Sens. Blake, Ward Applaud Launch of Statewide Rare Disease Needs Assessment

Sens. Blake, Ward Applaud Launch of Statewide Rare Disease Needs Assessment

HARRISBURG, September 23, 2020 – State Sens. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) and Judy Ward (R-Blair) today joined members of the PA Rare Disease Advisory Council (PARDAC) to launch a first-of-its-kind statewide needs assessment that will help guide the state’s future policies and initiatives related to rare diseases.

The statewide study will assess the difficulties and needs of all those affected by rare disease disorders in the Commonwealth. The assessment was developed in collaboration with Dr. Connie Deline, who is a physician and herself a rare disease patient, and members of PARDAC including epidemiologist, researchers, patients, and physicians. The survey was beta-tested and received Institutional Review Board approval.

“With thousands of rare diseases in Pennsylvania and varying symptoms and diagnoses, it is imperative that we raise awareness and fight for legislative initiatives and policies that can positively impact the lives of our residents with a rare disease,” Blake said. “The statewide needs assessment announced today will provide invaluable data to help inform those important decisions and I applaud the work and advocacy of Dr. Deline and PARDAC.”

Sen. Blake, Sen. Ward and state Reps. Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery) and Mark Longietti (D-Mercer) serve as co-chairs for Pennsylvania’s Rare Disease Caucus for the 2019-20 Legislative Session. The caucus advocates for the estimated 1.2 million rare disease patients impacted by over 7,000 known rare disease disorders. Approximately two-thirds of those patients are children.

“While there are properties unique to specific rare disorders, there are common challenges to daily life,” Ward said. “This survey will enable the Council to investigate the impact of rare disease and offer the opportunity for Pennsylvania’s rare disease community to provide input that will shape future focus and initiatives.”

The survey is open to rare disease patients residing in Pennsylvania and takes approximately 10 minutes to fill out. If the patient with the rare disease is under the age of 18, or over the age of 18 in need of assistance, a parent, legal guardian or advocate may complete the survey on behalf of the person with a rare disease. Individuals who want their voices heard can fill out the survey at PARDAC will begin reporting preliminary results at the beginning of 2021.

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Blake Announces Nearly $4 Million in Regional Grant Funding

SCRANTON, August 17, 2020 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced nearly $4 million in state grant funding for 13 projects that address sewer, stormwater and flood control issues across the region.

The grant funding, approved today at a meeting of the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA), was made available through the Department of Community and Economic Development under the Small Water and Sewer Grant Program and the H2O PA grant program.

“I am pleased that the state continues to partner with local municipalities to ensure our communities can address urgent issues relating to sewer, stormwater and flood control,” Blake said. “The nearly $4 million announced today for communities across NEPA is welcome news.  I applaud the Wolf Administration for their continued commitment to funding infrastructure and public safety projects across the Commonwealth.”

Blake noted that he worked closely with state Reps. Mike Carroll, Marty Flynn, Bridget Kosierowski and Kyle Mullins in advocating for these grant awards.

The following projects in the 22nd Senatorial District received funding through the Small Water and Sewer Program:

  • Springbrook Township Sewer Authority received $424,207 to replace the lagoon liner and existing ultraviolet light system located in Roaring Brook Township. This project addresses a mandate by PA DEP to lower ammonia levels in the effluent the treatment plant is discharging into Green Run Stream.
  • The Duryea Borough Sewer Authority received $411,152 to install public sewer service to multiple residential and commercial properties located along Clark Road in the borough.
  • The Greenfield Township Sewer Authority received $400,000 to make a number of much-needed upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant to improve service reliability, safety conditions, and provide back-up power in accordance with regulatory requirements
  • Moosic Borough received $394,149 to install new sanitary sewer lines at Church St. and Snyder Ct. and at Cross-County Rear Birney Ave.
  • Avoca Borough received $312,800 to extend the existing storm sewer system on McAlpine St. from Grove St. to Winans Ct.
  • Clarks Summit Borough received $246,313 to replace 805 linear feet of storm water pipes on West Grove St. and replace seven inlets. This section of stormwater infrastructure will connect two sections replaced in 2018 under a PennDOT Emergency HOP issued due to stormwater pipe failure leading to sinkholes
  • Olyphant Borough received $230,000 to update and improve the sanitary sewer system at six locations in the borough
  • Jessup Borough received $225,205 to separate the sanitary sewer and stormwater lines along Bridge St. in the borough.
  • The City of Scranton received $179,575 to replace the failing Bloom Avenue Culvert at Leach Creek
  • Jermyn Borough received $70,153 to replace approximately 402 linear feet of sanitary sewer lines along Bacon Street

The Small Water and Sewer Program awards grants to municipalities and municipal authorities for water, sewer, storm water and flood control projects. The program requires matching funds totaling at least 15% of the amount awarded.

