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Happy Independence Day!

Whether you are celebrating at a family picnic or planning to enjoy fireworks displays throughout the district, I wish you and your family a very happy and safe 4th of July holiday.

For a list of where you can view fireworks across northeastern Pennsylvania, click here

2019-20 State Budget Invests and Balances

Watch Senator Blake's Comments
on 2019-20 State Budget

For all the positives on which we were able to reach consensus regarding education funding; agriculture; human services; child welfare; and job training, there were a number of disappointing and rather serious policy differences that will ultimately define the 2019-20 budget.  These include the elimination of general assistance to over 11,000 of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians; the failure to address a much-needed increase in our state’s minimum wage; and the willingness of the majority party to, once again leave on the table, revenue which could have been raised from a reasonable severance tax on the extraction of natural gas in our state.

I was able to vote for this budget because of the positive local impacts this spending plan will have. First and foremost, this budget reveals a continuing commitment to education at all levels as it includes a $160 million increase in basic education funding; a level-funded ready to learn grant program; a $50 million increase in special education funding; increases in early childhood education and in the pre-K counts program.  These investments in public education will bring $10.5 million in additional funding to the woefully underfunded Scranton School District.  This state budget also invests another $60 million in school safety and security and includes a 2% across the board increase for community colleges and higher education.  The budget also supports level funding to the same number of student beneficiaries through this year’s PA Higher Education Assistance Agency’s state grant program.

This 2019-2020 state budget also provides much-needed increases for agriculture and -- through several new initiatives -- focuses assistance on our struggling dairy industry.  It increases funding to our public library system and it supports significant increases in home and community-based care for our seniors as well as for county child welfare services. There are also significant increases to serve children with intellectual disabilities and their families.

This budget will fund $40 million in new, local small water and sewer projects across the state; increase our investment in community and economic development by over $22 million; and invest more in adequate and affordable housing through PHFA’s Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund (PHARE). Finally, this state budget continues to support the great work being done at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine and at the NE Regional Cancer Institute.

The performance of our state’s economy will enable all of these new investments to be achieved without a broad-based tax increase.  The budget fully funds our annual state pension obligations and over $250 million will be deposited into the state’s Rainy Day Fund as insurance against a future recession.

It is not the budget the Senate Democratic minority would have devised for Pennsylvania but we achieved a responsible spending plan and we negotiated across party lines as well as with the Governor’s office to ensure the best possible, on-time, balanced, state budget outcome.

Click here for more information on the 2019-20 state budget.

Supporting Living Wages for Direct Support Professionals

I have long supported rate increases for our hard-working Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) across Pennsylvania. As a graduate of Marywood University’s Master of Social Work program, I appreciate the tireless work of DSPs and how important they are to the quality of life enjoyed by those with intellectual disabilities. 

In the 2019-20 state budget, I was proud to support a number of important increases to the Department of Human Services which includes a $12 million increase for homecare workers who care for seniors and those with physical disabilities; a $15 million increase to serve more individuals with intellectual disabilities; and $5 million for community-based family centers, providing access to home visiting services to 800 more Pennsylvania families.

I was also very glad to recently join state Reps. Mike Carroll and Kyle Mullins recently at St. Joseph's Center in Scranton to hear about their plans to increase pay for all staff and implement a new starting wage for Direct Support Professionals. These increases were made possible by the generosity of the Moses Taylor Foundation.

I continue to be impressed by the quality of work being done and care being provided by all of our providers and particularly at St. Joseph's Center. I applaud Sister Maryalice Jacquinot for her continued leadership.

Grant Funding Available to Expand Brewing Industry in PA

Brewing IndustryThe PA Department of Agriculture recently announced the availability of grants to conduct promotion, marketing, and research projects to increase the quality, profitability, production, and sale of malt and brewed beverages produced in Pennsylvania.

Projects that will be prioritized are those that would increase the production, quality or yield, or both, of Pennsylvania-produced raw agricultural commodities (e.g. hops, barley) used by the beer industry, and those interested in marketing and integrating the commonwealth's beer industry into new or existing regional and statewide tourism initiatives.

Interested applicants must deliver a one-page concept paper, plus a one-page draft budget, by e-mail by Friday, August 2, 2019 to Applicants whose concept papers are approved by the board will be invited to submit a project proposal and grant application. Proposals should be sent electronically to and 12 copies must be hand-delivered or sent by United States Mail and postmarked on or before the same date.

Applications should be addressed and delivered to the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Market Development, Attn: Agricultural Commodity Board Grant Program, 2301 North Cameron Street, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9408.

Additionally, the board may request that applicants participate in person or by conference call to provide a brief presentation of their proposal, followed by questions, at a future meeting. Application instructions can be found by clicking here.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Deadline Extended

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has recently extended the application deadline for the 2018 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program to December 31, 2019. If you have already applied for this great program, the Department of Revenue has already begun distributing rebate checks for residents that have already applied.

Rebates are available for property taxes or rent paid in 2018 for eligible residents age 65 and older, people 18 and older with disabilities and widows and widowers 50 and older.

The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 for renters. Keep in mind, half of your Social Security income is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can increase the rebate to $975.

If you did not receive an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications can be obtained from my district office and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.

For more information and eligibility requirements for the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program, click here.

Fourth Annual Addiction Awareness Rally in Scranton on July 14

The Forever Sammi Foundation will host their fourth annual Addiction Awareness Rally on Sunday, July 14 on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square in downtown Scranton. The event runs from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. This important event will give residents an opportunity to access and get information from multiple treatment centers and other outreach services. There will also be a number of activities and games for kids including bouncy houses, face painting and carnival games.

The event, in memory of Sammi Henehan, is a day to let people know that it is acceptable to openly discuss addiction.  Actor Lillo Brancato Jr., best known for his roles in The Sopranos and A Bronx Tale will serve as a special guest speaker and discuss his struggles with addiction and how he recovered. 

Family Fishing Event at Tobyhanna State Park on July 11

Have you and your family ever talked about fishing but didn't know where to begin? The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission's Family Fishing Program is a wonderful, free program that helps participants learn basic fishing skills and allows you to practice those skills while fishing during the program. The free program is open to all ages, including children ages 5 and older and it is going to be held on July 11 from 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. at Tobyhanna State Park.

The Tobyhanna State Park Fishing Program is located at the Ice house Pavilion at the Boat Rental Area off of route 423 in Tobyhanna Pennsylvania. The program begins at 10:00 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. All are welcome to join for instruction and fishing fun. No fishing license is required and all equipment is provided. Registration is required to participate. Space is limited so if you are interested in participating, register now by calling the Tobyhanna State Park Office at 570-894-8336.

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Offices to Serve You


District Office
Oppenheim Building
409 Lackawanna Ave., Ste. 210
Scranton, PA 18503
Phone: (570) 207-2881
Fax: (570) 207-2897
Toll free: 1-877-346-5721
Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Harrisburg Office
Room 17 East Wing
The State Capitol
Senate Box 203022
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3022
Phone: (717) 787-6481
Fax: (717) 783-5198
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.