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Erie universities, institutes awarded more than $500,000 in COVID safety grants

(1 day ago)

ERIE, Aug. 3 – Grant funding of $512,227 will help Erie’s postsecondary education organizations implement plans to keep students learning as schools resume operations this fall, state Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski, and Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the grants -- part of a package of $28 million in federal funding to organizations statewide – include the following: Edinboro University of Pennsylvania -- $239,640. Erie Institute of Technology Inc. -- $11,797. Gannon University -- $106,418. Great Lakes Institute of Technology -- $20,900. Mercyhurst University -- $133,472. “With this funding, our universities and tech institutes will be able to implement plans and purchase equipment to keep students learning in the safest possible ways – whether that’s through online instruction, in-person classes, or a combination of both,” Harkins said. “The money can be used for a variety of resources, from protective and sanitizing equipment to structural modifications to online technology.” “Although learning is most effective when it takes place in a live, energetic environment with real-time questions and demonstrations, the practical concerns raised by the pandemic mean that we have to sacrifice some aspects of that model,” Merski said. “With this funding and creative planning by school administrators, though, Read more

Erie universities, institutes awarded more than $500,000 in COVID safety grants

(1 day ago)

ERIE, Aug. 3 – Grant funding of $512,227 will help Erie’s postsecondary education organizations implement plans to keep students learning as schools resume operations this fall, state Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski, and Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the grants -- part of a package of $28 million in federal funding to organizations statewide – include the following: Edinboro University of Pennsylvania -- $239,640. Erie Institute of Technology Inc. -- $11,797. Gannon University -- $106,418. Great Lakes Institute of Technology -- $20,900. Mercyhurst University -- $133,472. “With this funding, our universities and tech institutes will be able to implement plans and purchase equipment to keep students learning in the safest possible ways – whether that’s through online instruction, in-person classes, or a combination of both,” Harkins said. “The money can be used for a variety of resources, from protective and sanitizing equipment to structural modifications to online technology.” “Although learning is most effective when it takes place in a live, energetic environment with real-time questions and demonstrations, the practical concerns raised by the pandemic mean that we have to sacrifice some aspects of that model,” Merski said. “With this funding and creative planning by school administrators, though, Read more

Harkins, Merski, Bizzarro ask governor to remove 25% capacity limit on restaurants

(Jul 28, 2020)

ERIE, July 28 – State Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski and Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, have joined fellow lawmakers in calling on Gov. Tom Wolf to lift a recent restriction limiting bars and restaurants to 25% indoor capacity. In a letter to the governor co-signed by other members of the Northwest Delegation, the Erie lawmakers said the restriction does little to improve public safety while jeopardizing the survival of key local businesses. “Requiring local restaurants and bars to adhere to a 25% capacity rule will make it incredibly difficult for them to meet operating expenses and survive,” Harkins said. “Instead of punishing all restaurant and bar owners for the transgressions of a few, we should be better enforcing safety violations by the few and leaving our responsible business owners alone so they can help our community make an economic recovery.” Merski agreed, saying “ Protecting the health of our residents doesn’t have to mean sacrificing the viability of the local businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy. There is no reason to believe slashing capacity will enhance public safety, and there is no point in doing so if it will not change the behavior of the few bad actors responsible for the violations. “We need to reinstate the 50% capacity guideline before more residents are forced to resort to crossing state lines to dine out.” Bizzarro said, “We Read more

Petrarca joins colleagues in calling on governor to lift 25% capacity limit for restaurants, bars

(Jul 28, 2020)

VANDERGRIFT, July 28 – Citing troubling financial concerns facing local restaurant, bar and tavern owners, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca today joined several legislators in writing to Gov. Tom Wolf, demanding he lift the 25% indoor capacity restriction. The letter calls on Wolf to restore the 50% capacity guidelines for these establishments, adding that the current restrictions are hurting these businesses, many which have followed state health guidelines and operations. “It’s extremely unfair to crack down on all restaurants and taverns during these challenging times,” said Petrarca. “I have voted approximately 30 times in support of efforts to open up our businesses. We are at the point where we need to trust these businesses to fully reopen safely, and that includes our restaurants, taverns and bars. While 50% capacity is difficult enough in the short term, 25% is unsustainable and will lead to more local businesses closing their doors for good. Our communities cannot afford that.” The letter is co-signed by state Reps. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence; Mark Longietti, D-Mercer; Frank Burns, D-Cambria; Ryan Bizzarro, Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, all D-Erie; and Scott Conklin, D-Centre. Read more

Sainato, Longietti call on governor to lift 25% capacity for restaurants, bars

(Jul 28, 2020)

HARRISBURG, July 28 – Calling it unnecessarily restrictive and damaging to the local economy, state Reps. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, and Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, have written to Gov. Tom Wolf urging him to lift his recent restriction imposing a 25% indoor capacity on restaurants and bars. The lawmakers’ letter calls on Wolf to restore the previous 50% capacity guidelines, saying the new restriction does more harm than good. “The governor is punishing all restaurants and bars for the failure of a few bad actors who are failing to comply with safety guidelines,” Sainato said. “The problem with that approach is that it hurts everyone while failing to get at the root of the problem. “It’s noncompliance with safety procedures – not a particular number of patrons – that jeopardizes community health. We should be focusing on cracking down on the bad apples, not enforcing an overreaching measure that threatens to drive our local restaurants and bars out of business.” Longietti agreed, saying “Reducing the maximum patron capacity to 25% won’t help keep anyone safer; it will merely threaten the viability of restaurants and bars that are trying to comply and do the right thing. “The restriction is especially difficult for our local restaurants and bars because they must compete with businesses in nearby Ohio, which are operating Read more

