WILKES-BARRE — U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright this week joined the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and other legislators to highlight the local impact of the bipartisan infrastructure deal in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Cartwright highlighted what this bill actually means, not just in board strokes, but for the residents of Luzerne County.
“In Northeastern Pennsylvania, this bill is going to create good paying jobs and position our area for strong economic growth into the future,” said Cartwright, D-Moosic. “The passenger rail funding will enable Amtrak to build out its proposed Scranton-to-NYC line, generating $87 million per year in economic activity.”
Cartwright added, “We will be able to bring broadband into every corner of rural Northeastern Pennsylvania so it’s affordable and accessible, something that’s critical when we rely on the internet for so much. We’ll even be able to support efforts to reclaim the more than 300 abandoned mine land sites across our region that have scarred our landscape for so long. We can do truly transformative things when we invest in ourselves like we are now. Democrats are proud to deliver this plan to create more jobs, rebuild all the infrastructure that makes our country run, and ensure our nation and our businesses have the best competitive edge in the global economy.”
Cartwright said many roads, bridges and sewer systems in Northeastern Pennsylvania need investment, they need to be rebuilt and need to be upgraded, Cartwright lamented. They are “all things that make our country run, and we have let them fall into disrepair over the past four years.”
Cartwright thanked the 13 Republicans members of the House who crossed the aisle to vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, which provides independent analysis on state budget matters, went through the bill and created estimates based on the formulas it contains.
He projects that the state could receive a minimum of $17.8 billion in new spending, allocated as
• $11.3 billion for federal highway programs and $1.6 billion for bridge replacement and repairs.
This is critical in a state that regularly receives failing grades for the condition of its bridges and highways and where commute times are increasing. The state’s drivers pay more for car maintenance because of both.
• Another $2.8 billion over five years for public transportation and $171 million to add electric
vehicle charging stations.
• At least $100 million that could increase broadband coverage, vital for rural Pennsylvania.
• $1.4 billion to improve water infrastructure, desperately needed in Pittsburgh and surrounding municipalities.
• $355 million for the state’s airports, $49 million to protect against wildfires, $26 million to
prevent cyber attacks, and investments in weatherization and energy efficiency.
Wolf Administration highlights anticipated funding through federal infrastructure plan
Gov. Tom Wolf this week shared an overview of enhancements Pennsylvania anticipates receiving through the passage of President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
“This comprehensive package will provide critical federal funding to Pennsylvania’s infrastructure, support economic growth throughout the commonwealth, and provide stable, good-paying jobs for Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said. “Restoring the commonwealth’s infrastructure has been a priority throughout my administration and I am grateful for President Biden’s and our Democratic Congressional Delegation’s shared vision and leadership on this important issue.”
Based on historical formula funding, the White House anticipates Pennsylvania receiving the following infrastructure improvements with federal funding:
• Repair and rebuild roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity, and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians. Based on formula funding, Pennsylvania would expect to receive $11.3 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $1.6 billion for bridge replacement and repairs.
• Improve health, sustainable transportation options. Through formula funding, Pennsylvania expects to receive $2.8 billion over five years to improve public transportation options across the commonwealth.
• Build a network of electronic vehicle (EV) chargers to facilitate long-distance travel and provide convenient charging options. Pennsylvania expects to receive $171 million over five years to support the expansion of an EV charging network across the commonwealth.
• Help connect every Pennsylvanian to reliable high-speed internet. Pennsylvania will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband coverage across the commonwealth, including providing access to the at least 394,000 Pennsylvanians who currently lack coverage. Additionally, 23 percent of Pennsylvanians will be eligible for the Affordability Connectivity Benefit, which will help low-income families afford internet access.
• Prepare more of our infrastructure for the impacts of climate change, cyber-attacks, and extreme weather events. Based on historical formula funding levels, Pennsylvanian will expect to receive $49 million over five years to protect against wildfires and $26 million to protect against cyber-attacks. Pennsylvanians will also benefit from the bill’s historic $3.5 billion national investment in weatherization which will reduce energy costs for families.
• Deliver clean drinking water to Pennsylvanians. Based on the traditional state revolving fund formula, Pennsylvania will expect to receive $1.4 billion over five years to improve water infrastructure and ensure clean, safe drinking water throughout the commonwealth.
• Improve commonwealth airports. Pennsylvania’s airports expect to receive $355 million for infrastructure improvements over the next five years.
Treasurer Garrity warns of text messages from scammers
Treasurer Stacy Garrity this week warned Pennsylvanians that scammers are using fraudulent text messages to target recipients of unemployment compensation benefits — potentially including normal unemployment compensation (UC), Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).
One message tells recipients — inaccurately — that their “state-issued ReliaCard account has been temporarily frozen.” It encourages recipients to click on a link “to verify [their] identity and card status.”
“If you get a text message like this, do not click on the link,” Garrity said. “This is a scam and nothing but a scam. Criminals have been aggressively targeting unemployment compensation benefits throughout the pandemic, and this is their latest attempt to steal money from honest Pennsylvanians.”
Garrity noted that neither the Pennsylvania Treasury nor the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) ever embed a link in a text message. Any text that includes a link and claims to be from Treasury or L&I is not authentic and should not be trusted.
More generally, it’s important to never provide any personally identifiable information, user IDs, or passwords unless you initiated the conversation by contacting the agency directly.
DEP, PennDOT seek volunteers to ‘Pick Up Pennsylvania’ to benefit streams, rivers, lakes
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Department of Transportation (PennDOT) this week encouraged Pennsylvanians to volunteer for “Pick Up Pennsylvania” — a statewide campaign of fall litter cleanups to benefit streams, rivers, and lakes, now through Nov. 30.
Volunteer groups who participate in the PennDOT Adopt-A-Highway program are also encouraged to participate.
“Our waterways foster pride of place for many Pennsylvanians and shouldn’t be trashed,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “It’s important to make the connection between actions on the land and their impact on our waters. From community groups to co-workers, the volunteers who understand this connection and join in Pick Up Pennsylvania each fall do a world of good for all Pennsylvanians and the ecosystem we depend on.”
“These volunteer cleanup efforts are so important,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “Volunteers are the very heart of our Adopt-A-Highway program, saving millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”
McDonnell and Gramian spoke at an event with Penbrook Borough community leaders and representatives from Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful before joining in a litter cleanup that started at Penbrook Community Park.
Pick Up Pennsylvania is coordinated by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful and sponsored by DEP, PennDOT, and the Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Zone Cleanup. This support supplies registered events with free trash bags and gloves. Residents around the state can use this Events Calendar to join registered cleanup events in their community. Those who’d like to register their own local cleanup event can do so at Organize an Event.
Individuals, families, neighbors, students, civic organizations and local governments are all invited to participate. Cleanups in any location are eligible, for example, on stream banks and shorelines, along roadsides, and in neighborhoods and parks.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.