Merski, Harkins: Erie Downtown Partnership awarded $50,000 grant for pandemic relief

(Apr 14, 2021)

ERIE, April 14 – A $50,000 state grant will provide pandemic assistance to a critical Erie community development organization, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding to the Erie Downtown Partnership will allow the collaborative to replenish resources exhausted by the pandemic. “As COVID created new and immediate concerns for businesses and neighborhoods, community development organizations like Erie Downtown Partnership were forced to shift priorities from long-term revitalization and renewal to addressing more urgent community needs, and they are playing an important part in our recovery” Merski said. “This funding will help replenish resources for the collaborative so it can continue its vital role in rebuilding our downtown.” Harkins said: “Our business community and neighborhoods have faced unprecedented challenges over the past year, but Erie’s partnership of business and property owners, organizations and other stakeholders have been tireless in their resolve to get us back on the path to recovery. This funding is an investment that keeps us moving in that direction.” The grant is part of a package of nearly $2 million to 43 projects statewide that have been approved for funding under the COVID-19 Relief - Supporting Elm and Main program. The Read more

 

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

(Apr 13, 2021)

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

(Apr 12, 2021)

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, 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

 

House passes Harkins bill to rid school code of offensive language

(Mar 22, 2021)

HARRISBURG, March 22 – Pennsylvania is one step closer to eliminating outdated, derogatory language in the state’s school code with the House’s passage today of a bill introduced by state Rep. Pat Harkins. Harkins, D-Erie, said H.B. 365 would remove antiquated, harmful terms to describe students with disabilities or mental health issues – terms he said have no place in the state’s progressive education system. “Pennsylvania’s school code was written in the middle of the last century, which was still the dark ages in terms of what we understood about the abilities of students with disabilities and mental health issues,” Harkins said. “The code language reflected this, using words like “crippled,” “defective” and “retarded,” and other terms that only serve to reinforce negative stereotypes. “Although the state Department of Education has been trying to address the problem, we need a unified state effort that delegitimizes this language by banishing it once and for all from our laws. Our education system has come far over the past decades, creating an inclusive classroom environment that allows students of all abilities to learn and achieve. Now, it’s time to lead by example and make sure the language we use reflects that progress.” Today’s vote represents the second time the House has acted on similar legislation drafted by Harkins. In May 2019, the 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

 

Committee approves Harkins bill to remove offensive School Code language

(Mar 02, 2021)

ERIE, March 2 – A bill that would remove antiquated and offensive terminology from Pennsylvania’s School Code was unanimously approved today by the House Education Committee, according to the bill’s author, state Rep. Pat Harkins. Harkins, D-Erie, said he introduced H.B. 365 to eliminate derogatory terminology that reinforces the stigma surrounding mental health issues and disabilities. “Language shapes perception, and when official state codes use terms that stereotype or limit, this creates a destructive, long-lasting impression. Hopefully, with committee approval of my bill, we are one step closer to updating and modernizing official state terminology, and with it, the way students with disabilities are perceived.” Harkins, who has introduced the legislation in prior sessions, noted that the original state law, drafted in 1949, contained offensive terms such as “crippled,” “disturbed,” “handicapped” and “retarded.” Although he said the Department of Education has been working to update and correct some language, he believes it is time to resolve the issue permanently through legislation. “This is the 21st century,” Harkins said. “We are no longer stuck in the 1950s and constrained by the biases and ignorance of that era when it comes to what people with disabilities can achieve. Pennsylvania has taken huge strides to establish an inclusive classroom environment. Now, Read more

 

Harkins seeks to resolve confusion over why voters on ‘permanent’ mail-in ballot list are being asked to reapply

(Feb 25, 2021)

Harkins said voters who received the letter and wish to receive their ballots by mail for the 2021 elections should complete and submit the application form on the back of the letter. 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

 

Harkins supports budget’s strong investment in education, working families

(Feb 03, 2021)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 3 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address today: “None of us could have imagined the widespread havoc COVID would wreak or the toll it would take, especially on our small business community. A major priority in the year ahead will be ensuring additional federal COVID relief funding makes it into the hands of our local businesses – and specifically the restaurants, taverns and bars and social clubs that are hanging on by a string – as quickly as possible. “In addition to the anticipated federal funding, I support the governor’s plan to distribute $145 million in state funding to help our small businesses survive. “Beyond helping our business community recover, education funding on all levels is a major priority, and I support the governor's proposal to increase the amount of basic education funding that is distributed through the fair funding formula. “Household income should never determine a child’s future, and the way to level the playing field is by ensuring that high quality public education is equally available to all kids and does not depend on a family’s ZIP code. I was encouraged by the governor’s proposal that would significantly increase funding for the Erie City School District, both in terms of basic education and special education Read more

 

State Grant Programs Now Open for Applications: April 15 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, Harkins co-hosting COVID-19 Virtual Vaccine Town Hall Jan. 25

(Jan 21, 2021)

