Merski, Harkins: Nearly $238,000 in funding awarded to bolster tech, computer curriculum for low-income Erie students

(9 hours ago)

ERIE, April 13 – Grant funding of $237,909 from the state Department of Education will bring a tech-enriched curriculum – including classes in robotics and coding – to students at Erie RISE Leadership Academy Charter School, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding under the PAsmart Advancing Grants program promises to help low-income and minority students compete in an increasingly tech-intensive modern workplace. “Being tech-savvy is no longer considered an added bonus in the workplace – it’s a required skill that employers are demanding for most high-paying, family-sustaining jobs,” Merski said. “Securing this funding is going to help level the playing field for students in underserved, low-income communities by teaching them skills that provide an entry into computer science and tech fields.” Harkins said, “The funding to Erie RISE is exciting because it will allow the school to add to its curriculum in ways that we know provide a pathway to good jobs. By teaching skills like robotics and coding, we’re giving kids a foundation in the kinds of concrete, tech-based subjects that allow them to compete later on. We’re also building a stronger pool of candidates for local employers and earners who can invest that money back into the community.” Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: More than $800,000 awarded to fund Erie recreational fishing projects

(1 day ago)

ERIE, April 12 – Erie anglers will enjoy enhanced fishing opportunities thanks to $804,200 in newly awarded grants from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers – both members of the House Game and Fisheries Committee – said most projects are being funded through the Erie Access Improvement Grant Program, which was recently expanded based on legislation co-authored by Harkins and Erie colleague Rep. Parke Wentling. “Our legislation created greater flexibility to use the proceeds of fishing permit revenue by expanding permissible projects beyond access and habitat related projects to all public fishing-related projects,” Harkins said. “We wanted to see folks benefit more broadly from the fees they pay into the system. That flexibility is now there, and it’s terrific to see it yielding results for local anglers.” Merski said, “It’s great to see these dollars going back into funding projects to enrich recreational opportunities on the water. Projects like the pier are especially exciting because they will allow more residents – including veterans who may have mobility issues – to get there and cast their lines.” The lawmakers said the following projects are funded by the Erie Access Improvement program: $202,200 to Western Read more

 

Merski bill would bring pandemic relief to state’s alcohol producers

(Apr 01, 2021)

HARRISBURG, April 1 – A newly introduced bill by state Rep. Bob Merski would assist the many Pennsylvania breweries, wineries and distilleries that have been hurt by the pandemic but are ineligible for relief under the current hospitality industry recovery program. Merski, D-Erie, said his H.B. 1069 would provide a helping hand to local alcohol producers that fail to qualify for relief under the existing COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program because they are not classified as businesses that provide accommodations or serve food or drink on the premises. “Pennsylvania’s breweries, wineries and distilleries play a vital role in the state’s economy, employing thousands and contributing billions annually in revenue,” Merski said. “Like so many industries, however, they have not escaped the impact of the pandemic. Despite creative strategies to counter the loss of sales from bar and restaurant closures, many – especially those with limited distribution channels – have struggled. “Because many wineries, distilleries and craft breweries do not have on-premises dining, they are not eligible for relief under the existing COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Relief Program. My bill would change that by ensuring that these important producers have access to a critical funding source.” Merski said the bill has been assigned to the House Liquor Control Committee and that he hopes to see it reach the full House Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: Erie County schools expected to receive more than $115 million to defray pandemic expenses, keep students learning

(Mar 29, 2021)

ERIE, March 29 – Erie school districts and charter schools are expected to receive a combined $115.1 million in federal funding to ensure services and safety measures are in place as more students return to the classroom, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding will address a wide range of needs, from restoring gaps in learning during the pandemic to fulfilling the need for new supplies and materials. “The pandemic strained school budgets, tested the limits of online learning and left educators and school officials with a litany of new challenges,” said Merski. “This funding will allow schools to allocate resources where they are most needed to ensure programs can address gaps in learning, replenish shrinking supplies and guarantee the resources needed to ensure a safe and successful return to the classroom.” Harkins said, “Securing this funding is going to help ensure that our school buildings are safe, students are well supported and teachers and other staff have the resources needed to make our way back to traditional classroom learning without leaving anyone behind.” The lawmakers said schools in Erie’s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Legislative Districts will receive the following: Erie City School District – $60.7 million. Fort LeBoeuf School District – $3.5 million. Millcreek Read more

 

Merski: Virtual event will help those with criminal records rejoin job market

(Mar 29, 2021)

