TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR OCTOBER 19TH, 2021

Western Pennsylvania residents in need of economic assistance with home energy bills can once again seek aid through a state program.  With funding from the American Rescue Plan, Pennsylvania’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Plan is once again accepting applications for financial help.  The program began accepting requests for assistance this week and will run through May 6th.  More info can be found at www.compass.state.pa.us.

Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is among those offering his condolences on the death this week of General Colin Powell.  The former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff passed away Monday at the age of 84.  On news of the general’s passing, Toomey, who formerly represented Western Pennsylvania in the House of Representatives, called Powell a great man who put his country and his family above all else.  American and Pennsylvania flags will be flown at half-staff in Colin Powell’s honor through sunset this Friday.

According to this week’s Triple-A East Central Gas Price report the average price of gasoline is Western Pennsylvania is up five cents this week to 3.51 a gallon. Drivers in New Castle are paying 3.45 a gallon while motorists in Sharon are paying 3.55. The national average is at 3.32 a gallon.

Governor Tom Wolf is proposing several bills to reduce sexual assaults at colleges and universities in the state. Wolf says we can’t live in a society where many feel unsafe and sexual violence and sexual assault are things that make children feel unsafe. The four bills would strengthen protections for victims of on-campus crime, as well as teach middle and high school students to know and prevent sexual assault, stalking and more.  The bills would also create a task force to study sexual assault, dating violence and more in middle schools, high schools and postsecondary institutions.

Several people were taken to the hospital following a two vehicle accident yesterday morning on Interstate 79 in Butler County. According to State Police 28 year old Lawrence Naill of Farrell was southbound on 79 when he failed for traffic in the area and struck a vehicle operated by 28 year old Virgil Ford of Houston, Texas. Both drivers along with a passenger in the Ford vehicle were all taken to Grove City Medical Center for treatment.

COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise throughout the state. Yesterday, the state added nearly three-thousand new cases, pushing the total over one-million-513-thousand.  About 105 new deaths related to the virus were added to the death toll, which is at 30-thousand-523.

President Joe Biden is expected to visit Pennsylvania this week. The president will reportedly be making a stop in Scranton on Wednesday, making it his first visit to the area in nearly a year since he was first elected president. No other details have been released on his planned visit.

A bill which seeks to address Pennsylvania’s teacher shortage has been passed by the state Senate.  Senator Camera Bartolotta says her bill would streamline the process for approving certified out-of-state teachers to be eligible for the comparable in-state instructional certification. (CUT 3) Bartolotta notes that newly issued in-state teaching certificates have dropped by 66 percent since 2010. The bill now goes to the House.

Roadwork on Interstate 80  in Mercer County has started and is scheduled to conclude on Friday, Oct. 29th , for the season. The work involves patching the pavement and updating markers on the east and westbound lanes for the first 15 miles of I-80. Work on the westbound lanes is expected to start in April 2022 and finish in November 2022. During that time, any additional work on the eastbound lanes will take place.

A man who hacked into UPMC’s employee database is heading to prison for at least seven-years.  On Monday, Justin Johnson, formerly of Detroit, was sentenced to seven-years behind bars after he hacked into the UPMC Human Resources servers in 2013 and 2104, stealing personal tax information he then sold on the dark web.  Between 2014 and 2017, Johnson also stole information from the database to use to commit identity theft.  Officials say Johnson’s actions resulted in an estimated one-point-seven-million-dollars in tax fraud.