BAE Systems gets extended $800M contract to build armored multipurpose vehicles

BAE Systems’ facility in York is one of the company’s plants that will build armored multipurpose vehicles for the Army as part of a $797 million contract, with options for a potential total contract of $1.6 billion.

This award brings the AMPV program into full-rate production, making it the first newly designed and built tracked vehicle in the Army’s fleet to reach this production stage in three decades, a release said.

The AMPV replaces the Army’s fleet of Vietnam War-era M113 family of vehicles. The multi-mission AMPV family of vehicles provides critical survivability, mobility and interoperability upgrades to the Armored Brigade Combat Team.

“Entering full-rate production is a momentous milestone in the lifecycle of a production program for both the U.S. Army and BAE Systems,” said Jeremy Tondreault, president of the platforms and services sector at BAE Systems. “The AMPV is the next-generation replacement for the venerable M113, and we are proud that this critical capability is on its way to the men and women who need our most capable combat vehicles on the front lines.”

The Army first awarded BAE Systems the AMPV contract in 2014 and signed a low-rate initial production contract in 2018. The first LRIP vehicle was delivered in August 2020.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Temporary structure planned for Harrisburg Market vendors following fire

Harrisburg officials announced at a press conference on Tuesday plans to construct a temporary structure while the community works to rebuild following last week’s fire that ravaged Historical Broad Street Market. 

“Right now, we’re working with a number of companies that work on temporary structures,” City Business Administrator Dan Hartman said. “That’s something we’re hoping to have lined up in a few days. 

“Ultimately, we’re still hoping to have at some point in August a temporary structure in place that will allow vendors and customers and the public the chance to shop, not outdoors in a courtyard or anything, but in a climate-controlled environment that offers pretty much everything they had and then some,” he said. “That’s primarily where we’re at right now.” 

The site of the temporary structure is an empty grass lot at N. 3rd and Verbeke streets, a location not far from the Market’s fire-ravaged brick building. In the week since the fire, displaced vendors sold their goods in the market’s courtyard. 

Hartman said Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams gave the directive as soon as the fire happened to get the project up and running and operational to limit vendors’ losses and damages. 

“What we want to do,” Hartman said, “is give them a great workspace that while everything works out on the historical preservation side and rehabilitation side, there is a place that is safe, secure, and allows them to do their business that they need to do. 

“With that in mind, that is the exact reason why we sprang into action to get this done as quick as possible.” 

Hartman said Gov. Josh Shapiro and his cabinet members have been supportive of city officials as they work with vendors through this initial disaster phase and their progression toward a rebuilding phase. Hartman added that there has been a “patchwork” effort consisting of charities, fund-raisers, municipal, county, state, and federal support to deal with the situation. 

“There is not a one-stop shop to handle all of this,” he said. 

Shapiro pledged his support at a press conference a week ago Monday and laid out the steps his administration is taking to help the reconstruction, including working with the Small Business Administration to support vendors. The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is also working with vendors to help keep them in business during the rebuild. 

Shapiro said government at all levels is coming together to “do what’s necessary to support the rebuild.” 

Noting that there is “quite a bit of investigation work that has to happen,” Hartman said that it will be until the first or second week of August when “everything is wrapped up” on the investigation side. 

“Right now, as it pertains to a temporary structure, we’re working on getting a facility that will have all the modern amenities – flooring, it will be sided, air-conditioned and heated depending on the season, running water, electrical, things like that,” said Hartman. 

“Once we get that side of it done, it takes about one-and-a-half to three weeks from the time that order is into the time it’s being occupied.” 

Hartman said he believes the cost of restoring the building will be covered by Harrisburg’s insurance. 

“The whole thing is working itself through the process it needs to work itself out through,” said Matt Maisel, director of communications for the City of Harrisburg. “We need to constantly work with our insurance company, we’re working with the vendors, we’re working with the Market.”

Small, disadvantaged businesses to gain access to increased federal contracting

A new initiative to increase federal contracting with small, disadvantaged businesses was announced Thursday by the Biden-Harris Administration. 

The 8(a) MAS Pool Initiative is a joint effort by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) to help small, disadvantaged businesses (SDBS) in the 8(a) Business Development Program gain access to additional federal contracts in GSA’s Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Program. 

By establishing a pool of 8(a) firms, procurement officials will find it easier to locate and contract with SBDs across industries. The joint initiative between the SBA and GSA is aimed at increasing federal contracting opportunities for minority-owned and other small, disadvantaged businesses. 

