Harkins, Merski: House unanimously passes bill to prevent state, local taxation of stimulus payments

(May 04, 2020)

HARRISBURG, May 4 – Pennsylvanians would not have to surrender any portion of their federal stimulus checks to state or local taxes under a bill the House passed unanimously today, announced state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie. Merski and Harkins said they voted for H.B. 2408 – which would exempt cash payments to individuals and couples under the CARES Act from state and local taxation – to ensure residents receive the maximum benefit from the emergency federal funding. “The pandemic dealt a huge blow to working families that no one could have expected or prepared for,” Merski said. “It was a tidal wave, and it wiped out household budgets that were already stretched to the limit. Now, Erie families need every single dollar to help them get back on their feet. I’m glad we’re one step to closer to ensuring that happens.” Harkins agreed, saying: “The CARES Act was meant to help residents hurt by the pandemic, not to supplement the state treasury. The dollars it authorizes are intended to keep food on the table and make sure families can purchase prescriptions and pay rent. Taxing any part of that is taking away money Erie residents need to survive. I’m encouraged that this bill passed unanimously today.” CARES Act stimulus payments to individuals and couples are not subject to federal taxation. The bill Read more


Harkins, Merski support expansion of allowable business activities for real estate

(Apr 28, 2020)

HARRISBURG, April 28 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, expressed their support for newly released state guidance authorizing certain in-person activities related to real estate transactions. The lawmakers said the guidance – which allows resumption of certain activities by appraisers, notaries, home inspectors and title companies – are positive steps that can be accomplished without compromising public safety. “The guidance issued today allows these professionals to resume their work, provided they follow safety guidance from Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Harkins said. “The move fits with our state strategy of opening up PA business in a safe, deliberate way that benefits our workers while also protecting the public safety.” Merski agreed, noting that residents also stand to benefit from the new guidance. “The guidance is one more step toward getting us back to business,” Merski said. “When the pandemic swept in, it brought so much of daily life to a standstill. Real estate has been one of the many sectors affected, which has made it extremely difficult for Pennsylvanians with ongoing transactions to complete them. The guidance announced today makes sense and will allow us to start opening the door for those sales.” More information on the updated guidance for real estate industry professionals can be Read more


Harkins: $10,000 state grant to ensure students can access remote learning during pandemic

(Apr 22, 2020)

ERIE, April 22 – A $10,000 state grant will ensure students have the resources they need to access online and remote lessons during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. The Continuity of Education and Equity Grant to the Robert Benjamin Wiley Community Charter School will fund laptops and other remote-learning equipment for students unable to afford it. “Every student deserves the same chance to succeed, and our educators are committed to making that happen – even during the COVID-19 crisis,” Harkins said. “But the pandemic has forced changes to learning that require students to have additional resources – including equipment some students may lack. “Securing this funding will keep the playing field level by ensuring no student is left behind because they are unable to afford a laptop, a tablet or other resources they need for remote learning." CEEG grants are designed to help provide access and inclusion for all learners by bridging the gap for students who are currently limited in their ability to participate in continuity of education. The grants may be used to purchase computer equipment, such as laptops, tablets and internet hot spots, or used to provide instructional materials, such as paper lessons and coursework. Schools with the highest percentages of students lacking access to resources were given priority in receiving these grants. Read more


Harkins praises governor’s decision to reopen some jobs

(Apr 20, 2020)

ERIE, April 20 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, lauded Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement today that the state will be reopening online auto sales later today and some construction jobs May 8, saying it will bring welcome relief to some workers and small business owners. “The governor’s decision today gives some of our skilled workers the green light to return to the job,” said Harkins, who is Democratic chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee. “In the midst of this pandemic, our workers and small business owners understand the importance of staying safe, but they are also frustrated and believe that there are many jobs, such as construction jobs, that can be performed without increasing the risk of exposure. “We have been pushing to persuade the governor to recognize this and reopen those jobs that will not endanger workers, and the governor has listened. After sharing their frustration, it’s great to be able to share some good news. “The decision to allow online auto sales is another sound move. I have been working closely with local dealership owners like Matt Clark to get this moving. Their efforts, along with the statewide auto dealers’ association, produced the sensible solution of allowing consumers to teleshop online for vehicles. “These are just the first steps, but they’re steps in the right direction. I’ll continue working to be sure Read more


