State supports veteran businesses with record-setting $856M contract

WILKES-BARRE — Gov. Tom Wolf this week announced that his administration built on its commitment to support small, diverse and veteran-owned businesses in Pennsylvania with nearly $856 million in state contract spending for fiscal year 2020-2021.

he Bureau of Diversity, Inclusion and Small Business Opportunities (BDISBO) detailed the record-setting contract spend — a 30 percent increase from the previous year’s total — in the Bureau’s 2021 Annual Report.

“I am excited to share that for the first time in the history of the commonwealth, more than 20 percent of our total state contracting spend went to small, diverse and veteran businesses,” Wolf said. “This is a true milestone for our efforts to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and fairness in state contracting, and builds on our work throughout this administration to provide opportunities for small, diverse and veteran-owned businesses to succeed.”

In 2020-2021, the commonwealth contract spend was up 15 percent to $4.2 billion from $3.7 billion the previous year. Along with that increase in total spend, spending with small businesses, small diverse businesses, and veteran business enterprises rose to nearly $856 million or 20.25 percent of total expenditures. Spending with small diverse businesses saw the biggest percentage increase from 9.63 percent up to 11.72 percent.

In 2020-2021, the Small Business Reserve program delivered $43 million in spend to small businesses over 668 contracting opportunities. The Small Diverse Business (SDB) and Veteran Business Enterprise (VBE) Goal setting programs, which were launched in the previous year, resulted in significant gains. The SDB Goal setting program was used by the commonwealth on 340 projects with an estimated project value totaling $1.7 billion, and the VBE program saw an increase of $4 million in spend with veteran-owned businesses. In addition, 100 new firms became self-certified to do business with the commonwealth.

In 2021, Gov. Wolf also called on legislators, business owners and members of the public to support Senate Bill 900, ground-breaking, bipartisan legislation introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate to guarantee the future of BDISBO-administered programs. Senate Bill 900 would ensure that the successful programs and policies established during the last seven years will remain in place well into the future. Currently more than 5,000 small, diverse and veteran-owned businesses in Pennsylvania benefit from programs administered by BDISBO.

“This fall I was proud to stand with a bipartisan group of legislators to introduce Senate Bill 900,” Wolf said. “Now, I call on the Republican leaders in the General Assembly to pass Senate Bill 900 and send it to my desk. Small, diverse and veteran businesses in Pennsylvania deserve the security that this legislation will provide.”

Treasurer Garrity releases results

of unclaimed property auction

State Treasurer Stacy Garrity announced this week that the auction of nearly 4,000 pieces of unclaimed property in October brought in more than $200,000. The online auction took place over two days.

“Our first priority is always to return unclaimed property to its rightful owner,” Garrity said. “However, sometimes it’s necessary to auction items due to space restrictions in our vault. The cash proceeds from this auction have been cataloged, and the funds will be held in perpetuity until the owner is found.”

Items sold during the auction included gold and diamond necklaces, earrings, watches, collectible toy trucks and cars, trading cards and stamps. The auction also included rare currency such as American Eagle coins, buffalo nickels, Krugerrands, and a 1984 Olympic ten-dollar coin.

Treasury partners with Pook & Pook Inc. of Downingtown for appraisal and auctioneer services.

State law requires businesses to report unclaimed property to Treasury after three years of dormancy if it belongs to a known owner. If the owner is unknown, businesses are required to report it to Treasury after one year of dormancy. Treasury keeps tangible unclaimed property for about three years before it is auctioned. The only items never auctioned are military decorations and memorabilia, which will remain in Treasury’s care until a veteran or their family are found.

“Most of the tangible property that comes to Treasury is from abandoned or forgotten safe deposit boxes,” Garrity said. “These items, no matter their dollar value, were important to the individual who tucked them away for safekeeping, so it’s important to remind everyone to maintain regular contact with your financial institutions and to let a trusted adviser know where you keep your records. Taking these steps can prevent your property from being designated as ‘unclaimed’ and sent to Treasury.”

The items were auctioned for a total of $204,670. Pook & Pook will receive a 12 percent commission for their services, meaning Treasury expects to net $179,670 after all payments are received. To date, Treasury has netted $172,040. Items not sold at the auction, or for which the winning bidder do not pay, will be returned to Treasury’s vault.

Treasury is currently working to return more than $4 billion in unclaimed property to its rightful owners. One in ten Pennsylvanians is owed unclaimed property, and the average claim is worth $2,000.

To learn more about unclaimed property or to search Treasury’s database, visit — patreasury.gov/unclaimed-property.

Cartwright: NEPA leads state in

federal funding for local projects

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, this week released the list of the top 10 Pennsylvania Members of Congress’ successes in Community Project Funding (CPF) approved by the House Appropriations Committee for fiscal year 2022.

Cartwright said he secured $19.6 million, and U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Dallas, was second at $13.2 million.

“This is about bringing much-needed change to Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Cartwright said. “Helping our area get back its fair share of our federal tax dollars—and get back on its feet — was why I worked to become a Chairman of Appropriations. This year, John Blake and my whole staff did a fantastic job of connecting these funds to worthy local projects.

“I also want to congratulate my colleague, Representative Dan Meuser, for his hard work and success in locating suitable projects, which from my position on the Committee I was thrilled to support as well. My hope is that, working together, we will expand upon these successes for Northeastern Pennsylvania in the years to come.”

Cartwright said community project funding opportunities allow Members of Congress and their constituents to have more input in how federal resources are spent. He said 15 Pennsylvania Members of Congress submitted CPF requests for fiscal year 2022. Cartwright’s CPF submissions included support for emergency first responders, economic revitalization, workforce development initiatives and funding for stormwater infrastructure improvements, among others.

Under guidelines issued by the House Appropriations Committee, each Representative may request funding for up to 10 projects in their community for fiscal year 2022. Projects are restricted to a limited number of federal funding streams, and only state and local governments and eligible non-profit entities are permitted to receive funding.

“One of the main reasons I worked to become a Chairman of the Appropriations Committee was to make sure Northeastern Pennsylvania gets its share of federal funding,” Cartwright said. My submissions included support for emergency first responders, economic revitalization, workforce development initiatives and funding for stormwater infrastructure improvements, among others.

“I also want to congratulate my colleague, Rep. Dan Meuser, for his hard work and success in locating suitable projects, which from my position on the Committee I was thrilled to support as well. My hope is that, working together, we will expand upon these successes for Northeastern Pennsylvania in the years to come.”

PA Turnpike reminds motorists

of 5% weekend toll increase

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) reminds drivers that a toll increase announced earlier this year is set to take effect just after midnight Sunday.

In July, the PTC approved a 5% toll increase for all E-ZPass and PA Turnpike Toll By Plate rates for the entire system except the Southern Beltway (PA Turnpike 576) west of Pittsburgh.

This is the first time in six years that the annual increase has been less than 6%.

Like its previous increases since 2009, the measure is generally required to meet escalating debt-service costs resulting from the PTC’s required payments to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to fund off-Turnpike transportation needs under the state’s Acts 44 and 89.

Act 44 of 2007 required the PTC to provide PennDOT with $450 million annually for highways, bridges, and public transit, while Act 89 of 2013 modified those payments and dedicated the full amount to public transit. Under Act 89, the PTC’s annual transit payments to PennDOT will be reduced to $50 million in July 2022, and $450 million will be provided from the state’s General Fund.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.