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2020 Capitol Scenes calendar

Merski, Harkins: House unanimously passes COVID-19 response bills

(Mar 25, 2020)

ERIE, March 25 – The House today unanimously passed bills that would temporarily change the way students learn and Pennsylvanians vote during the COVID-19 epidemic, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced. Merski said he and Harkins both supported the amended S.B. 751 – which eliminates the 180-day requirement for all the commonwealth’s schools and authorizes the state Education secretary to keep schools closed until after the COVID-19 epidemic is over. “Difficult times call for creative solutions,” Merski said. “Pennsylvania’s incredibly dedicated teachers are ready to rise to that challenge by providing online lessons and resources to keep our kids learning and let them understand that although their routines may have changed, their education is still the No. 1 priority. “This bill would provide the flexibility for that to happen, while also ensuring that these teachers and other school workers are continued to be paid for their work.” Harkins and Merski also supported S.B. 422 , which would postpone the state primary to June 2 to give counties extra time to make adjustments and allow polling places to be consolidated and moved out of high-risk areas, among other things. “The COVID-19 crisis has changed nearly every aspect of daily life, and voting is no exception,” Harkins said. Read more

 

Check out my Community Resource Guide

(Mar 25, 2020)

The following is a link to local resources for Erie residents. Read more

 

Merski, Harkins support COVID-19 bill package

(Mar 19, 2020)

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 Read more

 

COVID-19 Helpful Resources

(Mar 19, 2020)

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic affecting Pennsylvania, we wanted to provide you with the following resources and information to help you and your family in the days ahead. Please note that this webpage will be updated as needed with additional information and resources. State Services and Resources The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has created a COVID-19 guide to assist everyone. It includes information on social distancing, mental health resources, unemployment, food assistance, changes from PennDOT and resources for small business: https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/ For individuals : https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#ForIndividuals For families : https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#ForFamilies For businesses : https://dced.pa.gov/resources https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#ForBusinessesUtilities The following link provides you with information on what steps Pennsylvania utilities have taken to assist customers, including a moratorium on shutoffs for all regulated utilities: https://pahouse.com/News/?id=113134 Sign Up for PA Alerts Sign up for emergency and weather alerts, health notifications, building alerts and other updates from state and federal agencies: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/BF5CCF5B2AB3 Regional Resources Residents can access these links for resources Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: $5,000 grant to fund census outreach

(Mar 18, 2020)

ERIE, March 18 – A $5,000 state grant will fund efforts to promote awareness of and participation in the U.S. Census, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The grant to Culture, Arts, Festivals and Events of Erie, funded by the Department of Community and Economic Development, will fund outreach efforts “Census response is critical, because it ensures that our community gets its share of resources for infrastructure, schools, hospitals and other essential resources,” Harkins said. “That only happens if folks do their part and respond, and we need to spread the word about that.” Merski agreed, noting: “This grant will fund outreach to raise awareness about the census and about how important participation is. We need to bring federal dollars back to Erie, where they can go to work for the people.” The grant was awarded under the Census 2020 Outreach Grant Program, a tool to support grassroots efforts promoting awareness and participation in the 2020 Census across Pennsylvania. The program focuses on supporting efforts that target hard-to-count populations including, but not limited to, those who do not speak English as their primary language; ethnic minority, immigrant, and rural communities; children; the elderly; the LGBTQ population; and people experiencing homelessness. Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $90,000 awarded to provide paid internships for area students, young adults

(Mar 05, 2020)

ERIE, March 5 – Area students and young job seekers will benefit from new internship opportunities, thanks to a $90,189 grant from the state Department of Labor and Industry, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The grant to the Northwest Workforce Development Board will fund summer internships that pay a minimum of $10.35 an hour for students and young adults from 16 to 24. “Internships provide a perfect way for students and young adults to get a jump on career readiness by giving them an early, real-world look into the modern workplace,” Bizzarro said. “Those experiences can go a long way toward building confidence in young job seekers, familiarizing them with new technology and making the modern work setting seem more familiar and less daunting.” Harkins agreed, noting, “No amount of classroom training can substitute for actual workplace experience. Summer internships open so many doors: they help young job seekers understand whether their skills are a good match for a given field, they introduce them to the climate and expectations of a modern workplace, and they provide real-time exposure to the latest technology and techniques in rapidly changing modern job settings.” Merski added that the benefits flow both ways, helping employers, as well. “In addition to exposing young job seekers to new skills and learning experiences, Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $20,000 in grants awarded to fund historical society, children’s museum

