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Senator Judy SchwankHello!

Perspective. We obtain it through experience. We change others’ perspective by example or we alter ours by listening to a different viewpoint. Movies, books, documentaries, websites, tragedy and/or luck have the power to alter our perspective.

So, too, does travel.

How many times have you noticed something different when you’ve traveled outside of Reading, outside of Pennsylvania or outside of the United States?

Was it something a local government did to make the lives of their residents better or easier? Did a government agency make something beautiful that made you think something like that could be done were you live? Was public transportation more efficient? Did you notice more bicycles than cars? Did the place you visited seem greener than home?

My husband Jim and I celebrated our 25th anniversary this summer with a whirlwind trip to Reutlingen, Germany. There were many occasions that I thought upon seeing the city's sparkling clean streets or quaint central markets, "Why can't we do that in Berks County?"

We all travel in different directions and I am curious what you have noticed this summer in your travels? Did your perspective shift? What were those things that caused that sea change? I am curious and want to know if you think those things would work in Berks County.

Going abroad – whether physically, spiritually or intellectually – can have a profound impact on perspective. It would be good to share.

Email or write me your thoughts or 210 George St., Suite 201, Reading, PA 19605.

Safe travels if you are planning a vacation or a trip across the county, and remember to take not of your surroundings.

Thanks again for your continued support!

Efforts to Stop Heroin Crisis

drugsToo many families continue to be wracked by stories of heroin overdoses and deaths in Berks County and throughout the state. In July, I continued my efforts to find a solution to this avoidable problem when I joined other elected and health officials working to turn the tide.

In a Reading Area Community College forum simply titled “Heroin Crisis Facing Pennsylvania,” experts and I tackled this issue. The session was the second in a series of public hearings held by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania.

Berks County has been hit hard by heroin-related deaths and arrests, including the arrests this summer of 13 Topton-area residents and the deaths of six Kutztown and Brandywine Heights high school graduates since 2013. Between 2009 and last year, Berks County has reported 58 overdose deaths. This year was the first for an overdose death to be blamed on heroin.

Across the commonwealth, there has been an 89 percent increase in overall drug-overdose deaths since 1999.

Heroin’s affordability is one of the biggest problems.

A typical bag that used to be $20 six years ago can be bought today in New York for $4 or even $2. Rural areas in Berks and nearby face the issue of easy access to such several major metropolitan areas.

The Senate adopted legislation in May that would provide for prescription drug monitoring. I voted in favor of SB 1180 because the registry would increase the quality of patient care and help law enforcement agencies prevent fraud and drug abuse, and eventually help to curtail heroin use.

Child Care Work

Child Care ToursAs a member of committees impacting child care, including Public Health and Welfare, I decided to visit several diverse child care centers in my district this summer to hear directly from providers and families to better address the services they provide.

Studies have shown that the first few years of a child’s life are very important in child development. Done well, the educational, behavioral, social, self-regulatory capacities and the physical health of these children can better blossom.

I, personally, know the long-term effects of quality child care since my daughter and grandchildren received care at centers like the ones I visited.

Whether by necessity or choice, many working families need affordable and adequate child care for their children. It is important that Pennsylvania is aware of the short- and long-term benefits of early care programs and their vital role in our communities. I hope to raise awareness in Harrisburg and legislatively address some of the issues that I learned about during my visits.  

Financial Aid Seminar

student aidI will be holding my annual "College Financial Aid Awareness Seminar" in October at Muhlenberg Senior High School. The free seminar is open to students and their parents.

The seminar will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 9, at the school, which is at 400 Sharp Ave., Reading.

Join me as representatives from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) explain what financial aid opportunities are available for college, how to apply for them, and unveil the online financial aid and college planning resources that they offer.

Reading Area Community College’s director of financial aid will also make a presentation.

Registration for the free seminar is encouraged, but it is not required.  Contact my office, 610-929-2151, for more information and to register.

Fall Session

CapitolThe Republican majorities in the House and Senate have scheduled a truncated fall legislative session. It starts on Monday and is scheduled to end Nov. 12, but that date could be erased pending the outcome of the election.

During the eleven days that are currently on the calendar, I expect that we will take up pension reform again and, hopefully, keep working on property tax reform. As you and I know, our real estate bills are not getting smaller and school districts continue to struggle to find the revenue they need to provide a good education for our kids.

Pennsylvania finally became the country’s 28th state to accept President Obama’s invitation to expand its Medicaid program. There probably will be some more talk about this in the coming months. The fate if this version of Medicaid expansion might also be dependent on who is leading us as governor.

Stay tuned! I will keep you up-to-date.

Property Tax/Rent Rebate Extension

Tax RebateOne more reminder that if you rely – or look forward to receiving – the annual rebate for property taxes or rent that you paid during the previous year, you have until the end of this year to apply.

The PA Department of Revenue extended the deadline earlier this year and we just want to make sure this doesn’t fall through the cracks for you, if you rely on this.

This program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. The income limit is $35,000 a year for homeowners and $15,000 annually for renters; and half of Social Security income is excluded. The maximum standard rebate is $650, but supplemental rebates for qualifying homeowners can boost rebates to $975.

A new wrinkle this year is Revenue’s inclusion of deceased claimants who lived during a part of 2013.

Claim forms and answers to questions are available at or by calling 1-888-222-9190
or my office: 610-929-2151. If you have already applied for a rebate, check the status of your claim online or by calling 1-888-PATAXES.

Being Social

Twitter/Facebook Facebook Twitter It’s a privilege to be your state senator, so it is important to me to be in touch with you.

I really like face-to-face meetings but understand that in this busy world, sometimes that isn’t possible. Feel free to call my office to ask questions or make suggestions. Also, you may connect with me through my pages on Facebook and Twitter. Please follow me for regular updates and comments about what’s happening in the district and in Harrisburg.

Offices to Serve You

  District Office
210 George Street
Suite 201
Reading, PA 19605
Phone: (610) 929-2151
Fax: (610) 929-2576
Harrisburg Office
457 Main Capitol Building
Senate Box 203011
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3011
Phone: (717) 787-8925
Fax: (717) 772-0578