The following projects were funded under the H2O PA grant program:

  • Dupont Borough received $507,926 to rehabilitate an existing flood mitigation channel to increase the life-span, and protect surrounding and downstream areas
  • Jessup Borough received $319,584 to separate the sanitary and storm water outflows by installing new storm water lines for individual storm and sewer system on Front St. and Ward St.
  • Clarks Summit Borough received $200,000 to implement Urban Stream Restoration as the structural stormwater Best Management Practice along 1,000 linear feet of stream corridor of an unnamed tributary to Ackerly Creek from Marion Street to Bedford Street, an area prone to flooding

The H2O PA program provides single-year and multi-year grants for the construction of drinking water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer projects; the construction or renovation of flood control projects; and the repair or rehabilitation of high-hazard unsafe dams. The program requires matching funds totaling at least 50% of the amount awarded.

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PA Senate Democrats & CDFI Network Announce $96 Million in Small Business Grants

PA Senate Democrats & CDFI Network Announce $96 Million in Small Business Grants

Statewide, Pa. – August 10, 2020 – The Pennsylvania CDFI Network and the PA State Senator Democrats today announced $96 million in grant awards under the COVID-19 Relief Pennsylvania Statewide Small Business Assistance program. The small businesses that have been approved for awards span all 67 Pennsylvania counties.

“These grants and the relief they will provide are testament to what we can do when we prioritize the right initiatives,” said Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery). “It is because of collaboration and a collective focus that today we were able to deliver help to the auto body shops, the barbershops, the beauticians, the pizza shop owners, the soul food establishments and other businesses across the commonwealth. And though we are gathering today virtually to recognize the positive impact these grants will have, it is critical to understand that there is still a great deal of need and must continue to direct resources and aid to our small business community to help it recover from the devastation of the pandemic.”

Main Street Business Assistance - Round 1 ResultsThe program is part of $225 million in statewide relief championed by the senate democratic caucus in June to support small businesses economically impacted by the pandemic. The first application round drew a strong response with nearly 24,000 applications.

“We’ve seen the impact of this pandemic-fueled economic crisis on the small businesses in our communities and in the immense response to the program in the first round of applications,” said Daniel Betancourt, President & CEO of Community First Fund and Chair of the PA CDFI Network. “The PA CDFI Network is grateful for the partnership of Governor Wolf and the Pennsylvania Legislature as we move quickly to get these resources into the hands of those most impacted by the crisis.”

Of the close to 5,000 small businesses approved in the first round of funding, 50% are historically disadvantaged businesses that have traditionally experienced discrimination when seeking financial services and financial products. Over 2,400 of the businesses are also in communities targeted for business investment by state government programs like Main Street and Elm Street.

“I could not be more proud or more grateful for the great work of DCED and Pennsylvania’s CDFI Network in delivering substantive, fair, equitable, need-based assistance to our state’s main street and historically disadvantaged small businesses.  Our program design and the accountability it provides to taxpayers and to our federal funders is a model for the nation,” Senator Blake (D-Lackawanna) said. “I appeal to the US Congress and to our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in Harrisburg to recognize the success of this program in assisting small businesses devastated by the pandemic and to invest further in the program so we can help even more of them.”

The program has targeted getting grants to small businesses with the greatest need and to be eligible to apply businesses had to have less than $1M in revenue and less than 25 employees. Grants ranged in size from $5,000 to $50,000 based on the revenue size of the business.   More than 2,300 of the grantee business owners are low-moderate income.

“Our business community has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and is in need of immediate assistance. The grant program is targeted to help small businesses manage costs, handle expenses, and stay in operation in this exceptionally difficult time,” said Senator Brewster (D-Allegheny). “Since COVID struck our state and debilitated our business community, I have been advocating for bridge grants and sought millions in aid for impacted businesses and workers.  The small business assistance grants are one of the tools we can use to bolster business, maintain jobs and help workers at a time of immense distress.”