(Mar 04, 2020)

ERIE, Mar. 4 – Two state grants totaling $19,528 will benefit the Erie County Historical Society and the expERIEnce Children’s Museum, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said that the Pennsylvania Museum and Historical Society grants include $12,029 to the historical society and $7,499 to the museum. “Securing this funding for the Erie County Historical Society is so important because it’s an investment in preserving our shared history,” Bizzarro said. “With these resources, our region’s dedicated historians can continue preserving the documents, artifacts, structures and other historical items that keep Erie’s unique history alive for future generations.” Harkins said that he agreed and added, “Our historical society’s invaluable work preserving the past gives us insight into how our community has changed and evolved over time. It also gives us a way to pass that history and shared knowledge on from generation to generation so that we don’t lose touch with our past.” Merski added that the funding will bring educational benefits, as well. “Keeping the link to our past alive through physical exhibits is critically important from a learning perspective because real-life objects that can be seen and touched form an impression on kids in ways that textbooks can’t,” he said. “In much the same way, the Read more

 

Merski to host second ‘Modernizing the Vote’ session March 5

(Mar 03, 2020)

ERIE, Mar. 3 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is partnering with the Erie County Board of Elections to host a second “Modernizing the Vote” session on Thursday, March 5, in Summit Township. The event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Summit Township Municipal Building, 1230 Townhall Road West, 16509. “It was encouraging to see a strong turnout at our previous ‘Modernizing the Vote’ event in February because it shows that residents care about staying informed and keeping abreast of the changes to our voting laws,” Merski said. “We’re hosting a second event for people who were unable to make it in February. “Like our prior event, the one Thursday will inform voters about exciting changes, such as no-excuse, mail-in voting, an extended voting period and extended deadlines. It will also feature interactive, hands-on demonstrations of the new voting machines. I’m encouraging everyone to come by and get caught up on the latest changes coming to the Pennsylvania ballot.” Merski said residents wishing to learn more about the “Modernizing the Vote” event should call his office at 814-455-6319. Read more

 

Merski: More than $586,000 in grants to benefit community, school safety

(Feb 26, 2020)

ERIE, Feb. 26 – Three state grants totaling $586,009 will address community violence and bolster school safety in Erie, state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, announced today. Merski said the grants – administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency – will fund the Community Violence Reduction Project, as well as equipment- and personnel-based resources for Erie County Technical School and Erie Rise Leadership Academy Charter School. “As a parent and former teacher, nothing is more important to me than the security of our kids,” Merski said. “Obtaining this funding will allow our schools to implement equipment-based measures such as new lighting, locks, security cameras and staff to help keep buildings and grounds brighter, safer and more secure. “Equally important, the funding will work to reduce community violence so residents of all ages have a safe place to call home.” Merski said the funding under the School Safety and Security Grant Program includes the following: $300,000 to the City of Erie Community Violence Reduction project. $262,239 to Erie County Technical School for concrete traffic barriers, lockdown kits, a vestibule, a security resource officer and emergency kits. $23,770 to Erie Rise Leadership Academy for lighting, security cameras and biometric locks. The School Safety and Read more

 

Merski hosting Senior Caregiving Seminar Feb. 26

(Feb 19, 2020)

