In this Update:
I hope you have a merry Christmas filled with the warmth and fellowship of the holiday season.
The Capitol Gets into the Holiday Spirit
The Capitol Christmas Tree is decorated in all its glory. The 20-foot Douglas fir from Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, Carbon County is adorned with more than 900 LED lights and more than 700 handmade ornaments donated by students and seniors throughout the commonwealth.
In addition to the tree in the rotunda, there is also a 20-foot tree outside on the Capitol steps. The inside tree is lit daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and the outside tree is lit from 5 p.m. to midnight through Jan. 6. You can plan a visit to see it here.
Winter Storm Safety Tips
Knowing your utility hotlines is one of the timely tips offered by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on storm preparation, power outages and other winter challenges.
Know Your Utility Hotlines: Write down, print or save toll-free outage hotlines for your electric utility and/or your natural gas utility, which are listed on your monthly bills and posted on the PUC website.
Save Utility Website Address: Your utility’s outage reporting system can provide updates on repair and restoration efforts. Bookmark these electric utility outage sites and natural gas company websites.
Secure Supplies: Keep necessary food, medicine and other supplies on hand, including batteries for flashlights.
Keep Your Cell Phone Charged: A well-charged phone will keep you in contact with your utility, other emergency services and family members during any power outage.
Find more advice here on storm prep and what to do when the power goes out.
‘Tis the Season for Bogus Charity Appeals
With many people planning charitable giving this time of year, the Pennsylvania Department of State offers tips and best practices to help consumers make sure their contributions are going to legitimate charitable organizations and causes.
Here are some red flags of potential charity scams:
Similar sounding name: Scammers often use names that sound similar to legitimate charities to intentionally create confusion.
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 asking for your renewed support or to update your credit card information.
Donation by wire transfer: 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.
Donation by gift card: A charity may ask for donations of gift cards, such as from a grocery store, to supply to someone in need, but you should never read the information from a gift card over the phone or provide it via email. After verifying the legitimacy of the charity, take any physical gift card donation directly to the location of the charity and request documentation of your contribution.
You can visit the online charities database to verify that an organization is registered to solicit in Pennsylvania and to see its basic financial information about expenses for program services, fundraising and management.
2021-22 Legislative Session: Bills Passed to Aid Families and Children
From cracking down on crimes against children and care-dependent Pennsylvanians to supporting family caregivers and workers with disabilities, and more, we passed more than a dozen new laws this session to aid children and families.
Act 53 of 2021 increases the penalties for those convicted of child pornography and permits the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to create a sentencing enhancement for those convicted of the sexual abuse of children when the victim is known to the defendant.
Act 69 of 2021 allows individuals with disabilities to increase earnings under a new category of Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities entitled Workers with Job Success.
Act 42 of 2022 designates the locations where smoke detectors must be installed in child care facilities and requires that they are interconnected so that if one is triggered, they all go off.
Act 112 of 2022 allows voluntary contributions to the Children’s Trust Fund when electronically renewing a driver’s license or identification card and when renewing a vehicle registration.
You can find a complete list here.
Substance Use Disorder Crisis Stabilization Grants
Counties have until Dec. 28 to apply for state grants to establish or expand crisis stabilization services for individuals with mental health and substance use disorders.
Grants of up to $3 million will be awarded to eligible single county authorities and can be applied toward a range of activities including construction and building infrastructure, staffing and programming.
The funding will help expand or establish services to provide a much-needed component to the continuum of care, reduce the burden on first responders, law enforcement and emergency departments, and provide timely care to individuals in need.