Participants accepted into the 8(a) MAS Pool will receive a designation indicating to buyers that the business is eligible for awards. Federal agencies can then leverage the size and scale of the MAS marketplace to achieve their contracting goals. 

“We know America’s diverse small business communities provide tremendous value to our government and to taxpayers,” said GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said in a press release. “We’re excited about this new pool that will make it easier for federal acquisition professionals to find them, buy from them, help them create jobs, and advance agency missions across government.” 

Guided by an executive order advancing racial equity and support for underserved communities, the MAS Pool will seek to create new avenues for minority-owned small businesses to compete in the marketplace. 

The 8(a) Business Development Program provides opportunities for socially and economically disadvantaged participants to develop and grow their businesses, create wealth, and generate jobs in underserved communities. Business development training with SBA’s district teams is part of the program, along with one-on-one counseling, business workshops, and management and technical guidance. 

Pa. sees billions in federal dollars one year after Bipartisan law

Since being signed by President Joe Biden in 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has provided Pennsylvania with billions of dollars in support for projects. 

Thus far, investments have been made to improve the state’s infrastructure, support a cleaner environment, and create good jobs that pay well. 

“This $7.9 billion infrastructure investment is really an investment in people,” said Gov. Tom Wolf, who on Tuesday joined White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu to celebrate the anniversary of Biden’s historic investments in important infrastructure projects in Pennsylvania and across the country. 

For Pennsylvania, the investment includes funding for the following critical projects: 

  • Amtrak routes on the Eastern Seaboard 
  • Addressing aging infrastructure of the Philadelphia International Airport 
  • Replacing and repairing more than 7,540 miles of highway and 3, 353 bridges in poor condition 
  • Providing eligible families $30/month off their internet bills through the Affordable Connectivity Program 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the largest federal investment in infrastructure in decades, and Pennsylvania has received in total the following: 

  • $58 million for clean school buses 
  • $62 million to improve electric vehicle infrastructure 
  • At least $100 million for broadband and internet expansion 
  • $119 million for airports 
  • $208 million for clean energy and energy efficiency projects 
  • $240 million for clean drinking water 
  • $349 million to cap orphaned wells and reclaim mind lands 
  • $614.8 million to improve public transportation 
  • $1.1 billion to improve infrastructure resilience and prepare for floods and extreme weather events 
  • $5.2 billion for road and bridge projects 
  • $110 billion for ports and waterways. 

“It’s an investment in safe travels to work, family, and friends; an investment in a secure supply chain, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe,” Wolf said. “I am grateful for President Biden’s leadership and this bold investment to build a better future for all Americans.”

Long-term care facilities receive sizeable investment from DOH

To help long-term care facilities provide quality care as the population ages, the Department of Health (DOH) announced plans Tuesday to distribute approximately $11.7 million in federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

The “Long-Term Care Quality Investment Pilot RFA” Request for Applications is open to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), personal care homes (PCHs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), and intermediate care facilities (ICFs). 

“We want to make investments that will contribute to the long-range success of facilities that care for some of our most vulnerable residents,” Acting Secretary of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said.

“These funds will be invested in key areas including workforce development, staff retention and infrastructure developments that support infection prevention control and emergency preparedness.” 

Facilities must be enrolled by Dec. 9 in the state’s LTC RISE program’s quality improvement work initiative to be considered eligible to receive funding. The funding deadline is 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2022. Funds are anticipated to be awarded in the second quarter of 2023.

Lancaster among Pa. counties receiving investments in Water Projects

Lancaster is listed among the Pennsylvania counties receiving investment funding for drinking water, stormwater, and non-point source projects through the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST), Gov. Tom Wolf announced. 

The investment totals $236 million for 23 projects across 15 counties. 

“I’m encouraged to see continued, increased investments in our clean water infrastructure across the commonwealth, and these awards mark a historic occasion,” Wolf said. “This round of water quality funding will deliver the first dollars from the infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, signed by President Biden in November of 2021. This funding will create generational change in improving our environment and planning for future growth.” 

In Lancaster County, the Weaverland Valley Authority received an $899,739 loan to install a new well pump to increase the capacity of the existing well to 145 gallons per minute, and a new connection between the current Twin Springs distribution system and the Blue Ball distribution system. This Drinking Water Project will provide a redundant water source for the service area, increasing system adequacy and safety. 

Stormwater Project investment for Lancaster County saw Stehli Mill, LLC receive a $1,859.676 loan to install 3,752 feet of storm sewer piping, filters, and infiltration basins at the historic 11-acre Stehli Silk Mill property. The project will significantly reduce stormwater runoff into the City of Lancaster’s combined sewer system and prevent future overflows from entering the Conestoga River. 

