In this Edition:
State Budget Update
Work on ending the state budget impasse has stretched through the holiday weekend and into this coming weekend.
Both sides are getting closer to an agreement on a blueprint that spends responsibly and produces the revenue to address the structural deficit and funds education.
Many schools and social service agencies have been harmed by the protracted impasse and I am eager to reach a compromise that allows us to turn the page on the 2015-16 fiscal year. After all, work on the 2016-17 state budget is just around the corner.
It was a pleasure to join Geoffrey Roche at the Pocono Medical Center tree lighting.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program Deadline is Dec. 31
The deadline to apply to the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program for a rebate on property taxes or rent paid in 2014 is Dec. 31, 2015.
The program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians 65 or older, widows and widowers 50 or older, and people with disabilities 18 or older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters. Half of Social Security income and all COLAs are excluded, and the maximum standard rebate is $650.
Claimants must reapply for rebates every year because they are based on annual income and property taxes or rent paid each year. Spouses, personal representatives or estates may file rebate claims on behalf of deceased claimants who lived at least one day in 2014 and meet all other eligibility criteria.
Applicants can obtain Property Tax/Rent Rebate claim forms (PA-1000) and related information online or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-222-9190. Claimants who already applied for rebates may check the status of claims online or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-PATAXES.
Please contact my office with questions about the application or stop by for assistance completing the form. My staff can let you know what paperwork you need to apply.
Medicare Annual Enrollment Ends Monday, Dec. 7
Medicare's annual open enrollment period ends next week, on Monday, Dec. 7, and state help is available through the APPRISE program.
APPRISE counselors are trained volunteers who can answer questions about Medicare and assist older Pennsylvanians with selecting their Medicare coverage options. They provide objective, easy-to-understand information about Medicare, Medicare supplemental insurance, Medicaid and long-term care insurance in order for older adults to compare plans and determine which one best meets their needs. Pennsylvania has over 670 trained APPRISE volunteers who provided 82,000 counseling hours this past year.
The APPRISE Program is part of the national State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP), which provides free, in-depth, one-on-one insurance counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, their families and caregivers. The program is a part of the state Department of Aging.
You can connect with or learn more about the APPRISE Program online, or by calling 1-800-783-7067.
Medicare beneficiaries can also complete their own plan comparisons by accessing the plan finder tool on the Medicare website at medicare.gov/find-a-plan or call 1-800-MEDICARE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Perform Your Own Home Energy Audit
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has put together an educational video on home energy audits, offering tips for consumers to detect and correct issues in their home to save both energy and money this winter.
While the video describes measures that a hired professional can take to detect issues, it also explains ways for consumers to check their own homes for issues in five areas – air leaks, insulation, the furnace, appliances and lighting – and provides tips to correct these issues. For example, the video notes that the attic is the most important area to insulate, and that replacing traditional lightbulbs with newer, more efficient bulbs will both conserve energy and offer long-term cost savings.
The launch of the video coincides with the PUC's annual "Prepare Now" campaign, which provides consumers with simple tips to lower their energy bills, including shopping for electricity and natural gas, as well as ways to conserve energy around the house. It also offers information about low-income programs that help consumers restore and maintain service.
To Prepare Now for winter energy costs:
Consumers interested in more information about these important programs can visit the PUC website, www.puc.pa.gov, and click on the "Prepare Now" link or call the PUC at 1-800-692-7380.
“Gary in the Morning” and “Breakfast with Santa”
This week I joined local students on the “Gary in the Morning” Pocono 96.7 radio show. Saturday is the holiday musical performance, "Breakfast with Santa," where they will be performing in conjunction with the Band of Brothers and Toys for Tots. Hope to see you there!
Breakfast with Santa
I am a guest every Thursday on “Gary in the Morning” at 7 a.m. to answer your questions. Thanks to everyone who has called in so far. I look forward to speaking to you in the future.
A Christmas Tradition: “Change” at the Sherman Theater
If you have time this Christmas season, I encourage you to check out the local theater production of “Change” at the Sherman Theater in Stroudsburg. The production will have three different shows on December 11, 12, and 13. You can find more information on the show and reserve your spot here. The show is produced by the East Stroudsburg-based “Labor of Love USA.”
I highly recommend taking your whole family to see “Change.” My wife and I have not missed a showing since it debuted in 2008.
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If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.MarioScavello.com for more information about your state government.
Senate Box 203040
Northampton County Office