Brooks’ Legislation to Extend Help for VFWs, Legions, Fire Departments and Other Service Clubs Heads to the Governor’s Desk

HARRISBURG (June 30, 2022) Senator Michele Brooks’ legislation to continue supporting local veterans’ organizations, fire departments and other service clubs is on its way to the governor’s desk for his signature.

Senate Bill 1159 will extend Act 118 of 2020, which permitted service organizations to use 100% of their Small Games of Chance money to cover their general operating expenses, including rent, payroll and utilities. This extension in Act 118 expired on June 10, 2022, but Senator Brooks’ legislation will extend this allowance until December 31, 2022, in order to give these service organizations additional time to recover from the pandemic and remain a vital part of our communities.

“Many American Legions, VFWs, fire departments, Moose Lodges, and other service organizations are still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brooks said. “Most were forced to close their venues for more than a year, cancel their traditional patriotic ceremonies, and refrain from the fundraisers they traditionally offered, which helped to sustain their operations. The dedicated volunteers and staff who operate these clubs contribute to so many worthwhile charities in our communities, and they need and deserve our help now.”

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives today and now heads to the governor’s desk.

Senate Bill 1159 builds on Brooks’ past success when she served in the House of Representatives in legalizing 50/50s, Chinese auctions (basket raffles), and other fundraising efforts under the Small Games of Chance law, at a time when the state had deemed them illegal. The legalization of these fundraising tools has helped countless local nonprofit organizations, fire departments. sports teams, school booster clubs, and families in need.

 

CONTACT:         Diane McNaughton

(717) 787-1322

dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov

Senate Passes Brooks’ Legislation to Require Testing and Treatment Coverage for Lyme and other Tickborne Diseases

HARRISBURG (June 23, 2022) – Responding to Pennsylvania’s ranking as the state with the highest number of Lyme disease cases in the nation, Sen. Michele Brooks applauded the Senate’s passage of her legislation to help control the tick population, provide coverage for doctor-recommended Lyme disease treatment, and spread education and awareness of tickborne diseases. 

“Senate Bill 1188 seeks to combat the long-term effects of Lyme and other tickborne diseases by promoting education and awareness among health care professionals, providing coverage for diagnostic testing and treatment, and improving public awareness about tick bite prevention practices that can reduce the incidence and prevalence of ticks in this Commonwealth,” Brooks said.

Additionally, this legislation requires the Department of Health to work with the Tick Research Lab of Pennsylvania at East Stroudsburg University to develop an electronic database for use by the Lab, the department, and health care professionals.  The database would include nonidentifiable patient information, including tick testing information, results, and zip code and county location of ticks tested at the Tick Lab; diagnostic testing information and results; and the surveillance criteria applied to determine the confirmed or suspected patient diagnosis from the attending health care professional.

In 2019, there were 6,763 confirmed and 2,235 probable Lyme disease cases reported in this Commonwealth, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This is an incidence rate of 52.8 in 2019 and 62.3 over three years.  From 2000 to 2021, more than 110,000 Lyme disease cases have been confirmed in this Commonwealth, but since the CDC’s number only represents confirmed cases, the actual number of Lyme disease cases may be far higher.  These numbers continue to increase, and Pennsylvania is categorized as a “high incidence” area.

“This is an epidemic that impacts all corners of the state, not only rural Pennsylvania, but urban and suburban counties as well,” Brooks said. 

For example, in 2019, the counties in Pennsylvania with the largest number of cases, as reported by the state Department of Health, include Chester, Westmoreland, Butler, Bucks, and Montgomery counties.

“We have spent millions of taxpayer funds on the prevention of Lyme disease and other related illnesses through the Department of Health,” Brooks said. “Telling people to wear socks and white clothing in the woods is not enough. It’s time we do more.  We need to support tick testing, research, and most of all, the treatments needed to help people who are suffering.”

