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

 

Harkins, Merski announce more than $101,000 in fire, EMS grants

(Jan 21, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 21 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced the award of $101,024 in state grants to nine fire and emergency medical service companies in Erie . “So often, our first responders are our defense against catastrophe,” Merski said. “We ask them to walk into dangerous situations every day, and they do so willingly to keep us safe. These grants will help ensure that they have the resources they need to face risks of all kind with the maximum possible protection.” Harkins agreed, noting, “Purchasing quality equipment is just one of many expenses that can stretch fire department and EMS companies’ budgets to the limit. We need to do everything within our power to ensure that our firefighters and rescue workers have state-of-the-art training and equipment, and this funding will go a long way toward making that happen.” The grants will go to the following entities in the following amounts: Belle Valley Fire Department Inc. – Fire Company, $12,331. City of Erie Fire Department – Fire Company, $14,248. EmergyCare Inc. – EMS, $9,192. Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Dept. – Fire Company, $11,646. Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Dept. – EMS, $9,192. Perry Hi-Way Hose Company – Fire Company, $14,248. Perry Hi-Way Company – EMS, $9,192. Wesleyville Hose Company Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: Local universities receive $60,000 in grants as part of statewide campaign to prevent campus sexual assaults

(Jan 17, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 17 – Mercyhurst and Gannon universities have each received a $30,000 grant under Pennsylvania’s “It’s on Us” initiative to keep college campuses free of sexual assault and harassment, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced. “Our colleges should be places where young people thrive as they work toward chosen career paths,” Merski said. “The specter of sexual assault or other violence destroys that environment and turns places of learning into places of fear. I’m thankful that our local universities will share in this funding to raise awareness about and prevent sexual assault and violence.” Harkins agreed, adding, “No student or educator should ever have to feel unsafe where they learn or teach,” Harkins said. “In addition to training and awareness programs, this funding will help us get the message out that sexual violence or harassment will not be tolerated on our campuses.” The funding is part of a $1 million package of grants to 36 postsecondary schools statewide. Schools use the funding for programs ranging from campus-wide training for students, educators and staff to campaigns to raise awareness about the reporting process and resources that are available to those victimized by sexual assault. It’s on Us started as a national campaign in 2014. Pennsylvania quickly took the initiative, becoming the first state Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $100,000 in funding to expand computer science in Erie schools

(Jan 17, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 17 – Erie students will see more computer science in the curriculum, thanks to three state grants totaling $105,000, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The PAsmart targeted grants from the state Department of Education will provide $35,000 apiece to the Millcreek Township, Fort LeBoeuf and Iroquois school districts. “With the advent of the digital age, computers are an essential part of every industry – not just the tech sector,” Bizzarro said. “Software applications are used in nearly every modern industry, from health care and transportation to education and finance, so making sure our students develop tech skills is essential to keeping our industries competitive and our economy thriving.” Harkins agreed, noting, “ As our reliance on technology continues to increase, the need for a tech-savvy workforce becomes more and more important to our economy. For this reason, a solid foundation in computer science skills is essential for our next generation of workers.” Merski added that adding computer science to the curriculum provides kids with the important problem-solving skills they need to succeed. “Computer science teaches students of all ages how to think logically and gives them the confidence of knowing that they can rely on their own skills to solve problems, which is an incredibly valuable lesson as they go through Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $120,000 grant to promote school-business partnerships, real-world learning for students

(Jan 16, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 16 – A state grant of $120,000 will bolster career readiness for Erie students and improve the pool of talented job candidates for area businesses, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The grant from the state Department of Labor and Industry will fund the Northwest Workforce Development Board’s “Student in the Workforce” project – designed to bring students from Erie and several other counties into the workplace for real-world experiences with high-demand jobs. “The funding announced today allows us to build incredibly valuable connections between our schools and area businesses,” Bizzarro said. “Giving students a chance to interact with area employers in real-world settings can provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and open new doors to career pathways. It prepares students to hit the ground running when they venture out into the working world.” Harkins agreed, noting, “A connection between the classroom and the workplace is invaluable – particularly for students from lower-income households, who might not otherwise have an opportunity to develop these connections. It’s a way to level the playing field and ensure that all students have a meaningful chance to compete for high-demand, good-paying jobs.” “Experiential learning is the most effective tool for educating our young people,” Merski added. “When Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: ‘Teacher in the Workplace’ grant to boost career readiness for Erie students

(Jan 06, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 6 – A $25,000 grant will allow Erie teachers to visit area employers for an in-person look at the latest skills demanded by area employers, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The funding to the Erie City School District is part of a $2.2 million package of competitive grants from the state Department of Education providing 92 local education agencies $25,000 each to fund teacher visits. “Even the best teachers need to step out of the classroom sometimes to refresh their knowledge of what skills are needed in the modern world so they can shape the curriculum accordingly,” Merski said. “Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to teaching the foundational skills that will help our next generation get good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.” Harkins agreed, noting, “This funding provides teachers with an essential look into modern job settings so they can carry that information back to the classroom. It also helps our regional workforce remain competitive by ensuring employers have a large pool of well-trained job candidates.” The PDE grants are funded through federal money made available through Title II, Part A, of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Eligible applicants include local education entities, businesses and chambers of commerce, labor organizations, postsecondary institutions, community-based organizations, public libraries, Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski offer support to Erie Coke employees