ERIE, Feb. 19 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is encouraging seniors, their caregivers and anyone interested in entering this field to attend his Senior Caregiving Seminar on Wednesday, Feb. 26. The event will be held from 4-7 p.m. in the Community Room at 100 State St., Erie, 16507. “Responsibilities of senior caregivers can be as varied and unique as the seniors they serve,” Merski said. “What’s more, as seniors are living longer and opting to stay in their own homes, demand is only growing for responsible, dedicated adults who can be there to assist and support seniors and help them thrive. “My seminar will offer information on all aspects of senior caregiving, from who can be paid to be a caregiver and how to become licensed to how established caregivers can get valuable assistance from the state’s caregiver support program.” Merski added that he is partnering with the Greater Erie Community Action Committee – Erie’s Area Agency on Aging – to ensure participants receive the most accurate, up-to-date information. Those wishing to learn more about the event should call Merski’s district office at 814-455-6319. Read more

 

Rep. Merski's Winter 2020 Newsletter

(Feb 13, 2020)

As my staff and I enter our second year serving the 2nd Legislative District, I am very proud of our commitment to the people of Erie. Read more

 

Merski to host ‘Modernizing the Vote’ sessions Feb. 18

(Feb 10, 2020)

ERIE, Feb. 10 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is partnering with the Erie County Board of Elections to host “Modernizing the Vote” – a Feb. 18 event to educate voters about changes to Pennsylvania’s voting laws. The event will offer two identical sessions: the first from 10 a.m. to noon and the second from 4 to 6 p.m. Both will be held in the H.O. Hirt Auditorium of the Blasco Library, 160 Blasco St. “The new voting laws are bringing exciting changes, and they’ll be taking effect starting with the April 28 primary election,” Merski said. “Some of the changes include no-excuse mail-in voting, an annual mail-in ballot request list, extended deadlines for returning a mail-in or absentee ballot and more time to register to vote. “In addition, residents will see new machines that add protection from hackers by creating a paper trail. The new laws will make voting more convenient, more accessible and more secure, so I’m urging everyone to attend one of my sessions and learn what they need to know now, before it’s time to cast a vote.” Merski said residents wishing to learn more about the “Modernizing the Vote” event should call his office at 814-455-6319. Read more

 

Merski supports proposed budget’s investments in education, career training, healthy schools

(Feb 04, 2020)

HARRISBURG, Feb. 4 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, released the following statement today in reaction to Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2020-21 budget address: “How we spend our state resources determines the direction our state takes. When we invest in our people – from our students to our seniors – we all move forward. After hearing the governor’s proposed budget plan for the year ahead, I’m encouraged that it’s a plan that can move us in the right direction – without adding any new tax burden to residents. “I’m especially encouraged by the plan’s focus on education, including an additional $30 million to fund high-quality pre-K. As a teacher for many years, I know that a quality education is the starting point that lays the groundwork for all successes that flow later. When kids are given the right start, they achieve and succeed – and our entire state grows and prospers based on those successes. “Equally important to classroom learning is a healthy school environment. I strongly support the governor’s proposed funding to address lead and asbestos hazards in our schools; the health of our students is paramount, and they can’t learn and thrive in a toxic environment. “I’m encouraged that in addition to strong educational funding, the budget plan proposes strong continued investments in workforce development. Career and technical training Read more

 

Merski hosting Business Roundtable for dialog on business needs, growth

(Jan 23, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 23 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is urging area business owners to attend one of his Business Roundtable sessions Tuesday, Jan. 28 for a productive dialog on current business needs and strategies for promoting growth. Merski will be holding two identical sessions: the first from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. and the second from 3 p.m.– 4 p.m. Both will be held at his district office located at 3901 Liberty St., Erie, PA 16509. “Erie business owners are hard-working and innovative, but in order to grow, they need a supportive business climate. That means ensuring we have the kinds of laws that provide favorable incentives and a dynamic that encourages growth and spending. “As I work toward passing these laws, I need input from our local business community regarding their current needs and concerns. That’s why I’m encouraging them to attend my Business Roundtable and share that information, so I can give them a loud and clear voice in Harrisburg.” Merski said residents wishing to learn more about the event should call his office at 814-455-6319. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski announce more than $101,000 in fire, EMS grants