Lancaster County’s Non-Point Source Projects include the following: 

Lancaster County Conservation District received a $467,800 loan to install a manure stacking structure, storage tank, and 3,200 feet of streambank fencing at the Christ Miller dairy farm in Bart Township. The project will reduce approximately 4,083 pounds of sediment, 4,969 pounds of nitrogen, and 2,149 pounds of phosphorous annually from Nickel Mines Run, which is an impaired waterway. 

Also, the Lancaster County Conservation District received a $683,500 grant to install a manure storage tank, underfloor waste storage system, and 220 feet of streambank fencing at the Benuel Stoltzfus dairy farm in Bart Township. The project will reduce an estimated 2,451 pounds of sediment, 5,168 pounds of nitrogen, and 2,247 pounds of phosphorus annually from Nickel Mines Run, which serves as a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. 

“As communities have been planning for the opportunity to take advantage of this momentous federal investment, federal, state, and local partners have ensured that we can distribute this funding efficiently and equitably,” said Wolf. “Funding through the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act will truly address some of the neediest populations in Pennsylvania with some of the worst legacy environmental issues, including lead contamination and emerging contaminants. 

“As we continue to ensure the communities have access to this funding, they can ensure that at-risk populations are safe to drink clean water and enjoy their own environmental gifts.”

PA working families to benefit from new child care tax credit

To help ease child care costs for working families, the Wolf Administration and General Assembly is investing $25 million in the new child care tax credit program. 

The program is designed to benefit working families with children in child care who qualify for the federal child and dependent tax credit. In Pennsylvania, more than 220,000 received the federal credit, and it is expected that the same amount of families will qualify for the new state tax credit. 

The credit can be claimed beginning in 2023 when filing state taxes. It is refundable, meaning state taxes will not be owed by qualified families on the amount received. 

The average tax credit is estimated to be $171, but the amount received will be income-based. Pennsylvanians paying for child care services could be eligible for the following credits: 

  • $180 (one child) or $360 (two or more children) for households earning above $43,000 or 
  • $315 (one child) or $630 (two or more children) for households earning less than $43,000. 

“As a parent, I know first-hand that high-quality, affordable child care is invaluable to parents, kids, and families,” said Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead, who recently visited the Carlisle Early Education Center (CEEC) to meet with child care center staff and providers. 

“I want to thank child care providers like Carlisle Early Education Center because the care and learning opportunities they provide are essential to helping children across Pennsylvania grow and thrive.” 

Children can be kept out of early learning programs and parents out of the workforce due to the rising cost of child care. The average annual cost of infant care in Pennsylvania is nearly $12,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute. To combat costs, new Child and Dependent Care Enhancement Program is included in the Wolf Administration’s 2022-23 state budget. The program is modeled after the federal child and dependent tax credit. 

Children who learn in high-quality child care and Pre-K programs perform better in school and are more likely to graduate, according to studies. Studies also show that high-quality early learning programs help students develop the emotional and social skills needed to succeed in school and life. 

Individuals interested in locating licensed child care programs in Pennsylvania can visit www.findchildcare.pa.gov. Families who are having difficulty finding a provider or who  are lower income and need assistance paying for child care can contact their local Early Learning Resource Center at www.raiseyourstar.org. 

PA health information goes cloud-based

Pennsylvania Patient and Provider Network (P3N), the statewide federated health information exchange (HIE), has been modernized to a cloud-based solution to improve health care delivery across the state, the Department of Human Services (DHS) announced Monday. 

The transition ensured providers can deliver whole-person care to patients. 

P3N connects independent health information organizations (HIOs) to share information with health care providers with the goal of improving care for patients. The P3N-certified HIO allows connected health care providers to find patient medical records on the P3N network and by notified when patients receive medical services from other Pennsylvania health care providers, including visits to an emergency room. While P3N does not store health records, providers can use it to find current health information. 

“As technology and innovation advance, we must continue to leverage this progress to improve our work and deliver services across the health care system,” DHS Acting Secretary Meg Snead said. “The P3N’s new platform gives us the opportunity to continue strengthening connections and information across health care providers with the goal of improving the patient experience whenever possible and helping Pennsylvanians to live healthy, fulfilling lives.” 