More than two thirds of the approved awardees are women-owned businesses and 16 percent located in rural communities. The businesses represent industries that have been especially hard hit by the pandemic including retail, food and hospitality, health and wellness, and personal care.

Industry Applications Approved Amount  (Millions)
Restaurants & Other Eating Places 1,608


Drinking Places (Alcoholic Beverages) 202


Personal Care Services 1,001


Other Amusement and Rec. Industries 180


Totals 2,991


“For minority and women-owned businesses in Pennsylvania COVID-19 didn’t create a crisis, it laid bare the crisis our minority entrepreneurs have been facing for decades,” House Democratic Finance Committee Chairman Jake Wheatley Jr (D-Allegheny) said. “While I’m glad to see the positive impact of these grants and I urge all local community businesses to apply for the next round of grants, we need to expand investment in programs like this because it’s long past time for the legislature to address the systemic flaws that are leaving too many marginalized people behind.”

The second grant application window for the relief funds opened today, August 10, and will remain open for 15 business days closing at 11:59PM on August 28.

“Our small business owners need our help and support,” said state Rep. Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester. “After limited or even no sales due to the virus for almost five months, it would be unfair to let them suffer alone without any intervention. These grants give our small businesses hope and, I am here with my democratic colleagues to provide them whatever help they need to address this pandemic. Our business owners, their employees, and their families deserve our assistance.”

In order to get funds to businesses in need as quickly as possible, the second application window will be the final opportunity to apply for the program. Qualified applicants not awarded in the first round do not need to reapply and will be rolled into the next round for consideration.

Eligible small businesses can apply online at or through any one of the 17 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that are part of the Pennsylvania CDFI Network.


 About the PA CDFI Network

The PA CDFI Network is a coalition of 17 PA-based community development financial institutions that primarily provide financing options for small businesses. The members of the coalition are as follows:

The Progress Fund (Counties Served: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Bedford, Blair, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Fayette, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Potter, Somerset, Tioga, Venango, Warren, Washington, Westmoreland)

Bridgeway Capital (Counties Served: Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Washington, Westmoreland)

Northside Community Development Fund (Counties Served: Allegheny, Beaver, Greene, Lawrence, Washington)

 Metro Action (Counties Served: Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming)

Rising Tide Community Loan Fund  (Counties Served: Bradford, Bucks, Carbon, Columbia, Lehigh, Monroe, Northampton)

ASSETS (Counties Served: Berks, Juniata, Lancaster, Mifflin, Snyder, York)

Community First Fund (Counties Served: Adams, Berks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, York)

Reinvestment Fund (Counties Served: All Counties)

PIDC Community Capital (Counties Served: Philadelphia)

Impact Loan Fund (Counties Served: Montgomery, Montour, Northumberland, Philadelphia)

Beech Capital (Counties Served: Bucks, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Erie, Montgomery, Philadelphia, York)

West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution (Counties Served: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia)

Enterprise Center Capital (Counties Served: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia)

Neighborhood Progress Fund (Counties Served: Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia)

Entrepreneur Works (Counties Served: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia)

Women’s Opportunities Resource Center (Counties Served: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wyoming)

United Bank (Counties Served: Blair, Bucks, Cambria, Chester, Delaware, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Union)

The members of the Executive Committee of the network are:

  • Daniel Betancourt, Community First Fund — Chair
  • James Burnett, West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution — Vice Chair
  • Lynne Cutler, Women’s Opportunities Resource Center (WORC) — Vice Chair
  • Leslie Benoliel, Entrepreneur Works — Treasurer
  • Mark Masterson, Northside Community Development Fund — Secretary
  • Chris Hudock, Rising Tide Loan Fund — Assistant Treasurer
Blake: $200 Million in Small Business Grants Available Beginning Today

Blake: $200 Million in Small Business Grants Available Beginning Today

SCRANTON, June 30, 2020 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that beginning at 9 a.m. today, small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can begin applying for $200 million in federal grants available through the COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance program. 

