State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, D-Erie, today announced the approval of $7.75 million in funding for four economic development projects in Erie County. Read more
ERIE, April 19 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, will host a live town hall May 5 to address cell phone signal problems on and around Presque Isle and Lake Erie. The lawmakers said the event – from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Room 112 of the Tom Ridge Environmental Center – will bring together residents, business owners, local groups, county and state officials, and other stakeholders to identify the scope of the problem and lay the groundwork for developing solutions. “Our phones are lifelines to the rest of the world – connections for getting help in dangerous situations or contacting loved ones to let them know we’re OK,” Harkins said. “But for residents living near Lake Erie, tourists visiting Presque Isle and the surrounding shoreline, and businesses that rely on the lake, service has been unreliable and sometimes non-existent. Those connections are essential, and we need to get them working as soon as possible.” Merski said, “This is more than a convenience issue – it’s a public safety issue. It’s also an issue that affects the local businesses and the recreation and tourism that are so important to our area. Our live town hall will be an opportunity for residents and other stakeholders to discuss concerns and start collaborating on ways to solve the problem.” Speakers will include representatives Read more
ERIE, April 13 – Infrastructure projects coming to Erie and Pennsylvania’s northwest region will spell new opportunities for workers while shoring up public safety, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins said today after administration officials visited Erie to highlight nearly $300 million worth of projects for the region. The lawmakers said funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – which will support nearly 90 new or continuing projects – is good news on multiple levels. “Beyond building new roads and stronger bridges to connect our region, these projects will be bridges to greater economic opportunities for residents who do not have higher education degrees or specialized training,” said Merski, who is chair of the House Democratic Caucus’ Northwest Delegation. “It’s an opportunity to help families on an individual level build back their own financial independence as we strengthen the regional economy.” Harkins, who is delegation treasurer, said, “The recent Pittsburgh bridge collapse reminded everyone how vital these infrastructure projects will be – not just as a shot in the arm to our regional economy but from a public safety standpoint. It was a miracle no one was killed in that collapse, but we might not be as fortunate the next time around. As far as I’m concerned, we can’t get this work started soon Read more
HARRISBURG, April 11 – State Rep. Pat Harkins joined labor officials at the state Capitol today as the state announced plans to study the feasibility of extending Occupational Safety and Health Act protections to Pennsylvania’s public-sector workers and urged support for Harkins’ legislation to put those protections in place. Harkins, D-Erie, said he hopes the study will move the state closer to passing H.B. 1976 , which would bring long-overdue protections to the more than 600,000 Pennsylvanians employed by state and local government. “For years, Pennsylvania’s public-sector workers – from first responders, transit workers and bus mechanics, to maintenance workers, equipment operators and water treatment plant workers – have been clocking into workplaces that are less safe than the ones run by private employers,” Harkins said. “That’s because OHSA regulations apply only to private businesses – they don’t protect public-sector workers. “These public-sector workers are the same ones who keep our families protected, our buses running, our roads repaired and our water safe. They face the same dangers – and in some cases, even greater ones – than private-sector workers. Surely, they deserve the same protections. “The feasibility study announced today will examine the benefits and costs of extending OSHA protections to public-sector Read more
ERIE, April 8 – Research projects from student teams at Gannon University and Penn State Behrend were among 36 projects selected statewide to share in grant funding totaling $2.3 million, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the grants – administered by the Department of Community and Economic Development under the Manufacturing PA Initiative – were awarded to projects statewide that will help advance innovation in manufacturing sectors including 3D printing, waste sustainability, autonomous navigation, and several other areas. “I work closely with Gannon University President Keith Taylor, and I am constantly amazed and inspired by the talented minds Gannon, Penn State Behrend, and our region’s other universities attract,” Harkins said. “Innovation starts right here, at the local level, with ideas from young, bright minds. With support from area businesses and other partners, those ideas grow into plans and applications, and then into real-world manufacturing advances. “We are so proud of our brilliant young students, and also thankful to the local business community partners who partner with our schools to make this kind of innovation happen.” Merski said: “I want to congratulate the Penn State Behrend and Gannon University students who were involved in these projects, which show so much initiative and innovation. Efforts Read more
