Last week, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced he will propose a three-year tax incentive of up to $2,500 a year for newly certified teachers, nurses and police officers in his upcoming Budget Address.
“Gov. Shapiro understands the critical workforce shortage the commonwealth faces and is committed to taking action to support workers and businesses,” a release said. Building an economy that works for everyone, ensuring that every Pennsylvania child receives a quality education, and making communities across the commonwealth safer are the top priorities that will be reflected in his March 7 address.
“I’ll be proposing a new $2,500 personal income tax credit to hire new cops, teachers and new nurses every year for at least the next three years,” Shapiro told KYW Newsradio and KDKA. “It’s going to help us put more teachers in the classroom, more nurses in the hospital, and more police officers and troopers in our communities.”
Shapiro previously shared that his upcoming budget proposal will include a 50% increase for the Manufacturing PA Innovation Program and a 25% increase in funding for computer science and STEM education through Pennsylvania’s PA Smart Program.
Pennsylvania borrowers impacted by allegedly deceptive practices by student loan servicer Navient, will receive $3.5 million in restitution payments and $67 million in debt cancellation.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced on Thursday that Navient has agreed to provide relief totaling $1.85 billion to borrowers across the country as part of a settlement with a coalition of 39 state attorneys general.
The settlement follows claims that the student loan company used forbearance steering practices and “predatory” subprime private loans to maximize profits.
“Navient repeatedly and deliberately put profits ahead of its borrowers – it engaged in deceptive and abusive practices, targeted students who it knew would struggle to pay loans back and placed an unfair burden on people trying to improve their lives through education,” said Shapiro. “Today’s settlement corrects Navient’s past behavior, provides much needed relief to Pennsylvania borrowers, and puts in place safeguards to ensure this company never preys on student loan borrowers again.”
Shapiro sued Navient in October 2017 and co-led the litigation and negotiation of the settlement with Washington, Illinois, Massachusetts and California.
The attorneys general claim that Navient steered borrowers into putting a forbearance on their loans, which added to the borrowers’ loan balances, pushing them further into debt. Navient could have instead offered services such as income-driven repayment plans or helped borrowers attain forgiveness of remaining balances of 20-25 years of qualifying payments.
Navient also allegedly originated subprime private loans to students attending for-profit schools and colleges with low graduation rates, even though it knew that a vey high percentage of those borrowers wouldn’t be able to pay back their loans.
Under the terms of the settlement, Navient will cancel the remaining balance on nearly $1.7 billion in subprime private student loan balances owed by nearly 66,000 borrowers nationwide. In addition, a total of $95 million in restitution payments of about $260 each will be distributed to approximately 350,000 federal loan borrowers who were placed in certain types of long-term forbearances.
Approximately 13,000 Pennsylvania borrowers will receive $3.5 million in restitution payments and another 2,467 Pennsylvanians will receive $67 million in debt cancellation.
“This is something myself, as well as many people in my position, felt like we would never get ahead of,” said Nicole S. of Easton. Nicole, a former student of the Art Institute of NYC, was a victim of the alleged practices.
“So many of my loans, which are private, individual loans, they don’t offer consolidation or income driven payments—they would rather put you right into forbearance, so it sits there growing interest,” she said. “I’ve been trying to get a mortgage for five years. My interest rate is higher. Anything you need credit for is affected.”
A State College-based contractor was charged with four counts of theft in one of the largest prevailing wage criminal cases on record, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced on Thursday.
Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc., one of the largest contractors to complete projects for the state, was charged with four counts of theft relating to violations of the Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act and the Federal Davis-Bacon Act after allegedly stealing its workers’ retirement, health and welfare money.
The alleged theft resulted in Hawbaker’s workers losing millions of dollars from their retirement, which the company used to lower its costs and increase profits, Shapiro’s office wrote in a press release.
