Senator Lisa Baker E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Pennsylvania Summer Camps
  • Bills Passed in 2021: Pandemic Recovery
  • Information Session for the Office of Attorney General Settlement with Chesapeake Energy on December 14
  • Funding Available to Improve High-Speed Internet Access in Rural PA
  • You Can Give the Gift of Education
  • Look Out for Holiday Charity Scams
  • VA Alerts Veterans About Printing and Mailing Delays Affecting Claims

Pennsylvania Summer Camps

I was pleased to attend the PA Camp Association (PACA) Legislative Roundtable to hear about issues of importance for the summer camp industry, which is a vital part of northeastern Pennsylvania’s economy. The average camp has been a mainstay of the Pocono economy for 66 years. Many families depend upon these camps to provide their children with recreation, education, socialization, and skills development during the summer months. Thank you to members of Wayne County Camp Alliance and Greater Pocono Camp Association for their advocacy efforts.

For many, summer camps are a place to develop a lifelong appreciation for the joys and opportunities afforded by the outdoors. We cannot begin to put a price tag on the value of the healthy pursuits engaged in, the skills acquired and refined, and the friendships that are developed. The bonus of course is all the economic activity and tax revenue generated for host areas.

Over the past 15 years, PACA has raised awareness on many key issues for camps on topics as wide ranging as building codes to background check regulations, offering input on how legislative initiatives will affect the camp community at large. For more information on their efforts, visit https://pacamps.org/.

Bills Passed in 2021: Pandemic Recovery

This fall, the Senate continued its work to lead Pennsylvania from pandemic to recovery by passing legislation extending waivers of an array of regulatory statutes, rules and regulations that were implemented during the COVID-19 response.

This regulatory flexibility ensured continuation of the safe delivery of health care and assistance to vulnerable citizens, permitted more remote work for state-licensed businesses, and more.

Earlier this year, the Senate approved a resolution carrying out the will of voters and terminating the pandemic emergency declaration, ending the governor’s power to close employers, limit occupancy, suspend state statutes or issue stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. Voters got the chance to weigh in after the Senate approved putting the issue on the May primary ballot.

The Senate also approved the allocation of emergency funds for schools impacted by the pandemic, aid for rental and utility bills, and assistance to support Pennsylvania’s struggling restaurants and taverns coping with the devastation created by the pandemic and the governor’s mandated closings and restrictions.

You can find a complete rundown of key pandemic response bills here.

Information Session for the Office of Attorney General Settlement with Chesapeake Energy on December 14

The Office of Attorney General will be hosting an Information Session on its Settlement with Chesapeake Energy on Tuesday, December 14, 2021 at 7:00 pm at the Triton Hose Company, 116 W. Tioga Street, Tunkhannock, PA 18657. Attorneys for the Office will provide an overview of the Office of Attorney General’s Settlement with Chesapeake Energy. They will also explain the election options available to Pennsylvania Royalty Owners with Chesapeake Leases regarding payment of future royalties. The Attorneys will not provide any advice on what option to select. The Attorneys will be available after the Information Session for questions until 9:30 pm. They will also be available at the Triton Hose Company on Wednesday December 15, 2021 from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm for questions.

Under the Office of Attorney General’s settlement with Chesapeake Energy, Pennsylvania Royalty Owners with Chesapeake Leases have until January 28, 2021, to make their election about how royalties will be paid in the future. Royalty owners who do not make a choice will be deemed to have made the default election under the Class Action Settlements.

If Pennsylvania Royalty Owners with Chesapeake Leases have not yet received a letter from Epiq, the Claims Administrator, about their election options, the Office recommends that they go to http://www.PAroyaltysettlements.com to make their election or contact Epiq, at 855-907-2082 or e-mail chesapeakeinfo@epiqglobal.com.  They may also contact the Attorney General’s Office at (717) 787-4530 or by email at Antitrust@attorneygeneral.gov if they have any questions. The Settlement website identifies options and allows royalty owners to make their elections about how royalties are to be paid in the future. It also identifies how royalties will be paid under royalty owner leases should they fail to make an election.

Funding Available to Improve High-Speed Internet Access in Rural PA

Applications will be accepted until Feb. 22, 2022 for up to $1.15 billion in loans and grants to help people in rural areas get access to high-speed internet.

Those eligible for the funding, which is being made available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, include state and local governments, corporations, limited liability companies and cooperative organizations.

The funding is available for projects that serve rural areas where at least 90% of the households lack broadband service at speeds of 100/20 Mbps. Priority is given to projects that will serve people in low-density rural areas and areas lacking internet access services at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps.

You Can Give the Gift of Education

More than 80% of parents would welcome contributions to a 529 college savings plan for their children, but less than half will ask family members and friends for such gifts, according to a survey from the College Savings Foundation.

Anyone can contribute to a child’s PA 529 account with a Ugift code, and gift contributions may be deductible from PA state income taxes. If you already have a PA 529 account for your child, you can share your Ugift code by email with family and friends who wish to contribute to your child’s education savings.

You can learn more about starting to save with PA 529 accounts at pa529.com. There are two plans to help families save, including the PA 529 Investment Plan, with earnings tied to financial markets, and the PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan, where earnings are tied to tuition inflation. Families can choose the plan that best meets their savings goals.

Look Out for Holiday Charity Scams

Many people are donating to charitable organizations this time of the year, and scam artists prey on this generosity by masquerading as charities and pocketing the donations.

The Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities and Pennsylvania Department of State offer these Red Flags of Charity Scams:

  1. Similar Sounding Name — Scammers often use names that sound similar to legitimate charities to intentionally create confusion.
  1. High Pressure Solicitation — Fraudsters will try to force a hasty decision by turning up the pressure. They may cold call, identifying you as a previous contributor, and ask for your renewed support or to update your credit card information. These attempts rely on catching consumers off guard to extract financial information.
  1. 100% Guarantee — Most people want to ensure that their donations are going toward legitimate program expenses. Every organization has some level of administrative cost. An organization that promises 100% of your funds are going directly to an individual in need might require additional scrutiny.
  1. Donation by Wire Transfer or Gift Card — Legitimate charities will not ask you to make payment via money order or wire transfer. If you are being solicited for a donation and are asked to pay by these means, hang up immediately. A charity may ask for donations of gift cards, such as from a grocery store, to supply to someone in need. Never read the information from a gift card over the phone or provide it via email.

You can find more tips on charitable giving here. Anyone can contact the Department of Banking and Securities at 1-800-PA-BANKS (1-800-722-2657) to ask questions or file complaints about financial transactions, companies or products. 

VA Alerts Veterans About Printing and Mailing Delays Affecting Claims

Many veterans have been experiencing long delays with receiving correspondence from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The VA announced that due to supply chain issues and staffing shortages, the vendor contracted to provide printing services for the VA is experiencing delays in printing and mailing notification letters to veterans and claimants, with the disruption potentially impacting the ability of some claimants to meet required deadlines via written correspondence with the VA.

In response to the mailing delays and to protect the best interest of claimants, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is extending its response period by 90 calendar days for claimants with letters dated between July 13, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2021.

If a claimant does not reply to a time-limited notification, such as making an election of benefits or services or reporting for a scheduled compensation and pension examination, VBA will not take adverse action to deny, reduce or terminate benefits and services unless: 1) the claimant is contacted and there is documentation of his or her right to respond; 2) the requested information has been received; or 3) the response period has lapsed.

Veterans and claimants with questions can contact the VA at 800-827-1000.

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