ERIE, April 6 – Federal funding of more than $8.3 million will help stabilize Erie’s hard-hit child care industry so providers can be there for the families who rely on them, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the American Rescue Plan Act funding will provide nearly 100 Erie city childcare centers with grants ranging from $4,200 to $571,000. “Reliable, affordable child care is essential for working families,” Merski said. “Without it, parents are tied to the home and drastically limited in their job options. Unfortunately, lengthy shutdowns, declining enrollments and other pandemic-related problems dealt a huge blow to most child care providers, leaving many struggling just to keep their doors open. This funding will help with critical expenses to get these businesses – so vital to working families – back on their feet.” Harkins said, “Centers can use the dollars for a wide range of resources, including recruiting and retention programs; operational costs like rent, utilities, maintenance and insurance; equipment and supplies; mental health services for children and staff; and reimbursement for past COVID-19-related expenses, among other costs. Stabilizing the industry is critical for families trying to get back to work.” According to the state Department of Human Services, which administers the funding, centers will Read more
ERIE, March 23 – Erie hospitals and behavioral healthcare centers strained by the pandemic will be receiving more than $6.6 million in federal funding to replenish resources and fund recruitment and retention efforts, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the funding, which represents Erie’s share of $225 million in federal funding under the American Rescue Plan Act, will provide critical reinforcements to healthcare workers who have remained on the front lines throughout the pandemic. “The pandemic showed us the heroic side of so many Erie workers, and our healthcare workers are a shining example of that,” Harkins said. “Incredibly dedicated frontline medical personnel have been working tirelessly through extreme challenges, and they need reinforcements. This funding is going to allow Erie hospitals and care providers deliver those reinforcements by funding recruitment and retention of staff and other critical resources.” Merski said, “Staffing shortages have not only strained our health care resources but can affect patient care. Securing this funding brings relief to frontline workers and also helps ensure that Erie residents continue receiving the dedicated level of health care they deserve.” The funding includes the following: LECOM Health Corry Memorial Hospital -- $118,100 Millcreek Community Hospital Read more
ERIE, March 17 – The Erie City School District is receiving $500,000 in new state funding, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the Ready to Learn block grant will help the historically underfunded district shore up academic resources. “The new funding will help get critical resources into the hands of students and teachers,” Harkins said. “For decades, Erie City School District has been severely underfunded, in some cases operating with several thousand dollars less per student than other districts around the state. “We fought hard to get $14 million in recurring aid that is helping the district exit financial watch status and for level-up funding that is helping to level the playing field somewhat. But until fair funding is applied across the board – to every education dollar allocated – our students are still getting shortchanged. “A state court is finally reviewing the issue, and the right decision could right the tables once and for all. But until that happens, the district can use every dollar in additional funding it can get.” Merski said that the grant can be used to address a broad range of needs. “Ready to Learn grants are especially helpful because districts can use the funding to create or expand academics, reduce class size, build STEM skills, and strengthen other resources that Read more
Rep. Pat Harkin's 2022 Winter Newsletter Read more
ERIE, March 9 – The city of Erie will have new resources to combat crime, reduce gun violence and guide former offenders toward productive lives thanks to $221,836 in grant funding, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency includes three separate grants of federal funding that will continue the work of a police intelligence analyst, target gun violence and redirect offenders toward productive lives. “Securing this funding will allow us to up our game when it comes to tracking, investigating and prosecuting crime,” Merski said. “Part of the funds will support the work of a police intelligence analyst – a position that provides critical assistance in identifying suspects and witnesses and supplying other information that leads to arrests and convictions. Other funding will support ongoing targeted enforcement of gun and gang violence for safer neighborhoods.” Harkins said, “Equally important to crime investigation and prosecution is how we deal with folks exiting the criminal justice system and returning to the community, because the resources we provide can make a critical difference in the path they take and whether they end up returning to productive lives or falling back into recidivism. Some of the funding we secured today will bolster services that steer Read more
ERIE, March 9 – Blasco Memorial Library will be receiving some important upgrades, thanks to newly awarded funding of $117,757, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski announced today. The lawmakers, both D-Erie, said the funding -- awarded by the state Department of Education under the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund – will make the library safer and more accessible for visitors. “The grant is going to help Blasco with several important renovations, including construction of ADA-accessible restrooms on the second floor and upgrades to the existing 25-year-old elevators,” Harkins said. “The work is going to enhance safety for visitors and ensure that residents with mobility issues are able to enjoy the library as fully as everyone else.” Merski said, “Blasco brings our community together in the best possible ways – for learning, storytelling, community events and exhibits that celebrate our unique Erie culture and history. The funding awarded today is going to help modernize some of the facilities so visitors have the best possible experience.” The lawmakers said grant will fund half the projects’ total cost of $235,515. Read more