ERIE, March 29 – Residents with criminal records who are seeking to return to the job market will find helpful guidance at a virtual seminar hosted by the Erie County Public Library this week, state Rep. Bob Merski announced today. Merski, D-Erie, said “Job Opportunities for Reentry from the Criminal Justice System” – from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31 – will feature remarks by Pennsylvania Secretary of the Board of Pardons Brandon Flood, who will provide an overview of the second chances available under Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Law, and tips from a staff member of CareerLink – the state’s online job database – about handling the application process. “For thousands of area residents with minor convictions or arrests without convictions, the Clean Slate Law is a chance to change the direction of their lives and show that past mistakes don’t determine future successes,” Merski said. “Wednesday’s virtual seminar will help these job seekers understand their rights under the law and offer guidance on how to maximize their opportunities. “Participants will also have a chance to ask questions. I’m urging all area job seekers looking for a fresh start to sign up.” Merski said the event will be hosted via Zoom, and people interested in participating must register for the call by visiting this Read more

 

Committee approves Merski bill to help police departments purchase vehicles

(Mar 17, 2021)

HARRISBURG, March 17 – A new bill that would make it easier for local and regional police departments to purchase pursuit vehicles was unanimously approved today by the House State Government Committee, according to the prime sponsor, state Rep. Bob Merski. Merski, D-Erie, said H.B. 648 would require the state Department of General Services – which sells used Pennsylvania State Police vehicles at public auctions – to create a program for selling used police pursuit vehicles directly to local and regional police departments at a fixed price prior to auctioning them. “The pandemic has created budget woes for police departments throughout the state, but despite strained resources, departments face the same demands for public safety,” Merski said. “With the cost of new cruisers often a major obstacle, my bill would give departments a leg up on a feasible alternative – purchasing used police pursuit vehicles at fixed prices. The program would provide a financial lifeline for departments as they carry out their responsibilities to protect the public.” Merski said the program would allow police departments to submit a “wish-list” of desired state police vehicles to DGS so it can be notified if such a vehicle becomes available for sale. Today’s committee action means the bill can move to the full House for consideration. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: More than $46,000 in grants will boost security for area nonprofits

(Mar 10, 2021)

ERIE, March 10 – More than $46,000 in state grants will fund security enhancements for two Erie community centers, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the funding, awarded under the Nonprofit Security Grant Fund Program, includes $24,955 to the Islamic Association of Erie and $21,125 to the Urban Erie Community Development Corp. “No one should ever have to feel afraid or vulnerable to threats of violence, especially when they are gathering in their own community to worship, learn, improve their lives or support their neighbors,” Harkins said. “Securing this funding will help ensure that two well-loved organizations serving our community remain places of education and inspiration while also providing visitors the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are safe.” Merski said, “Erie pulled together to fight a major safety threat from the pandemic, and thankfully, as more vaccines become available, COVID should continue loosening its grip on our community. But even as public health risks diminish, we need to remain vigilant about protecting residents from other dangers, including security risks. The grants announced today will help provide the resources needed to make that happen.” The lawmakers said the funding may be used for a broad range of resources, including safety and security planning and Read more

 

As Hospitality Industry Recovery Program opens in Erie, Merski and Harkins urge local bars, restaurants to apply

(Mar 08, 2021)

ERIE, March 8 – The application period for Pennsylvania’s Hospitality Industry Recovery Program opens today for the Erie business community and state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins are urging bars, restaurants and others in the hospitality industry to apply. “Of all the industries affected by the pandemic, bars and restaurants have been some of the hardest hit, and Erie is no exception,” Merski said. “They have faithfully complied with shutdown orders and restrictions, and that has come at a huge price. Now that the application process is open, local hospitality businesses have an opportunity to share in more than $3 million in funding. I’m urging those business owners to apply as soon as possible to get the relief flowing.” “The pandemic has placed a stranglehold on local mom-and-pop restaurants, bars, catering businesses and others in the industry,” Harkins added. “Although our community has been doing what it can to support these businesses, shutdowns and restrictions have made that extremely difficult. The funding program opening today can provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to help businesses get back on their feet, and I am encouraging businesses to apply immediately.” The lawmakers said businesses can apply here. To qualify, a business must: Have a North American Industry Classification System designation in the Accommodation Read more

 