(Jan 21, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 21 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced the award of $101,024 in state grants to nine fire and emergency medical service companies in Erie . “So often, our first responders are our defense against catastrophe,” Merski said. “We ask them to walk into dangerous situations every day, and they do so willingly to keep us safe. These grants will help ensure that they have the resources they need to face risks of all kind with the maximum possible protection.” Harkins agreed, noting, “Purchasing quality equipment is just one of many expenses that can stretch fire department and EMS companies’ budgets to the limit. We need to do everything within our power to ensure that our firefighters and rescue workers have state-of-the-art training and equipment, and this funding will go a long way toward making that happen.” The grants will go to the following entities in the following amounts: Belle Valley Fire Department Inc. – Fire Company, $12,331. City of Erie Fire Department – Fire Company, $14,248. EmergyCare Inc. – EMS, $9,192. Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Dept. – Fire Company, $11,646. Lawrence Park Volunteer Fire Dept. – EMS, $9,192. Perry Hi-Way Hose Company – Fire Company, $14,248. Perry Hi-Way Company – EMS, $9,192. Wesleyville Hose Company Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: Local universities receive $60,000 in grants as part of statewide campaign to prevent campus sexual assaults

(Jan 17, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 17 – Mercyhurst and Gannon universities have each received a $30,000 grant under Pennsylvania’s “It’s on Us” initiative to keep college campuses free of sexual assault and harassment, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced. “Our colleges should be places where young people thrive as they work toward chosen career paths,” Merski said. “The specter of sexual assault or other violence destroys that environment and turns places of learning into places of fear. I’m thankful that our local universities will share in this funding to raise awareness about and prevent sexual assault and violence.” Harkins agreed, adding, “No student or educator should ever have to feel unsafe where they learn or teach,” Harkins said. “In addition to training and awareness programs, this funding will help us get the message out that sexual violence or harassment will not be tolerated on our campuses.” The funding is part of a $1 million package of grants to 36 postsecondary schools statewide. Schools use the funding for programs ranging from campus-wide training for students, educators and staff to campaigns to raise awareness about the reporting process and resources that are available to those victimized by sexual assault. It’s on Us started as a national campaign in 2014. Pennsylvania quickly took the initiative, becoming the first state Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $100,000 in funding to expand computer science in Erie schools

(Jan 17, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 17 – Erie students will see more computer science in the curriculum, thanks to three state grants totaling $105,000, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The PAsmart targeted grants from the state Department of Education will provide $35,000 apiece to the Millcreek Township, Fort LeBoeuf and Iroquois school districts. “With the advent of the digital age, computers are an essential part of every industry – not just the tech sector,” Bizzarro said. “Software applications are used in nearly every modern industry, from health care and transportation to education and finance, so making sure our students develop tech skills is essential to keeping our industries competitive and our economy thriving.” Harkins agreed, noting, “ As our reliance on technology continues to increase, the need for a tech-savvy workforce becomes more and more important to our economy. For this reason, a solid foundation in computer science skills is essential for our next generation of workers.” Merski added that adding computer science to the curriculum provides kids with the important problem-solving skills they need to succeed. “Computer science teaches students of all ages how to think logically and gives them the confidence of knowing that they can rely on their own skills to solve problems, which is an incredibly valuable lesson as they go through Read more

 

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $120,000 grant to promote school-business partnerships, real-world learning for students

(Jan 16, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 16 – A state grant of $120,000 will bolster career readiness for Erie students and improve the pool of talented job candidates for area businesses, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The grant from the state Department of Labor and Industry will fund the Northwest Workforce Development Board’s “Student in the Workforce” project – designed to bring students from Erie and several other counties into the workplace for real-world experiences with high-demand jobs. “T he funding announced today allows us to build incredibly valuable connections between our schools and area businesses,” Bizzarro said. “Giving students a chance to interact with area employers in real-world settings can provide once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and open new doors to career pathways. It prepares students to hit the ground running when they venture out into the working world.” Harkins agreed, noting, “A connection between the classroom and the workplace is invaluable – particularly for students from lower-income households, who might not otherwise have an opportunity to develop these connections. It’s a way to level the playing field and ensure that all students have a meaningful chance to compete for high-demand, good-paying jobs.” “ Experiential learning is the most effective tool for educating our young people, Read more