 

CONTACT:           Diane McNaughton      dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov  (717) 787-1322    

Senate Unanimously Passes Brooks’ Legislation to Extend Help for VFWs, Legions, Fire Departments and Other Service Clubs

HARRISBURG (June 14, 2022) The Senate has given its unanimous approval to Senator Michele Brooks’ legislation to continue providing a lifeline to local veterans’ organizations, fire departments and other service clubs.

Sen. Brooks’ Senate Bill 1159 will extend Act 118 of 2020, which permitted service organizations to use 100% of their Small Games of Chance money to cover their general operating expenses, including rent, payroll and utilities. This extension in Act 118 expired on June 10, 2022, but Brooks’ legislation will extend this allowance until December 31, 2022, in order to give these vital service organizations additional time to recover from the pandemic and to remain an integral part of our communities.

“Throughout the year, I have heard from many veterans’ clubs, fire departments, and other service organizations in the 50th Senatorial District, including our American Legions, VFWs, and Moose Lodges, who are still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brooks said. “Many of these clubs were forced to close their venues for more than a year, cancel their traditional patriotic ceremonies, and refrain from the fundraisers they traditionally offered, which helped to sustain their operations. The dedicated volunteers and staff who operate these clubs are major contributors to so many life-affirming charities in our communities, and they need and deserve our help now.”

The bill now advances to the House of Representatives for their consideration.

Senate Bill 1159 builds on Brooks’ past success when she served in the House of Representatives in legalizing 50/50s, Chinese auctions (basket raffles), and other fundraising efforts under the Small Games of Chance law, at a time when the state had deemed them illegal. The legalization of these fundraising tools has helped countless local nonprofit organizations, fire departments. sports teams, school booster clubs, and families in need.

 

CONTACT:         Diane McNaughton

(717) 787-1322

dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov
                                                                                         

Meeting on McKeever Environmental Learning Center to Be Held Thursday

HARRISBURG (April 26, 2022) The public is warmly invited to help shape the future of the McKeever Environmental Learning Center, closed in 2017 but soon to be transferred to the Bureau of Forestry in the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

DCNR, the Bureau of Forestry and Sen. Michele Brooks are hosting this public meeting, where the community will have the opportunity to give their input, as well as discuss and review ideas, beginning at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 at the Emmanuel Christian Church, 4495 Greenville Sandy Lake Road, Stoneboro. 

Through this partnership, McKeever, spanning more than 190 wooded acres, will once again be the site of educational workshops and programs for schoolchildren, forest landowners and the general public, Brooks said. The McKeever trails system will reopen to local residents and tourists, and its auditorium will again be available for organizations to use.

“It’s always been a priority for me to reopen this property to the public and school groups, so it can once again be enjoyed and become a part of family traditions and memories,” Brooks said.

The working group said they look forward to having public input on April 28th as they join with the community in embarking upon reopening this landmark and writing this exciting new chapter for McKeever.  

 

CONTACT:   Diane McNaughton        (717) 787-1322                 dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov

Brooks, Bonner Secure $1 Million Grant to Help Children and Families at Grove City YMCA’s Early Childhood Center

HARRISBURG (April 22, 2022) Support for Grove City-area children and families will grow, with today’s announcement of a $1 million grant secured by Sen. Michele Brooks and Rep. Tim Bonner for expanded educational opportunities at the Grove City YMCA.

“By expanding the infrastructure at the Grove City Y’s former elementary school building, we can help establish a strong foundation for the future for our children and families,” Brooks said. “This funding will contribute to the expansion of capacity in the Y’s after-school programs, bolster health care resources, and better prepare small children for a lifetime of success. It is my hope this project will ease the challenge for parents struggling to find child care. The improvements to this center will help reassure working parents that their children are safe, cared for, and learning during the workday, and will help provide children and the larger community with the building blocks to success.”

The Grove City YMCA has already launched a successful capital campaign to improve its buildings. The funds secured by Brooks and Bonner will complement the generosity of these private donors in a successful public-private partnership.