Letters to Sec. Levine and Attorney General Shapiro about Twinbrook Nursing Home

(Apr 06, 2020)

Letters to Health Secretary Levine and Attorney General Shapiro on Twinbrook Nursing Home. Read more


Harkins urges all residents to complete U.S. Census

(Apr 01, 2020)

ERIE, April 1 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, is reminding all residents on Census Day that their participation in the U.S. Census is vitally important. “The census happens every 10 years, on years ending in a zero, and it’s mandated by the U.S. Constitution because this critically important count helps the federal government determine how to allocate billions of dollars in funding,” Harkins said. “Pennsylvania receives nearly $27 billion in funding each year based on our response to the 2010 Census. “Now, the census has come around again, and it’s more important than ever to make sure our Erie community receives its fair share of that funding – for health care, transportation, education, and more. But it’s up to our Erie residents – it only happens if everyone responds and gets counted. I’m urging everyone to do their part.” Harkins noted that over the past 10 years, more than $268 billion in federal spending has gone to Pennsylvania communities for important federally funded programs. In encouraging residents to respond, Harkins said they should not be concerned about safety or security because census answers can’t be used against a person, and data security is managed by high-level security experts. Moreover, the law prohibits the U.S. Census Bureau from releasing any information that identifies individuals, under penalty of large Read more


Fill out the 2020 census!

(Mar 30, 2020)

In Pennsylvania, everyone counts and April 1 is National Census Day! If you haven’t already, don't forget to fill out your census form. Our population count determines our voice in government and how much federal funding we’ll receive for education, health care, transportation and more. Whether you respond online, mail or by phone , participate and help shape PA’s future. Your responses are anonymous and protected by law. To learn more, visit pa.gov/census #PAcounts #2020Census Read more


Check out my Community Resource Guide

(Mar 27, 2020)

The following is a link to local resources for Erie residents. Read more


Merski, Harkins: House unanimously passes COVID-19 response bills

(Mar 25, 2020)

ERIE, March 25 – The House today unanimously passed bills that would temporarily change the way students learn and Pennsylvanians vote during the COVID-19 epidemic, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced. Merski said he and Harkins both supported the amended S.B. 751 – which eliminates the 180-day requirement for all the commonwealth’s schools and authorizes the state Education secretary to keep schools closed until after the COVID-19 epidemic is over. “Difficult times call for creative solutions,” Merski said. “Pennsylvania’s incredibly dedicated teachers are ready to rise to that challenge by providing online lessons and resources to keep our kids learning and let them understand that although their routines may have changed, their education is still the No. 1 priority. “This bill would provide the flexibility for that to happen, while also ensuring that these teachers and other school workers are continued to be paid for their work.” Harkins and Merski also supported S.B. 422 , which would postpone the state primary to June 2 to give counties extra time to make adjustments and allow polling places to be consolidated and moved out of high-risk areas, among other things. “The COVID-19 crisis has changed nearly every aspect of daily life, and voting is no exception,” Harkins said. Read more


Merski, Harkins support COVID-19 bill package

(Mar 19, 2020)

ERIE, March 19 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, are supporting a package of bills that will help Pennsylvanians navigate financial challenges resulting from the COVID-19 epidemic. “State efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 have dramatically changed so many aspects of our daily lives,” Merski said. “From businesses being forced to close their doors to workers being told not to come in, the impact is being felt across the state. “As lawmakers, it’s incumbent on us to be proactive and take steps that will lessen the impact on residents. That’s why I’m joining with fellow legislators to support a package of bills that will better prepare residents to meet financial challenges caused by this public health emergency.” Harkins agreed, adding, "We Pennsylvanians are strong, and our communities are caring in times of crisis. This package of bills will help ensure that, as we work our way through this unfamiliar territory, we all make it through together and with as little impact as possible." The lawmakers said the bill package includes measures that would: provide a 60-day extension for filing state income tax returns due to an emergency declaration over COVID-19. extend the application deadline of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program until all funds are expended. provide funding for all voters to vote by Read more