With greater numbers at risk, Merski bill takes aim at human trafficking

(Feb 26, 2021)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – With the risks related to human trafficking on the rise, state Rep. Bob Merski this week introduced a bill that would extend a possible lifeline to victims by mandating that hotline information be posted in public restrooms statewide. Merski, D-Erie, said he introduced H.B. 644 – which would require that the National Human Trafficking Hotline number be posted in stalls, on mirrors, and by all hand dryers and paper towel dispensers – to increase access to a lifesaving tool at a time when pandemic-based hardships have upped the risks for trafficking victims. “Human trafficking is modern-day enslavement that exploits captives for commercial sex or forced labor,” Merski said. “Hundreds of cases have been reported in Pennsylvania in recent years, and that number stands to rise as pandemic-based hardships have created new opportunities for perpetrators. “Although anyone can be a target, traffickers tend to prey on people who appear vulnerable because of homelessness, poverty, depression and other circumstances that breed a sense of desperation. The pandemic – which has exacerbated those problems – has only increased the risk to vulnerable populations and made it more difficult to identify and help them,” he said. “Posting hotline information in public places where captives may see it can give them a chance, when seconds count, to learn that help is just a phone call away. In other Read more

 

Merski bill would shed light on local board decision-making

(Feb 25, 2021)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 25 – Local government boards would have more of a public face and greater accountability under a new bill introduced by state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie. Merski said H.B. 647 – which would require municipal authorities, boards and other local government bodies to maintain public websites listing board members’ names and other information – would bring greater transparency to the decision-making process. “Citizens have the right to know more about the local authorities whose decisions impact their lives and spend their tax dollars,” Merski said. “That’s more important than ever today, as the pandemic has strained resources. But it can’t happen when the decision-making process takes place behind closed doors, where special interests can poison the process. Open meetings laws can sometimes provide access, but the laws can be complicated to use, and some meetings remain closed. “Requiring boards and other local decision-making authorities to publish members’ names and contact information would provide citizens a simple way to reach members with questions or concerns and help ensure critical decision-making does not slip under the radar. By putting a public face to these boards, we let in the sunlight, and with it, greater accountability to taxpay ers.” Merski said that under his bill, all political subdivision Read more

 

Merski, Harkins call for increase in vaccine doses to Erie

(Feb 17, 2021)

ERIE, Feb. 17 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins said Erie County is not getting its fair share of vaccine under the state’s distribution plan, and they are urging the governor and state health officials to correct the inequity. In a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam co-signed by other Erie state representatives, the lawmakers claim vaccine allocation is supposed to be based on population size, but records show Erie County is not getting a share proportional to its population. “Although Pennsylvania can’t control federal production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, the state can at least ensure that the supplies it does get are fairly distributed,” Merski said. “That isn’t happening right now – Erie is getting short shrift, and that’s not acceptable. “State records show Erie County has 2.1% of the state’s population, but it is only receiving 1.7% of the available vaccine. At the same time, it’s being reported that three counties in Pennsylvania representing 21% of the population are receiving more than one-third of the state’s total supply. We are urging Governor Wolf and state health officials to supply the additional doses to ensure Erie residents get the fair shot at this vaccine that they deserve.” Harkins said: “Our local Erie health officials and healthcare providers have the capacity to Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Penn State Behrend awarded $200,000 to develop tech training center for regional manufacturers

(Feb 10, 2021)

ERIE, Feb. 10 – A $200,000 grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development will allow Penn State Behrend to develop a “4.0 Center of Excellence” for regional manufacturers, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding from the state’s Manufacturing Training-to-Career program will help ensure that area industry maintains a well-trained workforce. “With this funding, Penn State Behrend will be able to offer training in the latest tech-based tools that manufacturers need to compete in the modern digital world,” Harkins said. “By helping manufacturers ensure that worker skills keep pace with technological advancements – from robotics to digital systems to data analysis – the center will help regional industries reach more customers, speed production and improve efficiency. “I attended Penn State Behrend, and I am extremely excited to see the ways my alma mater will be helping our region remain competitive.” Merski said, “The new Industry 4.0 Center of Excellence is going to help bring manufacturing in our region further into 21 st century. Access to cutting-edge technology is one of the keys to competitiveness in the business world, but the technology is only effective if workers are trained to use it. By offering expanded workforce training on state-of-the-art systems, the new center is going to Read more

 

Merski demands answers, accountability at vaccine rollout hearing

(Feb 08, 2021)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – At a House Policy Committee Hearing today, state Rep. Bob Merski demanded answers from state officials regarding why the COVID-19 rollout is leaving so many eligible residents still waiting for a vaccine. Merski, D-Erie, called for greater consistency and a rollout that prioritizes the community’s most vulnerable. “Today at the Policy Committee hearing on the vaccine rollout, I questioned state health officials about confusing and inconsistent rollout measures,” Merski said. “Residents are growing increasingly frustrated as it seems the rules of the game – including who is eligible for the shot and who is getting it – are being changed midway through. “We need greater accountability and consistency, and we need answers when providers decide they are not going to follow the CDC guidelines, because with a limited supply of vaccine, it’s critical to make sure doses are getting into the arms of the most vulnerable residents. We are hearing that it may still take weeks before nursing and personal care homes residents are staff are fully vaccinated. “In addition to urging officials to make those vulnerable residents a priority, I also urged the state to put a priority on teachers who are already in the classroom teaching and have preexisting conditions. Having taught in the classroom for 19 years, I know there is Read more

 

Merski: New loan to local Erie business will stimulate new business for region

(Feb 03, 2021)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 3 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, issued the following statement today in response to news that real estate holding company AnDi LLC was approved for a business loan for a new commercial venture: “I’m extremely excited for AnDi LLC, which is going to use the loan for a new commercial project that will bring renewed business activity to the region,” Merski said. “The company plans to purchase about 12 acres located in Fairview Business Park to construct a 95,500-square-foot distribution facility, which it will lease to Allegheny Beverage Company under a 15-year lease agreement. About 10,000 square feet of the new facility will be used for office space, with remaining space to be used as a modern warehouse. “This is the kind of investment that is going to generate jobs and attract increased economic activity for our area, and I am truly excited about the new venture.” Merski said AnDI LLC, a real estate holding company through Enterprise Development Center of Erie County, Inc., was approved for a $2.25 million 15-year loan at a 0.75 percent reset rate and comes from through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority. As a single-tenant building project, the loan will be subject to the retention of Allegheny Beverage Company's 70 full-time employees from their current Erie location and the creation of 10 full-time employees within Read more

 

Merski supports proposed budget investments in education, working families, public health

(Feb 03, 2021)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 3 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address today. “Restoring the strength of our local businesses and communities will dominate budget planning this year as we work to distribute additional federal COVID relief funding. Speeding funding to our community’s restaurants, bars, shops and other local businesses will be critical. As we await more federal funding, I support the governor’s proposal to immediately allocate $145 million in state funding now to help these businesses survive. “While federal funding will obviously play a major role in economic recovery this year, our plans for allocating state funding in other critical areas like education are going to shape our community’s rebound and recovery. I strongly support the governor’s proposal to make education funding more equitable through a significant investment in the fair funding formula. Public education can be one of life’s greatest equalizers – but only if every student has access to the same high-quality curricula regardless of household income. “I also support continued investments to make public college more affordable, so young adults don’t start off in life struggling under a huge student debt burden. I am encouraged to hear about proposed investments in Erie County Community College, Read more

 

State Grant Programs Now Open for Applications: April 5 Update

(Feb 02, 2021)

A listing of state grant programs open for applications. Click here to learn more. Read more

 

Merski, Harkins assume new leadership roles in Northwest Delegation

(Jan 28, 2021)

ERIE, Jan. 28 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins are taking on new leadership roles in the state legislature’s Northwest Delegation, with Merski elected vice chairman and Harkins elected treasurer for the 2021-22 legislative session. As they embrace their new roles, the lawmakers, both D-Erie, said they are mindful of the challenges that lay ahead. “Restoring the economic health of our region will require the Northwest Delegation to play an active role in speaking out for Erie and the needs of our region, and I am looking forward to helping lead that effort as vice chairman of the delegation,” Merski said. “Being Erie’s voice in Harrisburg means understanding the specific challenges residents are facing here in our corner of the state, from a need for greater job opportunities and career training to reliable childcare and affordable health care. “Working families and small business owners in our region are looking to us for answers, and their needs will be front-and-center as we work to develop solutions that recharge our economy and restore quality of life.” Harkins said: “We know that it will not be an easy road ahead as Erie continues shaking off the economic impacts of the pandemic, and the delegation will need to be a stronger voice than ever as we work to get our region back on its feet. As the new delegation treasurer, I will be doing everything in my power help guide our small Read more

 

Merski, Harkins laud Erie blogger honored by historical society

(Jan 27, 2021)

ERIE, Jan. 27 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins are hailing local resident Erin Phillips, who was awarded a Community Initiative Award for 2020 from the State Historic Preservation Office for her “Old Erie on Foot” Instagram account and blog. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said Phillips’ work, which encourages others to discover and explore Erie’s historic places, is bringing attention to the area’s rich past and encouraging others to learn and participate. “Some communities are lucky enough to have natural storytellers who have a knack for sharing their love of history in a relatable, engaging way that excites others,” Merski said. “Erin Phillips is one of those natural storytellers. The stories and photos in her blog and Instagram account, “Old Erie on Foot,” have inspired thousands to learn more about the people, places and events that shaped us.” Harkins said: “We are so proud of Erin Phillips for her work in bringing attention to Erie’s rich history. Local history comes alive when it is shared by those who have roots in the community. By encouraging readers to explore historical buildings, homes and other sites, Ms. Phillips is laying a path through the fascinating events that happened here and inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.” According to the historic preservation office – a bureau of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission Read more