ERIE, March 8 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins are encouraging residents to visit their Treasure Hunt Unclaimed Property Search on Tuesday, March 15. The lawmakers said the event will be held from 9-11 a.m. at Merski’s 3901 Liberty Street office. “Many residents aren’t even aware they have unclaimed property being held in the state treasury,” Merski said. “Every year, the state Treasurer’s Office receives hundreds of millions in unclaimed property that never makes it to its rightful owner because of simple errors like misspelled names or wrong addresses. “If folks stop by our event, we can help them search the database. It’s quick and easy, and it sometimes yields unexpected but welcome results.” Harkins said, “It’s estimated that one in 10 Pennsylvanians has unclaimed property waiting for them in the state treasury. Those are pretty good odds, but there’s no way to find out without searching the database. I hope everyone will stop by on March 15 so we can help them search. It’s exciting helping folks discover money or other property they didn’t even realize they had.” The event is free, and no registration is required. The lawmakers said that if residents are unable to make it to the event, they can also call Merski’s office at (814) 455-6319, and staff can help them over the phone. Read more
Sometimes, all it takes is a personal experience to underscore the urgency of a problem. My wife, Michelle, and I were driving home a few nights ago and were just outside the city limit when Michelle suddenly shouted to pull over, pointing to a house with flames billowing out of the side. We rushed to the entrance, where a distressed and disoriented young woman who lived there told us there was an elderly man inside. I called 911 and headed in to find him. Heavy smoke made it difficult to see, but I could hear him in the distance and made my way over. Barefoot and disoriented, he resisted leaving at first, saying he had to find his prescription medications, but he allowed me to grab him and get him out the door. Outside, Michelle was comforting the young woman, and we brought her and the homeowner into our car to wait for the firefighters. The homeowner – an 85-year-old organ transplant recipient, was still distressed about his prescription medicines. By the time firetrucks arrived 12 to 14 minutes later, fire had consumed a good portion of the home. The firefighters – volunteers from a nearby station – acted quickly to extinguish the fire, and the homeowner was relieved to see two of them emerge carrying several trays of prescription medications. A neighbor couple arrived to help, and later, a priest offered the displaced occupants a place to stay at the local rectory. The night could have ended much differently had it not been for Read more
ERIE, Feb. 10 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced that fire and EMS companies in their districts will be receiving $106,820 in state grant funding for equipment, training and other needed resources. “Erie first responders have been operating under short staffed and underfunded conditions for years, and the pandemic only made things tougher,” Harkins said. “Securing this funding is going to help get some of those resources flowing and also aid in recruitment and retention efforts.” Merski said: “The grants are a welcome addition to help our frontline heroes replenish supplies and equipment, fund necessary training, make building repairs and address a host of other needs. Erie is lucky to have dedicated first responders who answer the call in all kinds of stressful situations. This funding is the least we can do to help make their work a little easier.” The lawmakers said the funding includes: • Belle Valley Fire Department Inc. – fire company, $13,520. • City of Erie Fire Department – fire company, $15,000. • EmergyCare Inc. – EMS, $8,325. • Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department – fire company, $15,000. • Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Department – EMS, $8,325. • Perry Hi-Way Hose Co. – fire company, Read more
ERIE, Feb. 9 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski issued the following statements regarding state funding for coastal zone projects. “The Lake Erie watershed and its delicate ecosystem face ongoing threats from pollution and other environmental hazards,” said Harkins, who sits on the Great Lakes Commission. “Phosphorus runoff and the harmful algae blooms it creates have long posed a danger to the health of the lake and the safety of our drinking water, and we have been working with the commission to track progress in combating the problem. This funding is going to help efforts to address the problem.” Merski said, “Once again, I am thrilled to see the state making major investments to protect Lake Erie and coastal ecosystems. This funding will build on previous rounds of state funding to ensure that these important ecosystems and natural areas are protected for future generations. But this is about more than just protecting critical wildlife habitats. The health of our region and communities – economic and social – are very much tied to the health of the lake the surrounding regions. In many ways, the lake defines our region and is a critical component of the place we all call home.” Approved projects include: • Regional Science Consortium – $62,525 to research the occurrence of saxitoxin from harmful algal blooms Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 9 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement after Gov. Tom Wolf’s visit today to Pfeiffer-Burleigh Elementary School to discuss education funding. “I was glad to hear the governor discuss his budget proposals on education and the need to apply the state’s fair funding formula more broadly. “I was also encouraged to see that the governor’s proposed budget would bring nearly $30 million in additional basic education