On Monday morning, Mayor Hawkins and Commissioner Beichner showed me around the Brody block urban renewal project in Oil City. Situated in the heart of downtown, Brody block is in desperate need of repair. Through funding from the Community Block Development Grant program, Oil City is redeveloping the area and providing new business, arts, and cultural opportunities, making Oil City more attractive to new employers.
I also had the opportunity to view firsthand the Oil City flood control device across the Allegheny River. This 28 year-old structure has prevented many floods over the years, but is past its usable life and in need of replacement.
Both of these projects are priorities for Oil City and when I return to Washington I will examine possible ways that I can provide assistance.
Yesterday in Clarion I announced $500,000 for a 6 county emergency response interoperable project for the Northwest Central PA Emergency Response Group. With funding from the department of Homeland Security, emergency service operations in Clarion, Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, Jefferson and McKean counties will be able to communicate and work together with hospitals, regional state and federal agencies to better respond to accidents and emergencies.
I was especially impressed with the technological amenities that the mobile command unit offered emergency response officials. It was great to talk about this collaborative partnership with key stakeholders and I look forward to spreading the word about this project as I travel across Pennsylvania.
Yesterday, I heard the story of Ms. Adena Holder, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She owns a home with her son, but nearly lost it after her son lost his job. Fortunately, she was able to take advantage of a program in Pennsylvania called the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP). Ms. Holder’s story of nearly losing her home is one that has become far too common in Pennsylvania and across America. Thankfully, Congressman Chaka Fattah and I were able to announce that we secured $1 billion for the Emergency Homeowners Relief Fund through the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The Emergency Homeowners Relief Fund was established to help homeowners stay in their homes if they are unable to pay their full mortgage due to unforeseen circumstances such as an illness or unemployment.
The Philadelphia Unemployment Project (PUP) hosted the event and John Dodds, its Executive Director as well as Brian Hudson, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), both spoke about the importance of this legislation. PUP has been and continues to be a strong advocate for HEMAP, which is administered by the PHFA here in Pennsylvania. In fact, Congressman Fattah as a state legislator was one of the original architects of HEMAP in Pennsylvania in 1983. Since its inception, HEMAP has saved over 41,000 homes in Pennsylvania from foreclosure and that is just one of the reasons I advocated so strongly for this program in the Senate and why Congressman Fattah did the same in the House. I look forward to swift and effective enactment of this program, so we can ensure that families are able to remain in their homes as we move out of this difficult economic period.
I recently learned the Jefferson County 911 Center is undergoing repairs due to a mold infestation. Until these repairs are complete, the county’s dispatchers – who answer over 18,000 emergency calls a year – have been working from a remote tower site without running water.
Yesterday, I visited Jefferson County to see the conditions in which they were working first hand. Tracy Zents, Director of Emergency Services, gave me a tour of the building and explained what is being done to complete repairs. We discuss possible options and potential resources that may be available for the Center. Repairs should be completed within a few weeks and I look forward to the dispatchers’ return to the center.
Yesterday I visited with the Armstrong County Board of Commissioners to discuss how the administration and Congress need to adjust our trade policy with China. Armstrong County has been directly affected by China's trade policies and the Commissioners have done a wonderful job in highlighting China’s currency manipulation and how it leads to job loss. I would like to thank Commissioners’ Kirkpatrick, Fink and Scahill for hosting me and discussing this important topic.
The Commissioners presented me with a copy of the Armstrong County Free Trade Resolution, which reinforces the difficulties United States manufacturers face in remaining competitive amongst companies that simply don’t play fair. By passing this resolution, the Armstrong County Commissioners have shown that the well being of blue collar workers are a high priority. I'll continue to fight for fair trade when the Senate reconvenes in September.