 

Merski urges students to apply for PennDOT summer maintenance program

(Jan 14, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 14 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is encouraging college students to consider applying to PennDOT’s 2020 Summer Maintenance Program. The agency is recruiting students for labor and flagging duties, sign upgrades, and maintenance and custodial services at roadside rest facilities, among other jobs. “The PennDOT Summer Maintenance Program is a terrific opportunity for young adults to earn good summer pay and learn new skills while performing important, real-world work,” Merski said. “To be eligible, students must be 18 or older, enrolled full time in college for the next semester and have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license. “My office can recommend candidates for the program, but those interested should contact us as soon as possible, because recommendations are due to PennDOT by February 14.” Merski said students interested in a recommendation should stop by his district office at 3901 Liberty St. or call the office at 814- 455-6319 during business hours, Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. They can also send an email to RepMerski@pahouse.net. Merski added that all applicants must apply online to the PennDOT Summer Maintenance Program 2020 posting at www.employment.pa.gov under the Open Jobs section of the website. Jobs under the program pay $13.97 per hour. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: ‘Teacher in the Workplace’ grant to boost career readiness for Erie students

(Jan 06, 2020)

ERIE, Jan. 6 – A $25,000 grant will allow Erie teachers to visit area employers for an in-person look at the latest skills demanded by area employers, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The funding to the Erie City School District is part of a $2.2 million package of competitive grants from the state Department of Education providing 92 local education agencies $25,000 each to fund teacher visits. “Even the best teachers need to step out of the classroom sometimes to refresh their knowledge of what skills are needed in the modern world so they can shape the curriculum accordingly,” Merski said. “Nowhere is this more important than when it comes to teaching the foundational skills that will help our next generation get good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.” Harkins agreed, noting, “This funding provides teachers with an essential look into modern job settings so they can carry that information back to the classroom. It also helps our regional workforce remain competitive by ensuring employers have a large pool of well-trained job candidates.” The PDE grants are funded through federal money made available through Title II, Part A, of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Eligible applicants include local education entities, businesses and chambers of commerce, labor organizations, postsecondary institutions, community-based organizations, public libraries, trade Read more

 

Merski, Harkins: House unanimously passes COVID-19 response bills
Mar 25, 2020

Check out my Community Resource Guide
Mar 25, 2020

Merski, Harkins support COVID-19 bill package
Mar 19, 2020

COVID-19 Helpful Resources
Mar 19, 2020

Harkins, Merski: $5,000 grant to fund census outreach
Mar 18, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $90,000 awarded to provide paid internships for area students, young adults
Mar 05, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $20,000 in grants awarded to fund historical society, children’s museum
Mar 04, 2020

Merski to host second ‘Modernizing the Vote’ session March 5
Mar 03, 2020

Merski: More than $586,000 in grants to benefit community, school safety
Feb 26, 2020

Merski hosting Senior Caregiving Seminar Feb. 26
Feb 19, 2020

Rep. Merski's Winter 2020 Newsletter
Feb 13, 2020

Merski to host ‘Modernizing the Vote’ sessions Feb. 18
Feb 10, 2020

Merski supports proposed budget’s investments in education, career training, healthy schools
Feb 04, 2020

Merski hosting Business Roundtable for dialog on business needs, growth
Jan 23, 2020

Harkins, Merski announce more than $101,000 in fire, EMS grants
Jan 21, 2020

Merski, Harkins: Local universities receive $60,000 in grants as part of statewide campaign to prevent campus sexual assaults
Jan 17, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $100,000 in funding to expand computer science in Erie schools
Jan 17, 2020

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: $120,000 grant to promote school-business partnerships, real-world learning for students
Jan 16, 2020

Merski urges students to apply for PennDOT summer maintenance program
Jan 14, 2020

Harkins, Merski: ‘Teacher in the Workplace’ grant to boost career readiness for Erie students
Jan 06, 2020