funding for Erie schools – a major investment in our children’s future. “But we can, and should, do more to level the playing field between the haves and the have-nots. “Fair funding – which distributes money to school districts based on student population and community need – is exactly what we need here in Erie. But the formula isn’t working to level the playing field the way it was designed to, because it isn’t being applied to all education funding – just increases in funding. “As a result, more than five years after the formula was passed, Erie public schools are still grossly underfunded compared to some of their peers. “With a stable state financial outlook and billions in the Rainy Day fund, we now have the power to turn that around once and for all – with zero increase in taxes. I find it hard to imagine a smarter investment than in our kids and our future Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, issued the following statement in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget address today. “I listened intently to Governor Wolf lay out his vision for the 2022-23 budget, and I was encouraged to hear his commitment to fairly fund education at all levels. Applying a fair funding formula across the board is the best way we have to ensure our own students here in Erie receive the level of resources they deserve – and the ones already benefiting students in wealthier ZIP codes. Fair funding would also lessen the burden on local taxpayers. “With our aging population in mind, it was encouraging to hear the governor address the need to fund and pay home health care workers at a rate that supports and acknowledges the difficult and essential work they do. Increased funding for nursing facilities and behavioral health care providers means better care for our most vulnerable residents. “The relative financial stability we are enjoying right now affords us the ability to pay our bills while at the same time fortifying programs and services that have been overlooked and neglected for too long. I am looking forward to working with both my Republican and Democratic colleagues to see if further investments from the billions in the Rainy Day fund can address continuing crisis areas. We have an opportunity now to address critical needs without raising taxes. Read more
HARRISBURG, Feb. 8 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, has been elected to serve as vice chairman of the House Democrats’ Northwest Delegation – a coalition of lawmakers representing Erie and surrounding counties in the state’s Northwest region. Harkins previously served as secretary and said he is looking forward to continuing an active role in the delegation. “We empower our community by making sure their voices are heard in Harrisburg,” Harkins said. “Residents are counting on us to make sure the issues that matter – jobs that pay a living wage, affordable housing and health care, better-funded schools – make it to the top of the legislative agenda. “As a delegation, we can bring a stronger, more unified voice to make sure those issues get the attention they deserve.” Harkins said he is looking forward to working with the new chairman, state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, and the rest of the delegation. Read more
ERIE, Feb. 2 – A new website launched by the Great Lakes Commission will track the progress of critical efforts to protect the Great Lakes, including efforts to reduce harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. Harkins, who sits on the Great Lakes Commission, said the website – www.blueaccounting.org – will share data from work groups that will help shape policymaking. “I’m extremely excited about the new website,” Harkins said. “Protecting our lake and watershed requires close collaboration between scientists and policymakers, and the new site will ensure that decisions about the lake – which directly affect our health, environment and economy – are guided by accurate data.” Harkins said the website will track progress toward specific goals – including reducing the runoff of phosphorus that is responsible for the harmful algae that has threatened drinking water and the multiple industries that rely on Lake Erie. “The new website is going to help us understand what strategies are working and where new policies are needed to better protect the lake. It’s going to be an extremely helpful tool as we continue working to safeguard the health of this precious and critically important resource,” he said. Under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the U.S. and Canada – including the Lake Erie states and the province Read more
ERIE, Feb. 1 – Erie County students will benefit from a new training center, thanks to grant funding of $150,000, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the Business-Education Partnership grant to the Northwest Workforce Development Board will provide a career pipeline for students who will benefit from specific training. “Building the best possible workforce for our community means tapping into every young adult to help them maximize their skills,” Harkins said. “The funding awarded today will help launch the Uniquely Abled Academy, which will prepare students with autism for careers in computer numerical control machining – a high-demand career in today’s manufacturing industry. It’s a win for students and for our workforce.” Merski said, “Erie has a highly talented pool of students, including students with autism who have much to offer, but we need to make sure we are reaching them with the right resources. The new center is going to open doors for these students by providing training in high-demand skills to ensure they achieve productive roles in the workplace.” The Northwest Workforce Development Board also serves Crawford, Warren, Forest, Venango, Clarion, and in addition to launching the new center, the board will also connect rural students to local employers for work experience or company tours to offer Read more
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