COVID-19 Helpful Resources

(Mar 19, 2020)

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting Pennsylvania, we wanted to provide you with the following resources and information to help you and your family in the days ahead. Please note that this webpage will be updated as needed with additional information and resources. State Services and Resources The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has created a COVID-19 guide to assist everyone. It includes information on social distancing, mental health resources, unemployment, food assistance, changes from PennDOT and resources for small business: https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/ For individuals : https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#ForIndividuals For families : https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#ForFamilies For businesses : https://dced.pa.gov/resources COVID Support for PA Businesses : The following provides information and and links to federal, state, local and private resources. https://www.pahouse.com/News/?id=113388 **Self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers: Apply here for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits .** https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#ForBusinessesUtilities Information from the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry on the federal CARES Act: https://www.uc.pa.gov/COVID-19/CARES-Act/Pages/default.aspx The following link provides you with Read more


Harkins, Merski: $5,000 grant to fund census outreach

(Mar 18, 2020)

ERIE, March 18 – A $5,000 state grant will fund efforts to promote awareness of and participation in the U.S. Census, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The grant to Culture, Arts, Festivals and Events of Erie, funded by the Department of Community and Economic Development, will fund outreach efforts “Census response is critical, because it ensures that our community gets its share of resources for infrastructure, schools, hospitals and other essential resources,” Harkins said. “That only happens if folks do their part and respond, and we need to spread the word about that.” Merski agreed, noting: “This grant will fund outreach to raise awareness about the census and about how important participation is. We need to bring federal dollars back to Erie, where they can go to work for the people.” The grant was awarded under the Census 2020 Outreach Grant Program, a tool to support grassroots efforts promoting awareness and participation in the 2020 Census across Pennsylvania. The program focuses on supporting efforts that target hard-to-count populations including, but not limited to, those who do not speak English as their primary language; ethnic minority, immigrant, and rural communities; children; the elderly; the LGBTQ population; and people experiencing homelessness. Read more


Harkins: Erie care provider awarded more than $23,000 to bolster security

(Mar 11, 2020)

ERIE, March 11 – A $23,316 state grant will allow an area health care provider serving diverse communities in Erie to enhance security, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. Harkins said the funding to Multicultural Health Evaluation Delivery Systems Inc., was awarded under the Nonprofit Security Grant Fund Program, a new program administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency that provides funding for nonprofit organizations serving groups vulnerable to hate crimes. “Erie is a multicultural, open-hearted community that that draws strength from its diversity,” Harkins said. “Although we do not tolerate hate or violence, the reality of our modern world is that some groups still fear the threat of both. “Securing this funding means that the dedicated providers at this important facility can continue to focus on caring for the diverse community they serve and that the residents of all cultures and backgrounds who walk through their doors every day can continue to feel safe.” The Nonprofit Security Grant Fund Program – signed into law on Nov. 7, 2019, as Act 83 – provides grants to nonprofit organizations serving individuals, groups or institutions that the FBI has identified as potential hate crime targets. Applicants are eligible for a broad range of security resources, including, among other things, safety and security planning and training, threat assessments, Read more


Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $90,000 awarded to provide paid internships for area students, young adults

(Mar 05, 2020)

