Senator Baker E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Expanding the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program
  • Pennsylvania to Receive More Than $1 Billion to Close Digital Divide
  • Connecting to Our Region’s Storied Railroad History 
  • Beware of Student Loan Scam Robocalls and Robotexts
  • Purple Star School Program Supports Military-Connected Children 
  • Celebrate National Ice Cream Day on PA’s Ice Cream Trail

Expanding the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program

In an effort to provide more financial relief for low-income seniors, the Senate passed legislation to increase the income eligibility and amount of rebates for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program. I’m very pleased this bipartisan bill will put money back in the pockets of those who need it most.

The rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. House Bill 1100 will expand this program to help homeowners and renters with household income of up to $45,000. Previously, the income limit was $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters, and half of Social Security income is excluded.

In addition, as part of the legislation, the household income limit is required to be adjusted each July equal to a percentage change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), with any changes rounded to the nearest $10. If the CPI declines, the income limits will remain unchanged.

Pennsylvania to Receive More Than $1 Billion to Close Digital Divide

Pennsylvania is set to receive $1.16 billion in federal funding to increase access to high-speed internet connectivity for individuals, businesses, schools and hospitals.

Thanks to everyone who submitted information to challenge the Federal Communications Commission’s map that indicates areas with and without high-speed internet connectivity, Pennsylvania had the third highest number of successful challenges in the country.

While funding was predicated on the map released by the FCC, residents may still view and challenge the map should the information be incorrect. Residents can view the statewide broadband map and learn more about challenging any location in Pennsylvania here.

Connecting to Our Region’s Storied Railroad History 

The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Russell Clapper Train exhibit in Susquehanna Depot.

The rail industry has deep historical ties with northeastern Pennsylvania, so it was great to be able to participate in two events highlighting this rich tradition. Nicholson Township opened its new tourism center, and Susquehanna Depot unveiled its Russell Clapper Train exhibit last weekend. Each of these projects are focused on celebrating our past in order to preserve our future through heritage tourism.

The Nicholson Tourism Center is housed in the former Nicholson Station of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, which was built in 1849 and served as the first station on the Scranton to Great Bend line. Since its construction over 170 years ago, the building has remained virtually unchanged. 

Given the building’s historic status, the center will serve to guide visitors to Wyoming County landmarks such as the Endless Mountains and the Tunkhannock Creek Viaduct. It can also help to connect people to our local railroad history, including attractions in Starrucca, Honesdale, Scranton, and more. 

The Russell Clapper Train exhibit is located at the Ira Reynolds Riverfront Park in Susquehanna Depot. Clapper, a late resident of Lanesboro, built scale models of train cars that passed through the Erie Railroad where he worked for over 40 years. He personally built 150 models over 60 years using materials from old train cars that were scheduled to be scrapped. We are overjoyed to see the collection given its place of honor and a permanent home where people can view the remarkable handiwork of a talented individual, as well as the craftsmanship and enthusiasm that make this community special.

One of Russell Clapper’s model trains. 

Beware of Student Loan Scam Robocalls and Robotexts

Following the Supreme Court decision regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s student loan forgiveness program, scammers are likely to attempt to use the program to make their misleading robocalls and robotexts seem more legitimate.

Common scams pretend to be from the “student loan forgiveness center” or from a state “forgiveness center.” Other messages reference a “settlement” with the U.S. Department of Education that entitles the recipient to “fully discharge” their student loan obligations. Incoming communications may also fraudulently reflect seemingly legitimate caller ID information to convince consumers to respond.

Learn more, including how to spot a scam and what to do if you are a target, here.

Purple Star School Program Supports Military-Connected Children 

Thanks to legislation sponsored by Senate Republicans, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) launched the Purple Star School Program.

The program encourages schools to support the children of service members on active duty and in the National Guard and Reserves as they transition to a new school due to a parent’s change in duty station. Public and non-public schools can receive the Purple Star Award from PDE if they demonstrate their commitment to students and families connected to our nation’s military.

Pennsylvania now joins 37 other states that offer this designation. Schools can learn more and apply for the Purple Star School designation here.

Celebrate National Ice Cream Day on PA’s Ice Cream Trail

Sunday, July 16, is National Ice Cream Day – a wonderful time to enjoy Pennsylvania’s Ice Cream Trail at a great creamery.

With locations across the state, you’re sure to find an ice cream destination in your area. They’re often family-owned and support the local community by using locally sourced, high-quality ingredients. Included among them is The Lands at Hillside Farms in Shavertown, which also has farm-based educational programming, a mercantile, and a greenhouse.

From cones to milkshakes to sundaes to soft serve, there are so many delicious ice cream confections to try. Check out the interactive map of more than 40 locations here, and learn about the creameries and what they offer here.


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