“This is the third in a series of prosecutions related to wage theft and misclassification over the last few months – and it isn’t the last,” said Shapiro. “Too often, the workers that get stolen from are underpaid, have been denied benefits, and have been put into dangerous situations without appropriate training. My office is committed, with our partners in law enforcement, to keep fighting until workers are treated right.”
The charges come after a three-year investigation into the company’s practices. According to investigators, Hawbaker took wages from its workers by using money for prevailing wage workers’ retirement funds to contribute to retirement accounts of all of its workers, including its top brass.
Hawbaker also allegedly took funds intended for prevailing wage workers’ health and welfare benefits, to subsidize the cost of its self-funded health insurance plan.
Investigators said the company disguised the theft for decades by inflating its records of benefit spending.
The charges however, only account for the last five years due to the statute of limitations.
Pennsylvania’s top attorney is defending his efforts to make drug-maker Purdue Pharma pay for the way it marketed the painkiller OxyContin to doctors in Pennsylvania.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro told a group of drug treatment advocates who were gathered May 20 at Treatment Trends, an addiction rehabilitation center in Allentown, that he expects Purdue to “pay for the damage they have done and change their corporate behavior.”
Shapiro filed suit against Purdue Pharma on May 14, alleging that the pharmaceutical company, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, unlawfully and irresponsibly marketed the painkiller OxyContin to doctors throughout the commonwealth.
The lawsuit is a part of a broad effort by Shapiro’s office to target sources of the opioid epidemic.
There were 5,456 drug-related overdose deaths in Pennsylvania in 2017, according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, marking an increase over 2016, when there were 4,642 drug-related overdose deaths.
The 2017 numbers show 43 drug related deaths per 100,000 people in the state, a significantly higher percentage than the national average of 22 deaths per 100,000 people.
Shapiro alleges that Purdue contributed to the state’s opioid crisis by aggressively pushing doctors to prescribe OxyContin to their patients. Purdue has rejected the allegations.
“We’ve been arresting doctors at an alarming rate who are running pill mills,” Shapiro said in an interview at Treatment Trends. “We need docs to understand that not only is it against the law to run a pill mill, but also to learn the dangers of irresponsible prescribing practices.”
According to the Attorney General, Purdue sales representatives have made more than 500,000 sales calls to doctors in Pennsylvania since 2007.
During these sales calls, Shapiro alleges that sales representatives lied about the addictive nature of OxyContin to the physicians, encouraging doctors to increase the dosage to patients who exhibited withdrawal symptoms, calling the symptoms, a “pseudo-addiction.”
Shapiro stated that health insurance companies can help by encouraging doctors to limit the amount of opioids prescribed.
“If you get your wisdom teeth pulled,” he said, “you don’t need 60 Percocet when you leave the office.”
Pressure from state authorities has appeared to make a dent in the problem.
From 2017 to 2018, the overprescribing of opioids lessened, according to Shapiro.
“During that same time,” he said, “we’ve seen the number of opioid-related deaths come down. There is a direct correlation between the way these pills are prescribed and the number of deaths.”
Shapiro added that he plans for the state to use any financial gains from the lawsuit to go toward drug treatment throughout the state.
Shapiro’s suit could be a game changer for the industry, said Robert McDonald, an adjunct professor of health care systems engineering at Lehigh University in Bethlehem and former administrator with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.
“I think this suit will change the way pharmaceutical sales are done,” he said. “Purdue is by no means the only company using these tactics. Pharmaceuticals can do wonderful things for the patient, but without the right information, damage can be done.”
Purdue Pharma denies the claims made by Shapiro’s office in the lawsuit.
“The complaint is part of a continuing effort to try these cases in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system. Such allegations demand clear evidence linking the conduct alleged to the harm described, but we believe the state fails to show such causation and offers little evidence to support its sweeping legal claims,” the company said in a statement.
Pennsylvania, along with 40 other states, began leading an investigation into Purdue and other opioid manufacturers and distributors in 2017. The companies being investigated are Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical, Allergan Inc, Purdue Pharma, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.
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