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In this Email Update:
Summit on heroin/opioid crisis focuses on youth outreach, prevention and education
Schuylkill County District Attorney Christine Holman and I hosted a roundtable discussion with county and state officials regarding the local impacts of the heroin and opioid addiction crisis on Thursday.
The conversation focused on ongoing programs to reduce drug abuse, particularly among young people.
The consequences of the addiction crisis have been staggering, but it is a complicated problem with no easy solutions. There is a critical need to attack this problem from every possible angle. I appreciate all of the panelists who took the time to examine existing programs and new proposals to help save lives.
Read more about the event here.
Nativity BVM students get Pottsville office in Christmas spirit
The Pottsville Business Association is hosting a holiday window decorating contest throughout the downtown.
Three students from Nativity BVM are participating in the contest and are painting the windows in my Pottsville office.
Students Ana Ozorio (yellow shirt), who is an exchange student from Brazil currently residing with a family in Lake Wynonah, Hanna Dowd (black shirt) from Orwigsburg and Megan Ryan (plaid shirt) from Pottsville are busy getting my office into the holiday spirit this afternoon.
Be sure to check out their final product if you happen to be downtown – 100 N. Centre Street, Pottsville.
The winner of the contest will be chosen on December 8.
Asking for greater transparency of YOUR state government
Representative Jerry Knowles and I recently asked the Attorney General, Auditor General and Inspector General to look into how funds were spent by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
The department is threatening to lay off hundreds of employees due to insufficient funding and continues to demand that the legislature return to authorize a transfer of Unemployment Compensation funds.
However, over the last four years, the department transferred a total of $178 million due to a law passed by the General Assembly in 2013 to pay (in addition to the federal government) for these employees. That same law also required the department to submit a report to the General Assembly to account for how the department spent the funds each year.
To date, the legislature received one report that lacked details we need to show how the funding was spent.
Rep. Knowles and I want to know what that money has been used for and how we can best move forward. Unfortunately, the department has failed to do so.
Apply Now for Home Heating Assistance Program
Pennsylvania’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is now taking applications through March 31, 2017 for home heating assistance to qualifying low- and fixed-income individuals and families, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
Income eligibility for heating assistance for a household of one is $17,820, increasing incrementally with a family of ten’s income eligibility set at $73,815.
Each additional person over ten raises the limit by $6,240.
Locating lost insurance policies for loved ones
Beneficiaries and those who have reason to believe they may have been designated a beneficiary may begin by filing a free request with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), triggering the NAIC, PID and life insurance companies to search their databases.
Within 90 days, the requester should be notified if a policy exists and whether he or she is a beneficiary or entitled to information about the life insurance policy.
You may contact the Pennsylvania Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau for further assistance at 1-877-881-6388 or send an email for additional insurance-related questions or issues to be resolved.
Candle fire safety tips in time for the holidays
The continued popularity of candles is prompting a reminder from the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner (OSFC) that December is the peak month for candle fires and Christmas is the peak day.
Noting falling asleep as a factor in 12 percent of home candle fires and 26 percent of the associated deaths, the OSFC warns against leaving a candle unattended and when going to bed.
Candle fire safety measures require a minimum one foot safety circle around a burning candle. Please be especially careful to keep candles away from Christmas trees, decorations, clothing and paper. Children and pets should also be kept away from candles, matches and lighters.
The OSFC offers a variety of prevention and educational materials for year-round safety.
Aggressive driving enforcement expected during holiday season
The holiday Aggressive Driving Campaign is focusing on speeding, driving too fast for conditions and following too closely, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The Pennsylvania State Police and more than 205 of the state’s municipal police departments are concentrating on roadways with a historically high number of aggressive driving crashes.
Deer collisions cannot increase insurance premiums
The average insurance claim for deer crashes is about $4,000.
With a one in 70 chance of being involved in a deer-related collision, the department is reassuring drivers that their insurance company cannot add a surcharge to their premium for an accident with a deer.
These “not-at-fault” crashes tend to occur at dusk and dawn when deer are most active and drivers are commuting to and from work.
For additional questions, contact the Insurance Department Consumer Services Bureau online or by calling 1-877-881-6388.
Drought watch still in effect for Berks, Schuylkill counties
Following a meeting Wednesday of the Commonwealth Drought Task Force, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced no changes in county drought declarations, despite recent precipitation. Conditions will continue to be monitored, with drought declarations reassessed when the task force meets again in two weeks.
With persistent dry conditions, groundwater levels and stream flows have been affected. “While some stream flow has increased from the precipitation in the past 24 hours, long-term benefits to groundwater are uncertain, as groundwater levels often lag behind stream flow increases,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “We’ll continue monitoring daily for two more weeks before determining whether drought declaration changes are warranted.”
Four counties - Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, and Northampton - were put on drought warning status on November 3. Thirty counties were put on drought watch status.
Precipitation departure is one measurement—along with groundwater level, stream flow, and soil moisture—that DEP uses to determine drought status. In the 34 counties under watch and warning status, precipitation currently ranges from about 3 inches to almost 8 inches below average normals over the past 90 days.
Forecasts call for some continued precipitation over the next two weeks.
Counties on drought watch are Adams, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Clinton, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Mifflin, Montgomery, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Union, Wayne, and York Counties. Citizens are encouraged to reduce their nonessential water use by 5 percent.
A drought emergency, which requires a proclamation from the Governor, has not been declared for any county. An emergency calls for mandatory restrictions on nonessential water use to protect water supplies as well as public health and safety. The DEP has not issued any mandatory water restrictions.
Drought watch and warning declarations in late fall/early winter, while not common, have occurred several times in the past decade, in 2011, 2010, and 2008.
DEP suggests several steps citizens can take to voluntarily reduce their water use:
DEP also offers other water conservation recommendations and water audit procedures for commercial and industrial users, such as food processors, hotels and educational institutions. These recommendations and additional drought monitoring information are available on the DEP Drought Information website.
The Drought Task Force will meet next on December 16.