Report: More Training Funds Needed in Pa.

November 17, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Union 354 accepts applications from potential apprentices in Westmoreland, Fayette, portions of Washington and Greene counties on the third Monday of each month from 8 a.m. to 12 noon at its training center, 263 Armbrust Road, Youngwood, Westmoreland County. (Photo courtesy Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, via Facebook)

Pennsylvania needs more economic opportunities and a new report from the Keystone Research Center showed federal investments in climate and infrastructure projects would help grow a skilled construction workforce.

Diana Polson, senior policy analyst at the center, said the report revealed federal money would create thousands of trade jobs through expanding union construction apprenticeships leading to quality careers, as electricians, operating engineers, carpenters, and laborers.

“In Pennsylvania, for example, these apprenticeships train workers for jobs that pay more than most college-educated workers earn, and 61 percent more than the average worker in Pennsylvania,” Polson said. “Significantly, this training comes without any student debt.”

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Three Local High Schools Top Band Competition

October 27, 2023 |

By Bonnijean Cooney Adams | Posted in: State & Region

Lots of clouds are fitting for the “Up in the Air” theme of McKeesport Area High School Tiger Band’s 2023 show. After taking first place in its category at regionals on Oct. 21 at Penn-Trafford High School, the band is looking forward to performing on their home field for the state competition on Saturday (Oct. 28). (Alll photos courtesy of Tournament of Bands Region 8)

Related Story: MAHS Hosting State Band Competition

Three local high school marching bands were named regional champions in their respective categories at the Tournament of Bands Region 8 competition Oct. 21 at Penn-Trafford High School Warrior Stadium.

East Allegheny, McKeesport Area and Serra Catholic received top scores for their performances, as reported by Tournament of Bands Region 8.

East Allegheny

East Allegheny performed a selection of songs by the Four Seasons in their “Jersey Boys” show, which scored 90.08 in Group 2-A. That score included high auxiliary, percussion, plus music and visuals.

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U.S. Steel: No Update on Sale Talks

October 26, 2023 |

By Staff Reports | Posted in: State & Region

Finished coils await shipment at U.S. Steel’s Irvin Plant in West Mifflin. (File photo courtesy U.S. Steel Corp.)

U.S. Steel and its possible suitors are remaining quiet on two competing proposals to sell the corporation.

During a call Thursday with investors and reporters, the company reported third-quarter net earnings of $299 million, or $1.20 per share, and declared a five-cent-per-share dividend.

But corporation officials stayed mum about the possible sale of the Pittsburgh-based company, which operates the Mon Valley’s last integrated steel-making facilities, the Edgar Thomson Plant in Braddock and North Braddock, as well as the Clairton coke and by-products plant and Irvin Plant in West Mifflin.

In August, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., a steel-making and iron-ore mining conglomerate in Ohio, and Sewickley-based Esmark Inc. announced they had both tendered offers to take over U.S. Steel. The Cleveland-Cliffs deal has the support of the United Steelworkers union.

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Election Officials Need 40,000 to Work Polls

September 19, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: Politics & Elections, State & Region

Election Day is less than two months away, and for the process to go smoothly, Pennsylvania needs a lot more poll workers. Many of the 8.7 million registered voters in the state would be eligible to work at the polls for the November 7th municipal elections.

Lauren Cristella, League of Women Voters board member and president and CEO of the Committee of 70, a voter education group, said 40,000 Pennsylvanians are needed twice a year to ensure elections happen.

The state is also recruiting 17-year-olds to serve as poll workers, if they get permission from their school principal and a parent or guardian.

“Poll workers are our first, best defense against election fraud, anything that would cause disenfranchisement of voters,” Cristella said. “Fully-staffed, well-trained poll workers make voting easier for everyone. So, we took that as an important part of our mission, to make sure that these important roles are filled.”

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Pa. Expands Property Tax, Rent Rebate Program

September 13, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

During a ceremony at a senior-citizen center in Philadelphia in August, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro ceremonially signed legislation which expands the Property Tax/Rent Rebate program to nearly 175,000 more Pennsylvania seniors and doubles rebates for many of the 400,000 Pennsylvanians who already qualify. (Submitted photo courtesy office of Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro)

Older Pennsylvanians will soon see some financial relief with their property taxes and rent.

Gov. Josh Shapiro recently signed House Bill 1100 into law, expanding the state’s existing property tax and rent rebate program.

Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director for AARP Pennsylvania, said the expansion of the program will significantly boost property tax rebates for older adults, alleviating the financial burden for homeowners and renters. He said the yearly maximum standard will increase from $650 to $1,000 for individuals.

It is the first expansion of the program in nearly 20 years, Johnston-Walsh said. “Both property taxes across the state, and rents, have been increasing year after year. And that’s why AARP Pennsylvania fought so hard to expand the property tax rebate program.”

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Report: State Lags in Access to Pre-K Education

September 07, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

File photo: “Day 100 in Kindergarten” by Meriwether Lewis Elementary School, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic.

The Keystone State has some work to do to provide more access to quality pre-Kindergarten programs for the youngest Pennsylvanians.

Only 43 percent of eligible 3- and-4-year-olds are in high-quality, publicly funded pre-K, leaving more than 87,000 without access, according to a new report entitled, “State of Early Care and Education in Pennsylvania.”

Maggie Livelsberger, policy director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, said young children need access to programs preparing them to start Kindergarten. But she said inadequate funding for child care has led to issues of supply and demand, affecting a family's ability to find care they can afford.

“It also impacts child care providers, and their ability to be compensated fairly, to pay their teachers and maintain their business expenses,” Livelsberger said. “We are living in a world where there is a very historic workforce shortage within the child care system, and a lot of that is due to unlivable wages.”

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Competing Bidders Offer to Purchase U.S. Steel

August 14, 2023 |

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: State & Region

U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Plant was founded by Andrew Carnegie in 1873 and forms the nucleus of what is now called the Mon Valley Works. (Mark Dixon photo via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

The jobs of more than 3,000 Mon Valley steelworkers are among those that hang in the balance after competing bidders emerged with offers to purchase Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp.

On Sunday evening, the publicly traded company announced that it had retained investment bankers from Barclays Capital Inc. and Goldman Sachs & Co. to evaluate “strategic alternatives” to “maximize stockholder value” that could include selling all or part of the corporation.

U.S. Steel operates the Pittsburgh area’s last integrated steelmaking facility, the Mon Valley Works, which includes a coal by-products plant in Clairton; a blast-furnace and continuous casting facility, Edgar Thomson Plant, in Braddock and North Braddock; and a rolling mill, Irvin Plant, in West Mifflin.

U.S. Steel confirmed over the weekend that a rival company, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., a steel-making and iron-ore mining conglomerate in Ohio, had made an unsolicited $7.3 billion offer to purchase the corporation.

The Cleveland-Cliffs offer has the support of the United Steelworkers union, according to a letter the company released on its website.

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Study: Oil, Gas Emissions Affect Pa. Health

July 13, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

A new study sheds light on the urgent need for policies to reduce emissions from U.S. oil and gas production, showing the public health effects are costing billions of dollars.

The research estimated in 2016, in the U.S. alone, oil and gas-related pollution caused $77 billion in health damages, contributing to 7,500 early deaths and more than 400,000 asthma exacerbations.

Dr. Barbara W. Brandom, a retired professor of pediatric anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh and a member of the Concerned Health Professionals of Pennsylvania, said she saw firsthand the impact of poor air quality on children's health because asthmatic kids had complications with anesthesia.

“Basically, we need to stop burning fossil fuels,” she said.

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Advocates Praise New Strategy to Tackle Hate

June 30, 2023 |

By Danielle M. Smith - Public News Service | Posted in: State & Region

Local groups are working to counter a rise in anti-semitism in Pennsylvania and across the country.

Anti-semitic incidents in the United States reached a new high in 2022, with a total of 6,751 cases of racist, anti-semitic and other hateful messages reported by the Anti-Defamation League.

Advocates say that the trial of Robert Bowers — the man convicted of killing 11 people inside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood in 2018 — is a reminder of the danger that anti-semitism and other racial- and religious-based hate groups present.

Hilary Levine, associate director for the American Jewish Committee’s regional office in Philadelphia, said the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, a plan announced in May by the Biden administration, is a step in the right direction.

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County Seeks Applications for Blight Program

May 25, 2023 |

By Submitted Report | Posted in: Announcements, State & Region

(Tube City Almanac 2019 file photo for illustration only)

Allegheny County Economic Development is currently accepting applications for the 2023 round of the Blight Removal Program, a spokeswoman said.

Municipalities, public authorities, councils of government, land banks and private developers may apply for funding to remediate established blight conditions. Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. June 16 and individual awards of up to $250,000 are available.

Approximately $1.5 million is available during this round of funding, county officials said.

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