(Dec 19, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 19 – Reacting to news that Erie Coke permanently closed its doors today, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, are advising workers who were turned away from the plant this morning that their offices can provide important support and services. “This is why our offices are here – to support our community in difficult times when the future is uncertain,” Bizzarro said. “The workers who showed up this morning and were turned away through no fault of their own deserve the best support we can offer, and we don’t plan to let them down.” Harkins agreed, saying, “Our hearts are with the employees who were caught off guard this morning, a week before Christmas, when they showed up at Erie Coke, only to be told that their services are no longer needed. It’s important for people to know that our offices can provide valuable assistance – from helping people find new job opportunities to assisting them in filing unemployment insurance claims or applying for children’s health insurance.” Merski added that these resources are available down the line, as well. “Although residents may not need these resources immediately, we want everyone to know that we are prepared to help at any time in the future,” he said. “Whether it’s now or down the line, we want people to know that we will be there to support them with state Read more

 

2020 Capitol Scenes calendar

(Dec 19, 2019)

Check out my 2020 Capitol Scenes calendar! Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $420,000 in tax credits to fund regional food bank

(Dec 18, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 18 – Tax credits of $420,563 under the state Neighborhood Assistance Program will boost the efforts of Erie-based Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania to alleviate food insecurity throughout the region, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. “Second Harvest has been playing a huge role in addressing hunger in our region for more than three decades,” Bizzarro said. “Keeping their operations running strong is essential because the issue of food insecurity undergirds so many critical life issues, from staving off sickness and disease to enabling parents to provide for their children. “No family should ever have to choose between keeping food on the table and affording other essentials, such as housing, utilities or medications. Securing this help is going to help eliminate those devastating choices for families.” Harkins agreed, adding, “Widescale food distribution by organizations such as Second Harvest is more complicated than many people realize. From cultivating partnerships and securing donations from retailers, restaurants, growers, packers and government agencies to coordinating the distribution of food to area pantries and shelters, it’s a complex operation. I’m thankful that this help will help keep this vital regional provider running strong.” Merski said that he was especially glad that the funding Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski encourage Erie residents, businesses to apply for low-interest disaster loans

(Dec 12, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 12 – State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, are urging residents and business owners who suffered property damage from area storms Oct. 31-Nov. 1 to apply for a low-interest Small Business Association loan. Federal assistance from the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program is now available after the agency approved Gov. Tom Wolf’s request to declare a disaster based on the severe storms, high winds and flooding that damaged numerous buildings and businesses. “Unexpected storm damage can wreak havoc with residents’ lives and cause interruptions that impact a small business’s bottom line,” Bizzarro said. “I strongly encourage residents and business owners who suffered property damage from these storms to take advantage of this program, which can provide access to critical resources for rebuilding – especially when that damage is not covered by insurance.” Harkins agreed, saying, “Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000, and owners and renters may be eligible for up to $40,000, to repair or replace personal property. In addition, businesses and nonprofits that suffered damage to their buildings, equipment or inventory can apply for up to $2 million in assistance. This is funding that can help residents put their affairs back in order and help businesses get back on their feet.” Merski added that the SBA will be establishing a help center at the North Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $461,000 to strengthen protection and advocacy for victims of child abuse

(Dec 11, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 11 – Grants totaling $460,735 will expand protection and advocacy services for children throughout Pennsylvania and enhance those supports and services for Erie-area children and families, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The funding – administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency – includes $400,000 to an Erie-based organization that trains support professionals on best practices and adherence to national standards in investigating and treating child abuse. “We’ve worked hard to secure this funding, which will allow us to broaden the reach of child protection and advocacy services throughout Pennsylvania – especially to unserved and underserved areas,” Bizzarro said. “I saw the effects of abuse while working as a witness coordinator and victims’ advocate, and I know how important access to those services can be. They need to be available to all children, regardless of where they live.” Harkins added that some of the funding will go to promote best practices in the Erie region. “Investigating and prosecuting abuse can place huge stresses on children who have already suffered unthinkable trauma,” Harkins said. “This funding will help ensure that children have a safe, supportive environment for evaluation and counseling and that professionals are trained on Read more

 

‘Telepresence’ grant of nearly $18,000 will bring classroom to home for Erie students unable to attend school