ERIE, March 5 – Area students and young job seekers will benefit from new internship opportunities, thanks to a $90,189 grant from the state Department of Labor and Industry, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The grant to the Northwest Workforce Development Board will fund summer internships that pay a minimum of $10.35 an hour for students and young adults from 16 to 24. “Internships provide a perfect way for students and young adults to get a jump on career readiness by giving them an early, real-world look into the modern workplace,” Bizzarro said. “Those experiences can go a long way toward building confidence in young job seekers, familiarizing them with new technology and making the modern work setting seem more familiar and less daunting.” Harkins agreed, noting, “No amount of classroom training can substitute for actual workplace experience. Summer internships open so many doors: they help young job seekers understand whether their skills are a good match for a given field, they introduce them to the climate and expectations of a modern workplace, and they provide real-time exposure to the latest technology and techniques in rapidly changing modern job settings.” Merski added that the benefits flow both ways, helping employers, as well. “In addition to exposing young job seekers to new skills and learning experiences, Read more


Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $20,000 in grants awarded to fund historical society, children’s museum

(Mar 04, 2020)

ERIE, Mar. 4 – Two state grants totaling $19,528 will benefit the Erie County Historical Society and the expERIEnce Children’s Museum, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said that the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Society grants include $12,029 to the historical society and $7,499 to the museum. “Securing this funding for the Erie County Historical Society is so important because it’s an investment in preserving our shared history,” Bizzarro said. “With these resources, our region’s dedicated historians can continue preserving the documents, artifacts, structures and other historical items that keep Erie’s unique history alive for future generations.” Harkins said that he agreed and added, “Our historical society’s invaluable work preserving the past gives us insight into how our community has changed and evolved over time. It also gives us a way to pass that history and shared knowledge on from generation to generation so that we don’t lose touch with our past.” Merski added that the funding will bring educational benefits, as well. “Keeping the link to our past alive through physical exhibits is critically important from a learning perspective because real-life objects that can be seen and touched form an impression on kids in ways that textbooks can’t,” he said. “In much the same way, the Read more


Harkins: State funding of $380,000 granted for school safety resources, community violence reduction

(Feb 26, 2020)

ERIE, Feb. 26 – School and community safety will benefit from $380,000 in grants administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. Harkins said the funding under the School Safety and Security Grant Program will benefit the Erie City School District, the Iroquois School District and the Erie Community Violence Reduction Project. “Ensuring the safety of our schools and reducing violence in our community go hand in hand,” Harkins said. “Kids need a safe learning environment, but they also need a safe, stable place to come home to in order to thrive. I’m encouraged that the funding announced today is going to help move us forward on both fronts.” Harkins said the funding includes the following: $300,000 to the City of Erie for the Community Violence Reduction Project. $45,000 to Erie City School District for school safety and preparedness planning and the purchase of security-related technology. $35,000 to Iroquois School District for school safety and emergency preparedness planning and the purchase of security-related equipment. The School Safety and Security Grant Program is administered by PCCD’s School Safety and Security Committee, which is tasked with developing the criteria that schools must use in performing safety and security assessments. Read more


Harkins: Budget proposals hold promise for state’s future

(Feb 04, 2020)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s address this morning on his proposed 2020-21 budget plan: “The budget plan the governor unveiled today is a work in progress, but I’m encouraged that it allocates resources to areas I feel are especially important to Pennsylvania’s future. “One of those areas is full-time kindergarten, a proposal I have been advocating for years. Studies show kindergartners who have access to a full-day program do better, both in terms of test scores and future long-term achievement, because they benefit from the extra time to develop literacy skills, social skills, confidence and more. I agree with the governor’s proposal to mandate free, full-time kindergarten, and I believe it's time for Pennsylvania to join other states that already do so. “On a related note, I support the governor’s proposal to address the problem of lead, asbestos and other hazards in our schools. Our community has been dealing with the problems of older buildings and the expenses associated with eliminating possible health hazards, and an investment of state resources will help ease the cost burdens and speed the process of ensuring our students have a safe environment. “Addressing the burden of loan debt for students graduating from our state-owned university system is another proposal I strongly Read more


Pa. Treasury could be holding your unclaimed property

(Jan 01, 2016)

Each year, the Pennsylvania Treasury receives millions of dollars of unclaimed property. It is estimated that roughly one in 10 Pennsylvanians has unclaimed property. Read more