ERIE, Jan. 21 – Erie residents can find answers to their questions about the COVID-19 vaccine by attending a virtual vaccine town hall at 12:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 25, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said they are co-hosting the online event with their House and Senate Democratic colleagues and the state Department of Health to bring residents up to date on the latest vaccine information. “The state health department just announced that it is expanding the category of residents eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to include people 65 and older and those 16 to 64 with serious health conditions,” Merski said. “While that’s good news, most of us still have questions about the timetable and what it means for everyone in the Erie community. “I’m encouraging everyone with questions to register for the event, which will feature a health department official answering questions in an online, live forum.” Harkins said: “The COVID-19 vaccine is bringing cause for hope but also a host of questions -- from how safe and effective it is to when folks can expect to receive theirs. This is new territory for all of us, and we want to make sure the community has access to the latest, most accurate information. Joining the live event will give folks a chance to get that information straight from the best source – the state health department.” Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: More than $41.4 million to Erie schools to support continued learning during pandemic

(Jan 15, 2021)

ERIE, Jan. 15 – Area school districts will receive approximately $41.44 million in federal funding under the CARES Act to ensure students have the resources they need to continue learning during the pandemic, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding to four school districts and three charter schools will help ensure educators have the resources and supports needed to continue a quality, safe curriculum. “Erie is fortunate to have incredibly dedicated school officials, teachers and support staff who are 100% dedicated to keeping quality instruction flowing at all levels K-12,” Merski said. “Throughout the pandemic, they have been working to keep the curricula engaging despite wrestling with tight budgets and strained resources. The funding announced today is going to put more resources into their hands to help them ensure students keep learning and thriving in a safe environment.” Harkins said: “The pandemic has tested the limits of our public education system. This much-needed infusion of funding is going help our talented educators continue inspiring kids and our districts ensure that all the planning and protections are in place to keep them safe. I am encouraging districts to apply as soon as they are able.” The lawmakers said districts will receive the following funding: Erie City School District Read more

 

Harkins announces committee appointments for 2021-22 legislative session

(Jan 12, 2021)

HARRISBURG, Jan. 12 – State Rep. Pat Harkins announced today that he has been appointed to the House Professional Licensure, Liquor Control, and Game and Fisheries Committees for the 2021-22 legislative session. Harkins said he is looking forward to playing an active role in developing legislative solutions that speed recovery to the community and small business owners . “Even as we begin the normal committee work of reviewing new legislation, there is nothing normal about this year,” Harkins said. “With community businesses and working families struggling to get back on their feet, we will be laser-focused on moving bills that help return the commonwealth to more stable economic ground. “In the months ahead, I will be working on promoting legislative solutions from the ground level, whether they involve expanding opportunities for licensed employees and constructive use of licensing fees, ensuring the most effective use of liquor sale revenue, or ensuring safe, affordable recreational opportunities for sportsmen and anglers. “Above all, we will be working to ensure that legislation designed to speed recovery and improve life for residents makes it to the full House for a vote.” The Professional Licensure Committee reviews bills involving licensing for qualified employees and businesses and includes Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Erie senior centers to benefit from nearly $50,000 in grants

(Jan 07, 2021)

ERIE, Jan. 7 – State funding of $49,383 will help Erie’s senior centers weather the financial impact of the pandemic so they can continue serving the needs of older adults and resume full-scale operations in the future, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski announced today. The lawmakers said the funding from the state Department of Aging will go to the area’s agency on aging – the Greater Erie Community Action Committee Agency – to be divided equally among the county’s senior community centers. “ Our area’s senior centers provide Erie’s older adults with incredibly important connections to the community,” Harkins said. “But like all other businesses and organizations, they are feeling the economic brunt of the pandemic keenly. This funding is going to give them the shot in the arm they need to continue operating so they can safely welcome seniors back to a full range of engaging activities once it is safe to do so.” Merski said: “Our local Erie senior centers offer older adults access to vital services such as nutritious meals and transportation, but they also provide so much more in terms of quality of life –fitness, learning, volunteering and all the other activities that keep seniors engaged. “The funding announced today will be a lifeline for our area centers, which will be able to use the money Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: Erie Downtown Partnership awarded $50,000 grant for pandemic relief
Apr 14, 2021

Merski, Harkins: Nearly $238,000 in funding awarded to bolster tech, computer curriculum for low-income Erie students
Apr 13, 2021

Harkins, Merski: More than $800,000 awarded to fund Erie recreational fishing projects
Apr 12, 2021

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

House passes Harkins bill to rid school code of offensive language
Mar 22, 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

Committee approves Harkins bill to remove offensive School Code language
Mar 02, 2021

Harkins seeks to resolve confusion over why voters on ‘permanent’ mail-in ballot list are being asked to reapply
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

Harkins supports budget’s strong investment in education, working families
Feb 03, 2021

State Grant Programs Now Open for Applications: April 15 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, Harkins co-hosting COVID-19 Virtual Vaccine Town Hall Jan. 25
Jan 21, 2021

Merski, Harkins: More than $41.4 million to Erie schools to support continued learning during pandemic
Jan 15, 2021

Harkins announces committee appointments for 2021-22 legislative session
Jan 12, 2021

Harkins, Merski: Erie senior centers to benefit from nearly $50,000 in grants
Jan 07, 2021