Rep. Tim Bonner said, “This is a very exciting project for the Grove City community, which creates a strong alliance between the YMCA, the GCASD and AHN to serve the needs of our community in addressing early childhood and school age children’s needs; assist young parents in returning to work knowing their children are being cared for in an exemplary manner; and creating a model of cooperation and concern between the leading educational, medical and service institutions in our community. I thank Senator Brooks for her good work and cooperation in helping to secure the grant.”

The YMCA’s Chief Executive Officer Adam J. Cook was energized by the support, saying, “The RACP funding will benefit the early education center in so many ways.  We look forward to not only impacting children and families in a holistic approach but using symbiotic relationships to continue to grow the economy of our area. We are grateful for the funding and look forward to the future of the center.”

The YMCA recently signed a 30-year lease with Grove City Area School District to repurpose a former elementary school into the Early Education Center.  The center will increase childcare in the area and also improve medical and educational resources for children and families.   Currently the Early Education Center services more than 100 families but with improvements and staffing we would be able to reduce the wait list to a maximum capacity of 245 families.  The new facility will create a minimum of 14 new jobs in the area.

“This grant will build on the community’s investment in our children, and Rep. Bonner and I are so pleased to grow this investment in the future of Grove City,” Brooks said.  

This funding was awarded under the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP).

 

CONTACT:  Diane McNaughton, Brooks’ Office                   (717) 303-8320                          dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov

McKeever Environmental Learning Center to Get a New Lease on Life

Public Invited to Informational Meeting April 28

HARRISBURG (April 19, 2022) The educational offerings of the popular McKeever Environmental Learning Center, closed in 2017, will get a new lease on life when the property is transferred to the Bureau of Forestry in the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and become part of Clear Creek State Forest, Sen. Michele Brooks announced today in conjunction with DCNR.

The property’s official new name will be McKeever Center/Clear Creek State Forest.

DCNR, the Bureau of Forestry and Sen. Brooks are inviting the community to a public meeting, where they will have the opportunity to give their input, as well as discuss and review ideas for the reopening of McKeever. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 28 at the Emmanuel Christian Church, 4495 Greenville Sandy Lake Road, Stoneboro. 

Through this partnership, McKeever, spanning more than 190 wooded acres, will carry on the vision of its founders.  It will once again be the site of educational workshops and programs for schoolchildren, forest landowners and the general public, Brooks said. Once again, the McKeever trails system will be open to local residents and tourists, and its auditorium will again be available for organizations to use.

The environmental learning center was established in the early 1970’s through the vision and foresight of local property and business owners —-including Dr. William DeCoudres, Richard Freni, Harold McQuiston, and Turner Craig –. and was ultimately named after state soil conservationist Ivan McKeever. The vision of these founders will grow as McKeever offers new programs and opportunities, including working with local first responders on wildland firefighting and search and rescue, as well as offering trails that are accessible to those with disabilities.

“Understanding the importance McKeever holds to local families and tourists, I deeply appreciate the unique partnership we’ve been able to forge with DCNR and the Bureau of Forestry,” Brooks said.  “I am grateful for the collective effort that made this reopening possible, through the strong support of DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn, the Bureau of Forestry, former McKeever Director Fran Bires, and other local leaders. It’s always been a priority for me to reopen this property to the public and school groups, so it can once again be enjoyed and become a part of family traditions and memories.”

Part of the vision for this property is to make it sustainable through public-private partnerships. as well as the possibility of enhancing opportunities between Goddard State Park and McKeever.

Penn- Northwest Development Corporation Executive Director Rod Wilt and Penn-Northwest have also been integral partners in the center’s revitalization.

“Penn-Northwest is excited about the announcement that DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry will be the new operators of the McKeever Environmental Learning Center.  This facility has been a Mercer County treasure that has played a key role in environmental education for nearly 40 years.  It is nearly impossible to calculate the number of people of all ages who have participated in any number of programs at McKeever.  We look forward to seeing the new plans for the facility unfold.  We especially want to thank Sen. Michele Brooks for her leadership over the past four years to bring DCNR to McKeever.”

