L&I, DHS are giving out stuffed animals to Pa families this holiday season

WILKES-BARRE — The Pennsylvania Departments of Labor & Industry (L&I) and Human Services (DHS) kicked off the holiday season this week with an annual donation of stuffed animals, which L&I collected during routine inspections throughout the year and later distributed to Pennsylvania families The DHS Holiday Wish program.

“We collect these toys year-round because it’s our job to make sure they’re safe for all Pennsylvania children,” said L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier. “Donating our annual collection is a special opportunity to bring a little joy to some of these children each holiday season. I encourage all Pennsylvanians to think of their neighbors, co-workers, friends and family members who may be struggling this holiday season. If you have a little extra to donate this year, contact a Christmas fundraising organization. You will not regret it.”

Under state law, the L&I Occupational Health & Safety Bureau must inspect all new stuffed animal samples for contents, choking hazards, and general safety. Toys that pass inspection are given a registration number that can be found on every stuffed animal sold in the state. Because of this process, the department collects hundreds of toy samples every year.

In the past six years, L&I has donated almost 3,800 tested toys to Christmas gift campaigns. This week, L&I delivered nearly 600 toys to DHS for its Holiday Wish program, started in 1989 by a small group of DHS employees.

Over the years, Holiday Wish has grown to include hundreds of employees in numerous departments, allowing the program to reach thousands of those in need across Pennsylvania during the holiday season.

When a family or individual visits a local DHS County Assistance Office (CAO) to request benefits, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medical Assistance, CAO processors identify families and older adults who participate in the Holiday Wish program have to .

Holiday Wish participants then choose a few gifts they need or would like to receive, and government officials sponsor a family or individual to ensure they receive special gifts during the holiday season.

Commonwealth authorities and the Pennsylvania National Guard gather in December to distribute these gifts to hundreds of families across Pennsylvania.

“We want to do our part during this time of giving to help make the holiday better and brighter for the families we serve,” said Meg Snead, acting secretary of DHS. “Holiday Wish allows us to provide a little extra help to our neighbors who are struggling or having a hard time. Our mission at DHS is to ensure that every Pennsylvanian has the resources they need to meet their basic needs and live their lives with the dignity we all deserve. DHS administers programs to help, and I encourage any Pennsylvanian who is struggling financially to apply and see if they are eligible for assistance.”

Applications for public assistance programs can be submitted online at www.dhs.pa.gov/compass. Onsite CAO services are available when customers do not have access to online services or need assistance that is not available through the COMPASS website, the myCOMPASS PA mobile app, or by calling customer service centers at 215-560-7226 for Philadelphia- Customers or 1-877-395-8930 for customers in all other counties.

Rep. Meuser co-sponsors Bill to help lymphedema patients

US Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Dallas, is a co-sponsor of legislation ensuring treatment for lymphedema under Medicare Part B covers compression garments, the clinically recognized treatment for the disease.

HR 3630 – the “Lymphedema Treatment Act” – was passed in the House of Representatives on November 17th.

Lymphedema is tissue swelling of an arm or leg caused by accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissues. Specifically, the bill provides coverage for standard and custom-fitted gradient compression garments and other approved items prescribed by a physician or other designated healthcare professional for the treatment of lymphedema.

The disease causes discomfort and is common in patients undergoing cancer treatment. It is estimated that between 1.5 and 3 million current Medicare beneficiaries are affected, as well as nearly 10 million people nationwide.

Medicare and many other policies do not cover this critical component of lymphedema treatment, medically necessary compression materials that are prescribed by a doctor. Although the legislation is specific to Medicare, it is expected to set a precedent and open up opportunities for Medicaid and private insurers to follow.

“It is essential to help people with lymphedema to stop worrying about the costs of treatment,” explained Meuser. “This bipartisan legislation will help Medicare beneficiaries receive the medical care they need to best manage this condition.”

The bill was supported by a broad coalition of patient advocacy, healthcare providers and healthcare industry groups including the Lymphedema Advocacy Group, American Cancer Society, American Medical Association, Lymphatic Education and Research Network, 3M, Oncology Nursing Society, American Physical Therapy Association and the American Occupational Therapy Association.

Cartwright receives “Friend of the Farm Bureau Awards’

US Representative Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, recently received the Friend of the Farm Bureau Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) at the Martzen Family Dairy Farm in Waymart, Wayne County.

The prestigious bipartisan award is presented to congressmen who have supported farmers, ranchers and farming communities at the 117th Congress.

Rep. Cartwright was nominated by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and approved by the AFBF Board.

“I am honored to receive the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Friend of Farm Bureau Award,” Cartwright said. “Pennsylvania farms and agribusinesses play an important role in our region’s economy, history and future. I will continue to support policies and laws that benefit our farmers and the millions of Americans across the country who feed them.”

father Broadband Development Authority, Penn State Extension to expand high-speed Internet

Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Executive Director Brandon Carson announced this week that the agency voted unanimously on Nov. 10 to enter into a contract with the Penn State Extension to develop and update broadband maps of the states to directly enabling the Commonwealth to maximize its federal allocation of funds for high-speed Internet deployment.

“The agreement with Penn State Extension will bring the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority one step closer to fulfilling its mission to extend broadband services to unserved and underserved areas of the Commonwealth,” Carson said. “The services that Penn State Extension will offer will help close the digital divide and allow Pennsylvanians to connect at home, at work, or on the go.”

Through this initiative, the Penn State Extension plans to develop and update state broadband maps; Assessing the accuracy of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data provided by industry to inform the Commonwealth challenge process; providing geospatial analysis, data analysis and fiber to premises cost estimates to support local data-driven broadband deployment decisions; and advancing digital equity in underserved populations through strategic partnerships. The project is expected to run until June 30, 2023.

Brent Hales, director of Penn State Extension and associate dean at the College of Agricultural Sciences, noted that Extension is participating in this initiative after successfully working with the state Public Utility Commission to develop the map that helped Pennsylvania 368 Receive $1 million from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which aims to provide high-speed Internet access to 327,000 Pennsylvanians.

“Our partnership with the PUC has enabled the Penn State Extension to better serve the people and communities of the Commonwealth,” Hales said. “We are pleased to support future investments in Pennsylvania’s broadband infrastructure and look forward to enabling new opportunities for broadband deployment. I also want to recognize the efforts of our team and their tireless dedication and enthusiasm.”

The broadband initiative will focus on providing publicly available and open-source data mapping and analysis tools that enable stakeholders to visually identify unserved broadband areas.

In addition, the maps will provide transparency to current FCC broadband data, demographics and infrastructure data to inform the challenge processes for Commonwealth residents.

Determining the correct number of unserved and underserved homes in the Commonwealth will be critical in determining the state’s share of the $42.5 billion allocated under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for projects to provide broadband connectivity through a program called Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (KORN).

For more information about the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority or the Department of Community and Economic Development, visit the DCED website.

You can reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.