Harkins clarifies which workers are eligible for new hazard pay program

(Jul 21, 2020)

ERIE, July 21 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, is hoping to resolve questions regarding which workers are eligible for hazard pay under a newly announced program providing $50 million in CARES Act funding to compensate frontline workers for job-related risks. “Since the new hazard pay program was announced, many people in the district have been asking me which workers qualify,” Harkins said. “I want to clarify that the program is designed to compensate direct, full-time and part-time employees in life-sustaining industries who earn less than $20/hour, excluding fringe benefits and overtime.” Harkins said employers must apply for the grants, which are available for the following industries: healthcare and social assistance ambulatory health care services hospitals nursing and residential care facilities transit and ground passenger transportation food manufacturing food retail facilities security services for eligible industries listed above and commercial industries that were not closed under the governor’s business closure order janitorial services to buildings and dwellings “I’m urging businesses, agencies, non-profits and Certified Economic Development Organizations with employees in any of these industries to apply,” Harkins said. “Our frontline workers risk their health and the health of their Read more

Erie legislators laud Regional Response Health Collaboration Program grant

(Jul 14, 2020)

HARRISBURG, July 14 -- State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, today announced LECOM Health and UPMC Community Provider Services will receive $13.6 million to support COVID-19 readiness and response planning in long-term care facilities. The grants, awarded through the Regional Response Health Collaboration Program approved by the General Assembly, will help improve quality care related to infection prevention and allow long-term care facilities to expand COVID-19 testing to include asymptomatic staff and residents in facilities. “I am thrilled to see this investment in the fight against COVID-19 and protecting our most vulnerable citizens,” Bizzarro said. “Long-term care facility workers and residents need resources to help keep safe and mitigate the spread of this virus. When our health systems work together and the most innovative minds join forces, we can make meaningful progress in preserving the well-being of our community,” he explained. “It’s critically important to get this collaborative effort underway,” Merski said. “The pandemic’s effect on our long-term care facilities has been devastating, and we can’t attack the problem in a vacuum. By combining forces and pooling the best possible resources, professionals and information, we can help these facilities implement the kind of long-term planning and strategies they need to mitigate the Read more

Merski, Harkins remind area grocers, food retailers about COVID-19 relief fund

(Jul 10, 2020)

ERIE, July 10 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, want to be sure area grocery stores and other food retailers are aware of a new program designed to provide relief to these businesses impacted by the pandemic. The lawmakers said the Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief Fund will support impacted businesses providing access to fresh, perishable and staple foods and will prioritize assistance to businesses located in and serving low-income communities. “Our small local grocers, food retailers and nonprofit distributors provide our community with critical access to fresh, nutritious foods – a resource that is more important than ever as residents strive to stay healthy during the pandemic,” Merski said. “But just as it has affected all businesses, COVID-19 has made it harder for these critical food retailers to continue operating. Harkins said, “This funding will help ensure that our community – and especially lower-income households –maintain access to the fresh, healthy food they need while also helping these key businesses contribute to our community’s economic health. We are urging all eligible local food retailers to apply.” Merski and Harkins said the program applies to traditional retailers as well as non-profit and cooperative entities such as corner stores and farmers markets. The applicant must: Read more

Harkins issues statement to resolve questions about REAL ID postponement

(Jul 08, 2020)

ERIE, July 8 – Seeking to clear up confusion over postponement of the REAL ID deadline, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement: “I have been receiving a lot of calls from residents who have heard that the REAL ID enforcement deadline has been postponed to Oct. 1, 2021, but are confused about what this means and how it impacts them, so I am hoping to eliminate that confusion. “In response to 9/11, t he federal government passed the REAL ID Act to improve security and make it more difficult for terrorists or others intending harm to obtain a fake ID. The act tightened the requirements for getting a driver’s license or identification card that federal authorities would accept by requiring the person applying to meet a higher standard for showing proof of identity. “States are still free to issue – and residents are still free to get – standard driver’s licenses and identification cards that are not based on those more rigorous proof requirements. “Once enforcement of the act begins on Oct. 1, 2021, however, residents will no longer be able to use those standard licenses or ID cards as proof of identification for certain activities, including boarding a domestic commercial flight or visiting a military base or other high-security federal facility. Instead, people will have to present either a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card, or will have Read more

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins: Nearly $10,000 in pandemic relief to local arts and cultural organizations

(Jul 06, 2020)

ERIE, July 6 – Five local organizations dedicated to arts, culture and behavioral health will receive $9,650 in CARES Act funding to help stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today. The Erie lawmakers said the organizations – the Erie Philharmonic, the Erie Playhouse, the Erie Art Museum, Erie Arts & Culture and Stairways Behavioral Health – will each receive $1,930. “These grants will help support the arts in our community and ensure they maintain their position as economic drivers,” Bizzarro said. “The arts are a vital part of our state, and many Pennsylvanians go on to play a role in the industry globally. It’s key that we make sure our arts organizations have the support necessary to bounce back from this pandemic and continue to create and inspire.” Merski said, “The arts enrich our Erie community in so many ways. They bring us together across cultural lines through shared enjoyment of performances, and they encourage expression of diverse stories. They inspire young minds, and they stimulate economic growth by drawing other businesses and commercial activity to the area. Our arts, cultural and behavioral health organizations have been hit hard by the pandemic, and this funding will help provide support they need to continue operating.” Harkins said, “Arts and cultural institutions Read more