This statewide Small Business Assistance program will provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to small businesses that have been economically impacted by COVID-19. Locally, applications will be accepted through MetroAction and at

“As the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact our communities and our economy, I knew we had to do something to ensure small businesses – our mom and pop Main Street stores, our barbers and neighborhood bars and restaurants – were able to find a way to pull through to the other side of the pandemic,” Blake said. “We fought for and we advocated for a main street grant program since April and today I am proud to see $200 million in grant funding – not loans – will be made available to our small businesses – small businesses which have always been the backbone of our economy, a source of community pride, and a place of employment for so many of our friends.”

Blake noted that unlike previous small business grant and loan programs, this is not a first-come, first-served program, it will be based on need. The initial application window will open today and remain open for 10 days. There will be at least three or more rounds of applications in the coming months.

In order to be eligible for grant funding, a business must be physically located in PA; be certified to do business here; generate at least 51% of their revenues in Pennsylvania; have annual revenue of $1 million or less prior to the impact of COVID-19; and have 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees prior to February 15, 2020.

Blake indicated, again, that this is only the first round of the grant program and that additional rounds of funding and application windows will be announced in the months ahead.

For more information on the program, visit

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Blake: $200 Million in Small Business Grants Available Beginning Today

PA Senate Democrats Announce $225 Million for Small Business Assistance Grants Statewide

HARRISBURG – June 8, 2020 – Members of the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus announced the direction of $225 million in federal CARES Act funding to aid small businesses across the commonwealth.  This funding was authorized by the recently enacted COVID-19 Emergency Supplement to the General Appropriation Act of 2019 and was a centerpiece of the caucus’ PA CARES Plan.

The aid will be distributed as follows: $100 million is set to go to the Main Street Business Revitalization Program, $100 million to the Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program, and $25 million for loan payment deferment and loss reserves for loans impacted by COVID-19. The aid will be directed by the Department of Community and Economic Development to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), which are intimately familiar with the needs of the most vulnerable small businesses in our communities.

“I want to thank Governor Wolf for engaging leadership in the General Assembly to inform the process of moving federal aid out to those who have been most harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to thank the leadership of the Senate Democratic caucus who worked with our members to formulate a strategic plan for the deployment of nearly $4 billion in federal assistance,” said state Senator John Blake (D-Lackawanna). “The Main Street Business Revitalization program is a reflection of that cooperation and leadership and it will meet Pennsylvania’s small business owners where they are, on Main Street, after nearly three months of lost or no sales. It will enable small business owners throughout the commonwealth to meet their insurance payments, rents, health insurance premiums, local taxes and other expenses that they otherwise could not meet due to lost sales. Finally, I want to thank the 17 CDFIs throughout the state as well as DCED for their professionalism, agility, urgency and dedication to getting this federal funding to the small businesses who need it most as quickly as possible.”

Eligible businesses will apply through one of the CDFI Network partners and will have to have been operating on or before February 15, 2020, and must have paid taxes to state and federal governments. Qualifying main street and historically disadvantaged small businesses must have 25 or fewer employees and experienced losses as a result of Gov. Tom Wolf’s March 19 stay-at-home order. Organizations seeking grants from the historically disadvantaged small businesses program must also be 51 percent owned and managed by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.

“The announcement of the Main Street and Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Programs will provide welcomed relief for mom and pop businesses in neighborhoods across the commonwealth,” said State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery). “Since this pandemic began, we have heard the needs of the auto body shops, the barbershops, the beauticians, the pizza shop owners, the soul food establishments and other businesses in our communities. The needs of these businesses that were unable to get much needed help from other state and federal programs were a priority in our Senate Democratic Caucus’ April 29 PA CARES Program announcement. For months, my office has worked with a network of trusted community organizations that have a proven track record of working with our small CDFIs to find a solution to assist our neighborhood businesses. I believe these programs are that solution. There is still more work to be done, but these programs are a win for Pennsylvania and its small businesses.”

Businesses will be eligible for up to $50,000 in grants. Grants can be used to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and in the transition period to reopening, technical assistance and training, debt payment relief for CDFI borrowers and loan loss reserves.

“Our small businesses all across the state made sacrifices so that we could flatten the curve of COVID-19 and save lives,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. “Now as we begin to recover, our businesses will need and deserve assistance to reopen their doors, rehire their staff and serve our communities again. We thank them for their patience through this difficult time, and are ready to offer the programs, loans and assistance they need.”

Businesses will be required to submit proposals for review documenting sales losses, projected revenues, the duration of closure as a result of COVID-19, and relief receipts for other federal, state and local government aid. Eligible businesses will apply directly through a local CDFI.