Using technology to transform into a more efficient health information exchange, the new P3N platform has improved document query and retrieval, enhanced patient matching, and enabled single sign-on for an improved user experience that is also more secure. The coming months are expected see the platform enhanced to a greater degree to support new services, including improved reporting, enhanced portal experience, and integration of the Public Health Gateway. 

“P3N’s new platform provides the foundation for additional services that will integrate care coordination and advance health data exchange in Pennsylvania,” Martin Ciccocioppo, director of the Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Program said. “Pennsylvanians will greatly benefit from increased system capabilities, making health records securely available to providers and patients in streamlining public health reporting, which will ultimately improve patient health.” 

The Pennsylvania eHealth Partnership Program has worked with P3N participants, regional HIOs, and Cognosante since February 2022 on the modernization project. Cognosante is the technology company contracted for the project. Securely connecting P3N participants and regional HIOs to the new technology platform was the focus of the collaborative effort, along with transitioning P3N services and capabilities with minimal disruption to users. 

For more information on the statewide HIE, visit eHealthPartnership. 

PA dairy farmers encouraged to manage risk with federal coverage

Pennsylvania dairy farmers were encouraged Monday by Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding to enroll in USDA’s Dairy Margin Coverage Program and take advantage of federal risk-management protection. 

The USDA Farm Service Agency provides a safety net for dairy farmers when the price difference for milk and feed falls below the amount selected at enrollment by the producer. Dairy Margin Coverage was created under the 2018 federal Farm Bill. In 2021, one-third of Pennsylvania’s dairy farms were enrolled in the program and received $88,861,920 in payments averaging $51,936 per farm. 

“Protecting your bottom line against price fluctuations you can’t control just makes sense,” said Redding. “Dairy Margin Coverage is a smart part of every dairy producer’s risk management strategy.” 

Producers wishing to receive coverage in 2023 must enroll between Oct. 17 and Dec. 9. Those interested should visit Dairy Margin Coverage program information on the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) website, fsa.usda.gov. PA dairy producers can visit their county FSA office by Dec. 9 

Information on funding and additional resources to support financial planning for agricultural operations can be found at agricultue.pa.gov.

Fulton Bank facing data breach lawsuit 

Lancaster-based Fulton Bank is facing a class-action lawsuit over a security data breach that struck one of its vendors, Georgia-based Overby-Seawell Company, on July 5, 2022.

The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Georgia and states that the sensitive personal information of more than 100,000 clients was not sufficiently protected from exposure by Fulton Bank and Overby-Seawell Co. (OSC). Damages are estimated to be at least $5 million.

Two Pennsylvania borrowers have been named in the suit as lead plaintiffs. Barnow and Associates, a Chicago law firm, are reportedly a lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

A spokesperson for Fulton Bank said in an email reply that Fulton Bank does not comment on pending litigation.

OSC provides Fulton Bank and other financial institutions with ongoing property insurance verification.

OSC told Fulton Bank on August 11, 2022, that it discovered on the previous July 5 that its internet security system had suffered unauthorized access two months earlier on May 26 and that sensitive personal information on a reported 100,744 customers might have been accessed and acquired. Personal information includes Name, Social Security number, Loan number and details (amount and maturity date), and insurance policy information.

OCS sent letters on August 30 to the thousands of clients whose sensitive personal information may have been compromised, according to published reports.

Fulton Bank’s systems were reportedly not affected by the security breach.

The site states that as a result of this incident and at no cost to customers, “Fulton Bank is offering IDX identity theft protection services.”

The services include two years of credit monitoring to alert customers to any changes in their credit report, CyberScan to “monitor criminal websites, chat rooms, and bulletin boards for illegal trading and selling” of personal information, access to “Fraud Resolution representatives to resolve and identity theft issues,” exclusive education materials relating to protecting personal identity, and ID theft insurance that includes up to $1 million in insurance reimbursements, covering certain expenses customers “may incur in responding to an ID theft event.”

The site is maintained by IDX on behalf of Fulton Bank “for the purpose of (customers) with valuable services and information to mitigate any risks in the event that (customers) experience identity theft as a result of this situation.”

According to its website, data breach law firm Turke & Strauss LLP is investigating Fulton Bank in relation to the security breach. At time of writing, Turke & Strauss had not replied to an email seeking comment.

Fulton Bank provides banking services, lending, mortgage, investment management, trust services, and business solutions to Mid-Atlantic region communities. to Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia. A part of Fulton Financial Corporation, Fulton Bank operates 250 bank branches and specialty offices in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.

