TRI COUNTY REPORT FOR MARCH 2ND, 2022

A year after the state launched a new unemployment system to help more residents during the pandemic, thousands of Pennsylvanians say they’re still waiting for help. Officials say the backlog of claims is being made worse by identity thieves. Pennsylvania Labor & Industry Secretary Jennifer Berrier says many claimants’ personal information was made available on the dark web. She also says L&I staffers are stretched thin, adding that they’re trying to work through a backlog of tens of thousands of claims that need further investigation. Many of those claims take at least six to eight weeks – or longer – to resolve.

State Police in Lawrence County report a two vehicle accident in Neshannock Township. According to police 23 year old Douglass Schmitt of New Castle was eastbound on Interstate 376 when he struck a vehicle that was stopped on the shoulder of the road operated by 31 year old Diamond Burns of Farrell. Police said Burns was taken to UPMC Farrell for treatment.

Pennsylvania’s mail-in voting law is remaining in place, at least for the near future, despite a state judge’s order that would have made it expire in two weeks. The state Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a one-paragraph order that overturned a February 16th  order by Commonwealth Court Senior Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt. It would have pulled the plug on the state’s 2-year-old voting law. The Supreme Court plans to hold oral argument in the legal challenge the law on Tuesday.

The Ambridge Water Authority says that today’s expected lifting of a boil advisory has been delayed.  An equipment failure at the water plant last week has left thousand of residents without access to clean running water at homes and businesses for days.   Equipment repairs were made in the last few days and all customers now having running water that has yet to be declared safe for drinking and other uses.  Two clean water samples must be taken and confirmed 24 hours apart before the boil advisory can be lifted.  Test results found traces of bacteria in the first sample taken and customers are now waiting until at least tomorrow for the lifting of the boil advisory.

A Greensburg man sentenced to prison on rape charges is continuing to deny his guilt.  Twenty-four-year-old Levi Evans of Greensburg was convicted in September on charges that he raped one woman and committed indecent assault against another in January of 2018.  Evans, who has maintained that the sex was consensual, was sentenced Monday to 6 to 12 years in prison.  At sentencing. Evans again proclaimed his innocence saying that people don’t know everything that happened in the case.

State lawmakers and advocates for the elderly are calling on the Wolf Administration to increase Medicaid funding to address a shortfall in services for older Pennsylvanians. Operators of nursing, rehabilitation, and long term care facilities in Pennsylvania are calling for an additional 294 million dollars in Medicaid reimbursements to address a deficit which goes back several years. They’re being led by trade organization LeadingAge PA. Chuck Quinnan is Regional Vice President. (Cut 3) Quinnan warns of service reductions and possible closures without the additional funding, particularly as the number of elderly Pennsylvanians continues to increase.

Pennsylvania’s chief fiscal watchdog says school students should also be learning about money and financial management. Auditor General Timothy DeFoor says this school year he worked with Harrisburg University to launch a statewide financial literacy competition for 7th through 12 graders in which they could submit a 30 second TikTok video, short essay or poem about what financial literacy means to them. DeFoor says some of the social and economic conditions today have to do with education dealing with financial literacy and he believes financial literacy should be taught in school and be a requirement for graduation

PPG Paints Arena is hosting a rematch between the U.S. and Canadian women’s hockey teams.  The game is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. on March 12.  Both teams won medals at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.  Their Olympics match-up was the most-watched hockey game in the U.S. this year, getting more viewers than any NHL game so far this season.

A Westmoreland County man is expected to be sentenced to a minimum of six years in prison after pleading guilty yesterday to child rape.  Prosecutors say that Kilian Thomas of Hempfield was 20-years-old when he had sex with two young teens that he met online in 2019.  As part of a plea deal, Thomas yesterday admitted guilt to charges of child rape and statutory sexual assault.