“One of the goals of the pandemic-recovery stimulus plan that I offered in March, was to jump-start business operations and speed the economic recovery by making resources readily available to get more men and women back to work quicker,” Brewster said.  “Using federal CARE dollars to bolster business and smooth the back-to-work transition is critically important. The caucus CARES initiative includes one piece of the plan and will be especially useful to small businesses as they cover expenses and manage start-up costs.  Plus, it will usher in help for small businesses who may not have been able to access other state or federal business assistance programs.” 

Distributed funds will be monitored by DCED to track the total number of grants awarded under these programs including county, the number of jobs saved by the grants, the total amount of loan payment and deferment, administrative costs and more.

“Thank you to Governor Wolf and his administration for recognizing the need for our Main Street Business Revitalization Program and incorporating that proposal into the Commonwealth’s plan to support our small businesses, which represent nearly half of the private sector workforce in Pennsylvania – 2.5 million jobs,” said Senator Iovino (D-Allegheny/Washington). “Small businesses are the job creators in our communities, the revenue generators for our Commonwealth, and the cornerstone of vibrant main streets. As small business owners are struggling to hang on, this $225 million grant package is exactly the kind of lifeline that these economic drivers need to support our recovery.”

For more about the caucus’ comprehensive, people-focused COVID-19 recovery plan, visit


Democratic PHEAA Board Members Tout $30 Million In Cares Act Funding For PHEAA Grants

Democratic PHEAA Board Members Tout $30 Million In Cares Act Funding For PHEAA Grants

HARRISBURG — June 5, 2020 — State Senators Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery), John Blake (D-Lackawanna), and Art Haywood (D-Montgomery/Philadelphia touted the $30 million in funding the Pennsylvania Senate Democratic Caucus was recently able to secure for higher education grants administered by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority (PHEAA).

The funding boost means the maximum award for Pennsylvania State Grants will be $4,525 instead of the $4,123 originally projected by PHEAA. Students are set to receive conditional grant awards in the near future outlining their award for the upcoming academic year.

“The additional $30 million to the PA State Grant program will allow the maximum grant award to increase to the second highest award amount in the history of the program,” said Sen. Fontana, who is also the PHEAA Board Vice Chairman.  “This pandemic has fundamentally changed how postsecondary schools operate and continues to create uncertainty for many. This will provide students with a stable source of student aid funding as they decide how to participate in higher education going into the upcoming year.”

Funding for the grant program was set to remain flat from its 2019-20 level, prior to the legislature directing $30 million to PHEAA for state grants. The push to allocate Federal CARES Act funding to higher education grants was a part of the people-focused PA CARES Plan put forth by the caucus.

“Expanding access to higher education should be one of our top priorities as our nation increasingly requires a more educated workforce,” Sen. Hughes said. “I am pleased we were able to direct funds to the grant program in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and look forward to seeing the impact in helping students across our commonwealth. Students may not be able to get summer jobs and their parents may have lost work because of what’s going on in the world. We were able to provide assistance to relieve that pain, which is how we must approach recovery from this crisis in other areas.”

The 2020-21 grant award is the second highest in PHEAA’s history of administering the needs-based higher education grants. In addition to increasing the maximum grant award, PHEAA officials expect to increase the total grant award for the 126,000-plus grant recipients.

“As a member of the PHEAA board, the affordability and accessibility of a quality post-secondary education remains a top priority,” Sen. Blake said. “This additional grant funding will significantly help families that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and allow our universities to continue to develop a stronger, educated workforce.”

New for 2020-21, the PA State Grant formula provides the same eligibility consideration regardless of how coursework is delivered; meaning that otherwise-eligible students enrolled in distance education will maintain full eligibility for PA State Grant awards. This is particularly important in light of a likely increase in distance education enrollments for the 2020 fall term as a result of COVID-19.

“It is an honor to serve on the PHEAA Board and in the state Senate to direct this funding to students seeking higher education,” Sen. Haywood said. “Access to higher education means that an entire family and community will be lifted by students who will make significant contributions.”

PHEAA has provided more than $1 billion in supplemental funding for student aid programs over the last 10 years. The Agency also self-funds the administration of the PA State Grant Program and other student aid programs and services for the Commonwealth, which saves taxpayers $19.2 million annually.

For more on the caucus’ PA CARES Plan visit