Jan. 20, 2017

Pennsylvania Granted Extension for REAL ID

 
Pennsylvania has been granted an extension by the federal government to comply with the requirements of the REAL ID Act until June 5, 2017. This will allow Pennsylvania residents to continue using their driver’s licenses as identification to enter federal buildings through June.

The extension gives state leaders more time to work cooperatively to fix state law to allow for federal REAL ID compliance and to ensure that it’s done in a reasonable and cost-effective manner.

Without the extension, residents would have needed additional photo ID, such as a passport, to gain access to federal buildings starting on Jan. 30. The air travel restriction is still in place for 2018, unless additional extensions are granted or the issue is addressed legislatively.

Over the years, the General Assembly and PennDOT have worked to enhance the security of Pennsylvania driver’s licenses, but federal law requires additional improvements.
 
 
My Open House Was Successful

My thanks to all who came by the new district office for our open house and ribbon-cutting this week. My staff and I had an enjoyable time meeting and talking with many residents.

As always, if you have any concerns on state-related issues, contact the office at (724) 438-6100, or visit us at 65 W. Main St., Suite 200, in Uniontown. There is an elevator available if you need assistance.

You can get legislative information on my website at RepDowling.com, and follow me on Facebook at Facebook.com/RepDowling.

   

 
Applications Available for Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

 
Forms for the state’s 2016 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program are available for download from the Department of Revenue’s website starting today. Paper forms will be available in the coming weeks.

Eligible participants can receive a rebate of up to $650 based on their rent or property taxes paid in 2016. The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians who are 65 years or older, widows and widowers 50 years or older, and those 18 years or older with disabilities. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.

Residents do not need to pay a private entity for assistance in filing the forms. Copies of the forms, as well as assistance with filing them, are available at no cost at my district office(s); however, applicants should be prepared to provide all the necessary income, property tax or rental information required to process claims quickly and accurately. Applications are due by June 30.

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program is one of many initiatives supported by the Pennsylvania Lottery, which dedicates its proceeds to support programs for older Pennsylvanians.

For more information, visit my website at RepDowling.com, or click here.
 
 
Website Offers Families Help to Save for Disability Expenses

 
A new website about the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Savings Program website is now available at paable.gov to offer essential information on the upcoming program.

The ABLE Savings Program gives individuals with qualified disabilities a tax-free way to save for future disability-related expenses, while maintaining government benefits. The site also has a short quiz to help determine eligibility, a comprehensive Frequently Asked Question section and allows users to sign up to receive updates on the program, including when accounts open for enrollment.

Modeled after college 529 savings accounts, PA ABLE accounts allow eligible individuals with qualifying disabilities and their families to save for housing, education, transportation, medical and other expenses without jeopardizing government benefits. The federal tax-free savings and investment options are offered to encourage individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds to support health, independence and quality of life.

The Pennsylvania Treasury, which operates the site, has also opened an ABLE Call Center at (855) 529-2253 which operates Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
 
 
Highlands Hospital Named Center of Excellence

Highlands Hospital of Connellsville was identified as one of 25 new Centers of Excellence locations in Pennsylvania that will offer high-quality treatment to individuals with opioid and heroin-related substance abuse disorders.
Gov. Tom Wolf came to Highlands Hospital and hosted a roundtable discussion about the opioid and heroin epidemic. I was honored to join in this discussion along with other local and state officials.

 

In this photo taken during the roundtable discussion are Rep. Pam Snyder (D-Fayette/Green/Washington), myself, Gov. Tom Wolf, Highlands Hospital CEO Michelle Cunningham, Sen. Pat Stefano (R-Fayette/Somerset/Westmoreland), Rep. Ryan Warner (R-Fayette/Westmoreland), and Fayette County Commissioners Vincent Vicites and Dave Lohr.
 
 
Veterans Registry Helps Put Vets in Touch with Services

 
Thousands of Pennsylvania veterans have been better connected to benefits, programs and services, thanks to an online registry launched a year ago by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA).

Registration is conveniently available by using a computer or mobile device and visiting register.dmva.pa.gov. The process takes just a couple of minutes and includes the registrant providing basic information such as name, age, home address, email address, etc.

Registrants can choose to have their information shared with their county director for veterans affairs and other relevant state agencies. They can also opt in to receive timely, informative emails regarding local, state and national news; program updates; community events; and employment opportunities available specifically for veterans.

Pennsylvania is home to nearly 900,000 veterans.
 
 
Congratulations Isaac Melvin!


 

It is a privilege to congratulate our newest Eagle Scout, Isaac Melvin of Uniontown. I presented a House citation this outstanding young man who is an example of the fine young people we have in our region.
 
 
My Audio Podcast

 
I am recording audio Legislative Report podcasts on a periodic basis. You can listen to them by clicking on the Audio Podcast link above the headline in this email, and all future ones.

In the new edition, I talk about the availability of Property Tax-Rent Rebate Program application forms, the Healthy Woman Program, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

All podcasts are on my website as well at RepDowling.com. Just click on the audio section in the left column.
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