
  • New Fraud Attempts Target Social Media Users
  • 2021 Trout Stocking Schedule Available Now

Governor’s Budget Plan Features Massive Spending and Tax Increases

Governor Wolf unveiled a $40.2 billion spending plan for 2021-22 last week that includes more than $3 billion in new government spending – which would be the largest spending increase in the state’s history. The governor’s plan also includes an increase in the Personal Income Tax that would boost the amount of state tax taken out of every Pennsylvanian’s paycheck by 46 percent, as well as another new tax on natural gas that would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher energy bills.

I am deeply concerned about the idea of taking more money out of the paychecks of taxpayers at a time when many families are facing deep financial uncertainty. Many local families are struggling just to pay bills and keep food on the table. The last thing they need right now is a smaller paycheck. Instead of taking $3 billion out of the pockets of taxpayers to fund more state government spending, we should let you keep that money and look for ways to make state government more efficient.

The new taxes and spending are primarily to support education, workforce development and other programs. State lawmakers have made significant progress on all these issues in recent years, and I am confident we can support our schools, boost job training, expand internet service to underserved areas and meet the other needs of our communities without resorting to the massive new spending and taxes Governor Wolf is advocating.

Senator Judy Ward Holds Hearing Detailing Shortfalls of Wolf Administration’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

2/4/21 - COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution in Pennsylvania

Many community residents have contacted me recently with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. As Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, I scheduled a joint hearing with the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last week to get answers about the slow distribution of the vaccine in Pennsylvania. The hearing covered a wide range of issues, but the struggles of long-term care facilities to vaccinate residents and staff was the most prominent area of discussion. Above is a clip that details the struggles the long term care communities are experiencing.

2/4/21 - COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution in Pennsylvania

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control data tracker, as of the day of the hearing, Pennsylvania ranked 45th in the percentage of received COVID-19 vaccines administered.  The whole hearing can be viewed by clicking on the above video.

More information about the hearing is available here.

Secretary of State Resigns After Critical Error on Constitutional Amendment

Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar announced last week that she would resign following news that she neglected to advertise a proposed amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution that would have allowed victims of child sex abuse to file civil lawsuits against their attackers, even if the statute of limitations had expired.

This embarrassing error is the latest in a string of questionable actions taken by Secretary Boockvar that have damaged our Commonwealth. I am hopeful that Governor Wolf will nominate a qualified, capable, and nonpartisan individual to lead the Department of State in the future.

Resources Available to Answer Unemployment Claimants’ Year-End Tax Questions

Unemployment claimants who have year-end tax questions can find answers through a new Frequently Asked Questions page developed by Pennsylvania Treasurer Stacy Garrity’s office. The page includes information on what claimants should do if they have not received their 1099G, how to dispute the amount reported on a 1099G form, and what Pennsylvanians should do if they receive a 1099G because they were a victim of fraud or identity theft, among other topics.

Information is also available on how state residents can report identity theft and fraud related to unemployment benefits, as well as how Treasury can provide evidence that fraud has taken place so victims of these crimes can resolve the issue. The Department of Labor and Industry also has its own FAQ page that covers questions about how to obtain forms, report fraudulent activity and more.

New Fraud Attempts Target Social Media Users

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry is urging social media users to be on the lookout for fraud attempts involving fake Facebook pages and profiles. By creating fake pages and social media profiles posing as department employees, criminals can attempt to obtain the personal information of Pennsylvanians.

A few helpful reminders:

  • The department does not communicate directly to claimants through replies to posts or private messages.
  • The department will never ask individuals to call or text a phone number or send an email.
  • The department’s official Facebook account has a blue check next to the name that identifies it as a verified page.
  • Pennsylvanians should never divulge personal information to the department through social media.

If you have a question pertaining to unemployment benefits, the contact information for the Department of Labor and Industry is:

2021 Trout Stocking Schedule Available Now

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission recently announced its 2021 trout stocking schedule for all Pennsylvania waterways. This year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission plans to stock approximately 3.2 million trout in 701 streams and 128 lakes open to public angling.

Trout season will officially open on April 3, following a single statewide Mentored Youth Trout Fishing Day on March 27.

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