John Oliver, a key stakeholder in the McKeever opening, and the former Secretary of DCNR, said, “For many years, McKeever Center near Sandy Lake was a thriving regional environmental education facility serving school districts throughout western Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, it ceased operations over four years ago and has fallen into disrepair. Thanks to the untiring efforts of Sen. Michele Brooks, it now has a new home in DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry, Clear Creek District. I’m thrilled with this exciting news and see tremendous opportunities for public/private partnership events centered around forest management, fire training and natural history education as well as cooperative outdoor recreation ventures with neighboring Goddard State Park.”  

Mercer County Commissioner Scott Boyd added, “I am very excited to see the McKeever Center saved for public use here in my own community!  The revival of interest in outdoor activities, its proximity to Lake Wilhelm and easy access to I-79 will attract visitors from outside the area and add to our local economy. I’m pleased to be part of the Work Group looking at new opportunities that will develop from our discussions.” 

The site will also feature office space for the Bureau of Forestry, serving as its western satellite office.    

The working group said they look forward to having public input on April 28th as they join with the community in embarking upon reopening this landmark and writing this exciting new chapter for McKeever.   

 

CONTACT:   Diane McNaughton        (717) 787-1322                 dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov 

Sen. Brooks Secures Grant for Broadband Expansion in Mercer County

HARRISBURG (March 22, 2022) Mercer County will receive a $266,455 grant for high-speed broadband service, Sen. Michele Brooks announced today after a meeting of the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA).

“It is my hope that this funding will continue to expand connectivity, which is so critical to success in today’s high-tech world,” Brooks said.  “Reliable internet service is such an important tool, whether for commercial, residential, agricultural or educational uses, in your home, school, farm, or business, and I am committed to continuing to invest in broadband infrastructure to assist unserved and underserved areas of our community.” 

The Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA) was established in 2004 as an independent agency of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to administer Pennsylvania’s economic stimulus packages. The CFA holds fiduciary responsibility over the funding of programs and investments in Pennsylvania’s economic growth. 

 

CONTACT: Diane McNaughton        
State Sen. Michele Brooks

Phone: (717) 787-1322

dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov

Brooks plans accelerated nursing degree legislation

HARRISBURG (March 1, 2022) – Senator Michele Brooks announced plans this past week to introduce legislation that will help address the unprecedented nurse workforce shortage in Pennsylvania.

“We are in the midst of the greatest health care workforce shortage to date,” said Brooks, who is Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, “and we need to take action to incentivize and promote growth in our health care sector, especially in rural communities. Living in rural Pennsylvania, I know firsthand about the need for access to health care in our local communities and nurses are an important part of that care.”

The co-sponsorship memorandum published by Brooks highlights numerous studies documenting the rapid decline in nurses entering the workforce, coupled with a large increase in those exiting their careers, many due to burnout and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is estimated that the health care sector has lost nearly half a million workers since February 2020 and predicts that more than 20 percent of the remaining nurse workforce may leave their positions in 2022.

“’The Great Resignation’ has hit health care hard,” says Brooks’ memorandum, which further lists early retirements, job transfers out of hospitals and acute care facilities, and contract staffing agencies among the factors that have led to this shortage.

“My legislation would allocate funds for accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Programs for students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree in another field and want to pursue a nursing degree (BSN).  The program would allow students to complete the BSN program in an accelerated fashion while still ensuring that they have all of the necessary clinical training and coursework, to ultimately result in more nurses joining the workforce more quickly.”

Additionally, nursing schools in the state, such as Duquesne University School of Nursing in Pittsburgh, are reporting a shortage of instructors, thus limiting the number of students who can be admitted into their nursing programs.  The funding to support this legislation would not only help relieve the hemorrhaging in clinical settings, but also seeks to help replenish faculty positions in our institutions of higher learning.

 

CONTACT:       Diane McNaughton

(717) 787-1322

dmmcnaughton@pasen.gov