Merski, Harkins support COVID-19 bill package

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 mail (introduced as H.B. 2367).
  • direct the Department of Community and Economic Development to administer low- to no-interest emergency loans to businesses that are being hit hard by this crisis.
  • guaranteeing that all employees will receive emergency paid sick leave if they are not already covered by proposed federal legislation, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • provide an exemption from eviction for workers who are unemployed, separated from their employment or unable to find employment when an epidemic or pandemic requires the governor to declare a state of emergency.
  • provide a 60-day grace period for the repayment of student loans to the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency.
  • provide unemployment compensation for people who have been ordered into quarantine or isolation.