(Dec 11, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 11 – A $ 17,894 state grant will give Erie students who are unable to be present in the classroom a chance to participate in real time from home, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The grant from the state Department of Education will fund telepresence systems – equipment that provides nearly life-like, interactive audio and video between class and a student’s home. “In the past, students with serious illnesses or other conditions that kept them out of the classroom simply missed that time, often with lasting consequences to their academic records,” Harkins said. “Those absences also created an extra burden on teachers to develop additional assignments and lesson plans. Access to this technology will be a game changer for these students and their teachers.” Merski agreed, saying, “Learning is a dynamic process that goes well beyond the curriculum. It involves interacting with the teacher and peers and the chance to actively participate in the lesson. It means inclusion. I know based on my years teaching how important this is, and I’m so glad we’ll be able to make this technology available to students in our community.” The funding is part of a $300,000 package of Keystone Telepresence grants to educational service agencies across the state, which will purchase the equipment and lend it out to school districts. The Read more

 

Erie lawmakers urge MLB not to cut ties to SeaWolves

(Dec 05, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 5 – Erie lawmakers are fighting a possible move by Major League Baseball to sever ties with the city’s popular minor league franchise, the SeaWolves. The team was listed among 42 clubs that could lose their MLB affiliation as part of a proposed reorganization in 2021. In a letter to MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. and Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem , state Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski, Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, and state Rep. Curt Sonney, R-Erie, urged the officials to reconsider a move that they say will permanently injure the region. “Our community’s 25-year ties to the SeaWolves run deep, and so does our commitment to preserving this incredibly popular Double-A list team,” said Harkins, who cited the city’s recent multimillion-dollar investment in a project to renovate UPMC Park. “We want Major League Baseball to understand what’s at stake for our region in cutting those ties, from losing a key source of jobs and revenue to ending an affordable, well-loved form of entertainment that keeps younger generations in our area interested in baseball.” Merski said he agreed, noting, “There are 42 teams on the MLB’s proposed cut list. Only a handful are AA-list teams like the SeaWolves, and very few have newly renovated, multimillion-dollar stadiums. This is the wrong move by the MLB, and we plan to make sure they recognize that now, Read more

 

Harkins joins fellow lawmakers, union leaders at Capitol to advocate for stronger worker safety protections

(Nov 19, 2019)

ERIE, Nov. 19 – Fighting to secure basic safety protections for Pennsylvania’s public employees, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, joined fellow lawmakers today for a news conference at the state Capitol in support of a “Bill of Rights” package to strengthen workers’ rights. Harkins, who is Democratic chair of the House Labor and Industry Committee, has been advocating for stronger workplace safety protections since taking office in 2007 and is especially concerned about a critical gap in protection for the state’s public employees. “Although I’m proud to stand with my colleagues today in support of workers’ rights as we push for this package of bills to protect workers, I’m also frustrated that Pennsylvania’s public employees are still lacking critical safety protections,” Harkins said. “For years, I have been fighting to pass the Jake Schwab Worker Safety Bill , which would give public employee the same protections as private employees,” Harkins said. “Those protections don’t exist for workers like Jake, the transit authority mechanic who died because his workplace wasn’t required to conduct basic inspections. Workers like Jake are still dying – all because Pennsylvania doesn’t have a worker safety plan to protect them. “So many other states have already adopted these Read more

 

COVID-19 Helpful Resources
Mar 19, 2020

Harkins, Merski: $5,000 grant to fund census outreach
Mar 18, 2020

Harkins: Erie care provider awarded more than $23,000 to bolster security
Mar 11, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $90,000 awarded to provide paid internships for area students, young adults
Mar 05, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $20,000 in grants awarded to fund historical society, children’s museum
Mar 04, 2020

Harkins: State funding of $380,000 granted for school safety resources, community violence reduction
Feb 26, 2020

Harkins: Budget proposals hold promise for state’s future
Feb 04, 2020

Harkins, Merski announce more than $101,000 in fire, EMS grants
Jan 21, 2020

Merski, Harkins: Local universities receive $60,000 in grants as part of statewide campaign to prevent campus sexual assaults
Jan 17, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $100,000 in funding to expand computer science in Erie schools
Jan 17, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $120,000 grant to promote school-business partnerships, real-world learning for students
Jan 16, 2020

Harkins, Merski: ‘Teacher in the Workplace’ grant to boost career readiness for Erie students
Jan 06, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski offer support to Erie Coke employees
Dec 19, 2019

2020 Capitol Scenes calendar
Dec 19, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $420,000 in tax credits to fund regional food bank
Dec 18, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski encourage Erie residents, businesses to apply for low-interest disaster loans
Dec 12, 2019

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $461,000 to strengthen protection and advocacy for victims of child abuse
Dec 11, 2019

‘Telepresence’ grant of nearly $18,000 will bring classroom to home for Erie students unable to attend school
Dec 11, 2019

Erie lawmakers urge MLB not to cut ties to SeaWolves
Dec 05, 2019

Harkins joins fellow lawmakers, union leaders at Capitol to advocate for stronger worker safety protections
Nov 19, 2019