Potential federal bill includes retirement provisions for young workers 

As saving for retirement becomes more challenging or less of a priority for many workers across the country, a provision in the SECURE Act 2.0 will help make effective retirement contributions a reality for many younger workers. 

Aside from the SECURE Act 2.0’s broadest implications with a shift in the age of Required Minimum Distribution, the piece of legislation will make saving for retirement even easier — especially for workers beginning their careers, according to Lancaster-based financial advising firm Conrad Siegal.  

“If you look at many of the statistics, it says that savings toward retirement are incredibly low,” Brooke Petersen, investment consultant at Conrad Siegel, said.  

Many of Conrad Siegel’s clients are working toward that savings, but Petersen said the national trend is that many Americans are behind on retirement contributions.  

“Many people think that they can make up for it later, but from an investment standpoint, the earlier people begin to save, the more that investment will compound,” Petersen said. “We tell our clients that anything they can do to save earlier in their career, the better, and the SECURE Act 2.0 will certainly help with that.” 

The piece of legislation, which stands for Securing a Strong Retirement, is broad and has many components, but there are two provisions that will work together to benefit these younger workers in a direct way. 

For many fresh out of college workers, student loans are the largest financial obligation and priority. “These people are actively repaying their loans, but they may not have enough income to make a meaningful retirement contribution,” Petersen said.  

In both the House and the Senate versions of the SECURE Act 2.0, workers who are making those loan payments responsibly, but who aren’t contributing to a 401k, will be eligible to receive a matching contribution from their employer based on the continuation of on-time payments. “There is certainly a savings mismatch for young workers,” Petersen said. “And this will help fill that gap tremendously.” 

The second provision that works in unison with the 401k match to student loans is an automatic enrollment in a 401k plan.  

Although employees are given the option to opt out of the plans they are enrolled in, Petersen said the ease of being automatically contributing may be just enough incentive for those young workers to keep saving. 

“Yes, you can opt out, but we would predict they are very unlikely to opt out of plans they are automatically placed into,” Petersen said. “This will get a whole lot more people to start contributing early.” 

The demand of initial paychecks for those new to the workforce can be overwhelming, but one thing Conrad Siegel stresses is saving early. “Even if it’s a small amount when you’re young, it’s all about compounding growth over time,” Petersen said. “And these two aspects of the new SECURE Act will work in favor of that.” 

The first SECURE Act was passed at the end of the legislative year in December of 2019.  

Although many of the provisions in the first iteration of the bill were on the financial community’s radar for a long time, Petersen said it was a surprise that it passed with such ease and so quickly. 

“A lot of us in the financial industry were scrambling to find out what specifically was in the bill and to find out what the implications were,” Petersen said. 

Being a follow-up to the first bill, the SECURE Act 2.0 has been expected and anticipated, as a bill that fills in the gaps that the first left opened. 

The House passed their version of the bill in March of 2022 with little resistance and the Senate is expected to do the same. Although their respective bills look slightly different, their provisions appear equally impactful on savings accounts. 

“This bill has bipartisan support,” Petersen said. “It is pretty likely to get over the finish line and all seem to be impacted favorably by this legislation.” 

Petersen said the sequel to the SECURE Act should follow the same time frame as its predecessor as a late-season bill attached to a larger spending bill. 

Child slavery lawsuit dismissed against Hershey Co., others

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., this week dismissed a lawsuit by eight citizens of Mali who sought to hold The Hershey Co. and six others liable for child slavery on Ivory Coast cocoa farms, Reuters news agency reported.

The plaintiffs in the proposed class action lacked standing to sue because they didn’t show a “traceable connection” between the seven defendant companies and the specific plantations where they worked, said U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich.

They also didn’t adequately explain the role of intermediaries in the cocoa supply chain, noting that the companies didn’t monitor activity in “free zones” where about 70% to 80% of the cocoa is produced.

The other defendants are Nestle SA, Cargill Inc., Mars Inc., Mondelez International Inc., Barry Callebaut AG and Olam International Ltd.

Mali and the Ivory Coast share a border in West Africa. The plaintiffs said they were trafficked as children after being approached by strange men who promised paying jobs. They were ultimately not paid for their labor, threatened with starvation if they didn’t work, and forced to live in squalid conditions.

Their lawyer said the plaintiffs, who sued under the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, plan to appeal.

In court papers, the seven defendants said they “strongly condemn the use of forced labor” and were working to address nonforced child labor in cocoa supply chains, Reuters reported.

But they said the plaintiffs’ legal theory was overbroad and could leave too many people liable, including consumers and retailers benefiting from lower prices.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer