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Merski, Harkins: $75,000 grant will fund home repairs for Erie residents

(1 day ago)

ERIE, Oct. 29 – Low- to moderate-income Erie homeowners will get some assistance with needed housing repairs, thanks to a $75,000 grant to the City of Erie from the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement Fund, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the grant will fund individual projects to enhance housing safety. “Above all else, home should be a safe haven during the pandemic,” Merski said. “Residents struggling to meet basic household expenses should not have to worry about malfunctioning heating equipment or structural defects that threaten their families’ safety.” Harkins agreed, saying, “Thanks to this funding, eligible homeowners will be able to apply for assistance with projects like fixing faulty hot water tanks or furnaces, renovating dangerous structural elements like broken porch railings, and completing other small projects that are key to keeping their loved ones safe.” The legislators said the application process is expected to begin sometime in the next month – with additional details to come – and will be available for households with incomes below 50% of the area median income. Individual projects cannot exceed $3,000. Read more

Longietti says liquor license waiver will help area bars and restaurants, but comprehensive relief package needed

(Oct 22, 2020)

HERMITAGE, Oct. 22 – A plan being finalized to waive liquor license fees for the state’s bars, clubs and restaurants should give these key local businesses more capital to navigate the tremendous financial challenges they face, but a comprehensive relief package is also needed as soon as possible, state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, announced today. “A plan to waive liquor license fees for the year ahead is a good start,” Longietti said. “A reprieve from fees means business owners will have extra capital to put to other pressing expenses, and any help right now is critically important. “While a fee waiver will help, though, it isn’t going to be enough to save businesses that are teetering on the verge of collapse,” Longietti said. “Shutdowns and restrictions from the pandemic have already destroyed some of our beloved area bars and restaurants and pushed others so far into the red, they may not survive. They need major assistance now in the form a comprehensive relief package. “The state still has more than $1 billion in CARES Act funding left, and a major priority should be to get part of that money into the hands of our local businesses. Their efforts have built our economy and enriched our community in a hundred different ways. Now, when time is of the essence, we have to get them a lifeline.” Longietti was among 133 lawmakers who voted earlier this week to override the Read more

Sainato: License fee waiver will help struggling area bars, restaurants

(Oct 22, 2020)

NEW CASTLE, Oct. 22 – Area restaurants, bars and clubs hit hard by pandemic shutdowns and restrictions will see some important relief under a plan by the administration to waive standard liquor license fees for the coming year, state Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, announced today. “The restrictions and shutdowns imposed on our area restaurants, bars and clubs have placed many in a stranglehold,” Sainato said. “Those that have managed to survive are running on fumes. The plan announced today to waive liquor license fees for 2021 will help by giving these businesses additional capital for operating expenses, but a lot more is needed, and it’s needed now, because the clock is ticking for these businesses. “With about $1.3 billion in CARES Act dollars remaining, I will be working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bring about a comprehensive restaurant relief package. We need to do everything in our power to save these small, family businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy.” Earlier this week, Sainato voted to override the governor’s veto of H.B. 2513 , which would have expanded capacity for restaurants and bars to a minimum of 50% and removed certain alcohol service restrictions, but the override failed. The fee waiver plan is still awaiting final approval from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. Once approved, it would waive standard license fees for restaurants, Read more

Harkins bill would create hazard pay program for charitable nonprofit workers

(Oct 22, 2020)

HARRISBURG, Oct. 22 – Legislation introduced by state Rep. Pat Harkins would create a new grant program providing hazard pay for nonprofit employees performing charitable services on the front lines of the pandemic. Harkins, D-Erie, said he introduced H.B. 2931 to ensure that these nonprofit workers, who face the same dangers as other employees, are not passed over for compensation. “There are scores of nonprofit workers on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Harkins, who is Democratic chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee. “They are distributing food at food banks, operating shelters for those needing a warm bed, and carrying out other charitable services providing comfort and support to Pennsylvanians in need. “Much like other frontline employees, these workers are knowingly placing themselves in harm’s way to help others, and we need to stand with them and support them. We can do that by making sure they have the same chance at compensation for those risks.” Harkins said that like the state’s original hazard pay program, his proposed grant program for nonprofits providing a vital charitable purpose during the pandemic would be funded with CARES Act dollars. Employees whose employers were approved would be eligible for an additional $3 per hour for a 10-week period. The state’s original hazard pay program launched over the summer provided $50 million to 639 employers, resulting in Read more

Bill including Sainato measure to extend fire/EMS grant programs heads to governor

(Oct 21, 2020)

HARRISBURG, Oct. 21 – Legislation incorporating state Rep. Chris Sainato’s bill to reauthorize the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Services Grant Programs for four more years and expand the programs to fund volunteer recruitment efforts passed the House unanimously on a concurrence vote today and now heads to the governor. Sainato, who is Democratic chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, said his bill was a critical addition to H.B.1673 because the state’s fire and EMS workers rely on the grant programs – which lapsed in June – to continue their lifesaving work. “Grant funding for our first responders is essential even when there is no pandemic going on because our first responders – including many who are volunteers – depend on this funding to stay safe and protect the rest of us,” Sainato said. “That funding is even more critical now, as COVID-19 has forced a halt to fundraising events and created a need for additional protective devices, sanitizing equipment, training and other resources. “Equally critical is the need to boost our declining ranks of volunteers. I’m encouraged that House Bill 1673 also adopts my proposal to expand the grant program’s use to recruiting and retention efforts.” Sainato said that in addition to his bill, H.B. 1673 incorporates colleagues’ bills that would, among other things, create Read more

Longietti honored for Early Childhood Education Caucus leadership

(Oct 19, 2020)

HERMITAGE, Oct. 19 – State Rep. Mark Longietti is being honored this evening as a “Legislative Champion” by state education advocates for his work as chairman of Pennsylvania’s bipartisan, bicameral Early Childhood Education Caucus. Longietti, D-Mercer, said his leadership role with the caucus is focused on ensuring that the interests of Pennsylvania’s at-risk children remain a top legislative priority. “Early education programs benefit young children a hundred different ways beyond the ABCs,” Longietti said. “They make a huge difference in helping kids develop the skills that determine success later in life, from forming friendships and working with peers to developing creative thinking and sharpening problem-solving skills. “That’s why it’s so critical to ensure all kids have access to these resources. We need to give them an even playing field from the start, because when they don’t have this during their early formative years, it’s very difficult to make that up later. “I’m deeply honored to receive this award. Our state’s dedicated education advocates recognize the importance of early childhood programs and provide indispensable support by making sure at-risk kids have a voice in Harrisburg. It’s up to us as lawmakers to ensure their message is heard and reflected in legislation and policy.” Receiving Read more

Harkins named 2020 Early Childhood Education Legislative Champion

(Oct 19, 2020)

ERIE, Oct. 19 – State Rep. Pat Harkins is being honored as a Legislative Champion by state education advocates for his role in founding the bipartisan, bicameral Early Childhood Education Caucus and his decade-long work promoting the caucus’ mission of protecting at-risk children. Harkins, D-Erie, said he began organizing the caucus 10 years ago after realizing it would take a unified, bipartisan effort to ensure all Pennsylvania children received an equal chance at success. “I founded the Early Childhood Education Caucus in 2010, with help from former state Representative Phyllis Mundy, because I realized Pennsylvania’s at-risk kids needed a strong, unified voice in Harrisburg to ensure they received the best possible start in life. “I was able to get just about every member to participate and become active members in the caucus, which was no small feat at the time, with depleted budgets that often ran months long and provided much uncertainty and tension among members and the administration. That we succeeded is a testament to lawmakers on both side of aisle, who understood the importance of the cause. “I’m extremely honored to be recognized for this achievement. This caucus has lived on and endured, and it provides great support for our state’s most precious resource – the young students who represent our future. We owe it to them to make sure that as they begin Read more

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins: $1.5 million grant will expand Innovation Beehive, spur business growth

(Oct 15, 2020)

ERIE, Oct. 15 – A $1,499,225 million grant will allow the Northwest Pennsylvania Innovation Beehive Network to expand and serve more area entrepreneurs and businesses, according to state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Bob Merski, and Pat Harkins, all D-Erie. The lawmakers said the grant to Penn State University from the Appalachian Regional Commission will fund a project to expand the Beehive’s reach and services, helping it to spur new businesses and support existing ones throughout the region and beyond, into Southern New York and Ohio. “The Beehive is a one-of-a-kind resource that harnesses the talents of our area’s best minds and pools resources to provide specialized expertise and services to businesses and entrepreneurs,” Bizzarro said. “Securing this funding means that the collaborative’s grant-funded centers will be able cast a wider net and serve more businesses and entrepreneurs, generating more economic activity and jobs for our region.” Merski agreed, saying, “With the new funding, more area businesses, inventors and entrepreneurs will benefit from the Beehive’s unique faculty and student-based services, which include everything from graphic design and video production to consulting and market analysis. The new project is going to help the collaborative expand into new services and areas as it supports hundreds of businesses, helps create new ventures and leverages thousands in private Read more

Merski alerts residents to one-stop-shop voting option

(Oct 13, 2020)

ERIE, Oct. 13 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, wants to be sure residents are aware of a simple, one-stop-shop voting option that allows them to apply for, obtain, and cast a mail-in ballot all in one visit to the Erie County Voter Registration Office. “With the election right around the corner, it’s time to start preparing, especially if folks plan to vote by mail but have not yet applied for a mail-in ballot,” Merski said. “I want to be sure everyone is aware of a simple, one-stop-shop option that allows residents to visit the Erie County Voter Registration Office, located in Room 112 of the Erie County Courthouse at 140 W. 6 th St. “Once there, residents can apply for and obtain a mail-in ballot, vote that ballot, and cast it by dropping it in the office’s drop box – all in one simple visit. With all the complications the pandemic has brought, it’s a great way to take care of an important civic responsibility ahead of time and get everything squared away. “Of course, residents who want to vote by mail but don’t want to venture out can still apply online for a mail-in ballot by visiting . Whichever option people choose, it’s a good idea to make a plan now, because the county must receive your application for a mail-in or absentee ballot by 5 p.m. Oct. 27.” Merski added that residents who already chose a Read more

Merski, Harkins announce nearly $97,000 in fire grants

(Oct 08, 2020)

ERIE, Oct. 8 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today that four fire companies in their districts will be receiving $96,849 in state grants for operational expenses incurred because of COVID-19. The lawmakers said the grants are being awarded by the Office of State Fire Commissioner to offset expenses related to the pandemic. “The pandemic has compounded the financial burden on our fire and EMS services in so many ways, forcing departments to acquire new protective equipment and answer a higher volume of calls,” Merski said. “This funding should help alleviate the financial strain and ensure our incredibly dedicated first responders have what they need to continue their lifesaving work.” Harkins agreed, saying, “Before the pandemic, fire and rescue companies were able to count on fundraising events as a source of supplemental income, but that revenue source has dried up because of COVID-19. At the same time, rescue workers are expected to be out there answering a high volume of calls while fighting new risks. It’s a tough job made tougher, but it’s our hope that this grant funding will help.” The lawmakers said the following fire companies will receive the following amounts: Belle Valley Fire Department Inc. – $23,425. City of Erie Fire Department – $25,342. Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department – $22,740. Read more