 

Troubleshooting PUA claims: How to reopen/reactivate a PUA claim

(Jan 27, 2021)

How to reopen/reactivate a PUA claim : Log in to your dashboard Select “File for Weekly Benefits” Then select “File Your Weekly Certification to Continue Your Claim” You will see the message “You currently have a claim established however it is inactive.” Click on “here.” It will seem as if you are opening a new claim. The system knows you are only attempting to reopen the claim you already have established. Click Next. You will see the Welcome to Pennsylvania’s Pandemic Unemployment Portal Page. Click next. The next eight pages are pre-populated based on your initial claim information. You will click next after verifying the information is correct on each page. If it is not correct, you should make updates at this time. Note: This includes things such as your email, address, date of birth, education information and employment status. You will also be asked the COVID questions. PLEASE NOTE THAT FOR THE MAJOR DISASTER INFORMATION QUESTION YOU SHOULD SELECT COVID -19 NOT COVID 19 -2 If you reported that you are self-employed, the system will ask for you 2020 wages. This is an error. You should enter all 0s for those wages. You will also need to answer if you have worked since you last filed for weeks. If you have worked, you must click the “I have worked since my last Read more

 

Merski launching February food and care product drive

(Jan 26, 2021)

ERIE, Jan. 26 – State Rep. Bob Merski is kicking off a month-long nonperishable food and personal care product drive Feb. 1 to help families struggling during the pandemic. Merski, D-Erie, is hosting the event in partnership with the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network and the Glenwood Park YMCA and said he expects a strong community response based on the success of last year’s care products drive. “We have an incredibly caring community,” Merski said. “The personal care products drive we hosted last year was a huge success and went a long way toward helping families. This year, with the pandemic creating an even greater need, we are expanding the drive to include non-perishable food and pantry items. I know Erie residents will rise to the occasion.” Merski said those able to donate should bring new, sealed nonperishable food items and personal care products to his district office at 3901 Liberty St.; his Summit Township satellite office (open Tuesdays only) at 1230 Townhall Road W.; the Glenwood Park YMCA at 3727 Cherry St.; or Pressed book and coffee shop at 1535 W. 8 th St. Merski said the following nonperishable pantry items and personal care products are especially helpful: canned foods (soup, fruit, vegetables, stew, fish, and beans). pasta/rice/instant mashed potatoes. peanut butter/applesauce. boxed Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: Nearly $238,000 in funding awarded to bolster tech, computer curriculum for low-income Erie students
9 hours ago

Harkins, Merski: More than $800,000 awarded to fund Erie recreational fishing projects
1 day ago

Merski bill would bring pandemic relief to state’s alcohol producers
Apr 01, 2021

Merski, Harkins: Erie County schools expected to receive more than $115 million to defray pandemic expenses, keep students learning
Mar 29, 2021

Merski: Virtual event will help those with criminal records rejoin job market
Mar 29, 2021

Committee approves Merski bill to help police departments purchase vehicles
Mar 17, 2021

Harkins, Merski: More than $46,000 in grants will boost security for area nonprofits
Mar 10, 2021

As Hospitality Industry Recovery Program opens in Erie, Merski and Harkins urge local bars, restaurants to apply
Mar 08, 2021

With greater numbers at risk, Merski bill takes aim at human trafficking
Feb 26, 2021

Merski bill would shed light on local board decision-making
Feb 25, 2021

Merski, Harkins call for increase in vaccine doses to Erie
Feb 17, 2021

Harkins, Merski: Penn State Behrend awarded $200,000 to develop tech training center for regional manufacturers
Feb 10, 2021

Merski demands answers, accountability at vaccine rollout hearing
Feb 08, 2021

Merski: New loan to local Erie business will stimulate new business for region
Feb 03, 2021

Merski supports proposed budget investments in education, working families, public health
Feb 03, 2021

State Grant Programs Now Open for Applications: April 5 Update
Feb 02, 2021

Merski, Harkins assume new leadership roles in Northwest Delegation
Jan 28, 2021

Merski, Harkins laud Erie blogger honored by historical society
Jan 27, 2021

Troubleshooting PUA claims: How to reopen/reactivate a PUA claim
Jan 27, 2021

Merski launching February food and care product drive
Jan 26, 2021