Featured News

2020 Capitol Scenes calendar

Harkins, Merski vote for comprehensive COVID-19 testing

(May 05, 2020)

HARRISBURG, May 5 – Pennsylvania moved one step closer to providing residents with meaningful COVID-19 testing Monday after the House voted to develop and implement a testing plan, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski announced. Harkins and Merski, both D-Erie, said H.B. 2455 would require the state to first develop and then fund a comprehensive testing plan. Funding would include resources for development and manufacturing of testing equipment and supplies, contact tracing and other measures. Health care and other essential workers would be given testing priority once the plan was activated. “Like other communities on the verge of reopening, our residents and small-business owners welcome these first steps on the path back to normal,” Harkins said. “But without adequate testing, we’re flying blind because we can’t fully assess the nature of the risk. This legislation would do something to address this very real problem by getting a testing plan in the works.” Merski said: “We have some excellent safety protocols in place, but it isn’t practical or realistic to assume those blanket efforts will protect us in the long haul, after we’ve opened up our communities. We can’t fight what we can’t identify, and we need to pinpoint who is at risk so we can target our efforts, learn who is or is not at risk, and act accordingly. I’m glad the bill passed Read more

 

Merski: $100,000 loan will help longstanding Erie employer power back up

(May 05, 2020)

ERIE, May 5 – A $100,000 loan will help a longstanding area employer get back to full-speed operations as Erie’s economy begins reopening, state Rep. Bob Merski announced today. Merski, D-Erie, said the loan to Hoffman Industrial Co. under the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program will provide key assistance to the Erie-based rigging and machinery-moving company. “The pandemic brought so many of our local businesses to a grinding halt,” Merski said. “With construction returning throughout the state, those companies are eagerly resuming operations, but it isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. “Companies like Hoffman need access to working capital to cover operating expenses and power back up smoothly. This loan is going to help make that happen and provide a boost to an important area employer.” The loan to Hoffman Industries is part of a package of third-round funding under the CWCA program, which provides loans of up to $100,000 for businesses with 100 or fewer employees that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest round of funding includes $14 million in loans to 173 companies in 39 counties. In addition to businesses like Hoffman, the latest round also supports restaurants, wellness centers, wineries and breweries, consulting firms, and salons and spas. The complete list of funded projects is available Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: House unanimously passes bill to prevent state, local taxation of stimulus payments

(May 04, 2020)

HARRISBURG, May 4 – Pennsylvanians would not have to surrender any portion of their federal stimulus checks to state or local taxes under a bill the House passed unanimously today, announced state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie. Merski and Harkins said they voted for H.B. 2408 – which would exempt cash payments to individuals and couples under the CARES Act from state and local taxation – to ensure residents receive the maximum benefit from the emergency federal funding. “The pandemic dealt a huge blow to working families that no one could have expected or prepared for,” Merski said. “It was a tidal wave, and it wiped out household budgets that were already stretched to the limit. Now, Erie families need every single dollar to help them get back on their feet. I’m glad we’re one step to closer to ensuring that happens.” Harkins agreed, saying: “The CARES Act was meant to help residents hurt by the pandemic, not to supplement the state treasury. The dollars it authorizes are intended to keep food on the table and make sure families can purchase prescriptions and pay rent. Taxing any part of that is taking away money Erie residents need to survive. I’m encouraged that this bill passed unanimously today.” CARES Act stimulus payments to individuals and couples are not subject to federal taxation. The bill Read more

 

Harkins, Merski support expansion of allowable business activities for real estate

(Apr 28, 2020)

HARRISBURG, April 28 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, expressed their support for newly released state guidance authorizing certain in-person activities related to real estate transactions. The lawmakers said the guidance – which allows resumption of certain activities by appraisers, notaries, home inspectors and title companies – are positive steps that can be accomplished without compromising public safety. “The guidance issued today allows these professionals to resume their work, provided they follow safety guidance from Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Harkins said. “The move fits with our state strategy of opening up PA business in a safe, deliberate way that benefits our workers while also protecting the public safety.” Merski agreed, noting that residents also stand to benefit from the new guidance. “The guidance is one more step toward getting us back to business,” Merski said. “When the pandemic swept in, it brought so much of daily life to a standstill. Real estate has been one of the many sectors affected, which has made it extremely difficult for Pennsylvanians with ongoing transactions to complete them. The guidance announced today makes sense and will allow us to start opening the door for those sales.” More information on the updated guidance for real estate industry professionals can be Read more

 

Merski: Reopen of golf courses, marinas, private campgrounds more steps in the right direction

(Apr 28, 2020)

ERIE, April 28 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, praised Gov. Tom Wolf’s decision Monday to permit golf courses, private campgrounds and marinas to reopen and guided fishing trips to resume May 1. “I supported legislation to permit these businesses to reopen with safety guidelines because I believe the move will help rejuvenate our economy while benefiting residents,” Merski said. “I’m so glad the governor heard us and developed a plan to open these businesses safely.” Merski said the news, together with last week’s announcement that construction may resume May 1, shows that efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 are working. “Erie residents have diligently abided by stay-at-home orders, social distancing and other restrictions, and those measures are working,” he said. “But everyone is feeling the effects of confinement and the tension of uncertainty the pandemic has brought. This latest move to reopen these outdoor businesses brings hope that signs of life will continue returning to the economy while giving residents more opportunities to get out in the sunshine and get some stress-relieving exercise." Merski emphasized that businesses must abide by updated life-sustaining business guidance , and residents must follow CDC guidance for visiting parks and recreational facilities , including practicing social distancing and good hygiene, staying Read more

 

Merski supporting ‘PA HEALS’ legislation

(Apr 27, 2020)

ERIE, April 27 – Calling it a good way to power up small, locally owned businesses that have been failed by rapidly depleted loan programs, state Rep. Bob Merski is supporting “PA HEALS” – a package of bills aimed at creating new funding opportunities for the small businesses that create jobs and drive the local economy. Merski, D-Erie, said he is co-sponsoring PA HEALS to ensure the neighborhood businesses key to Erie’s vitality are there when the economy reopens. “Small businesses truly are the heart of our local economy and benefit our community in unique ways large, big-box stores can’t. Studies show neighborhood businesses circulate more money back into the local economy; employ more people per unit of sales; retain more employees during economic downturns; and are associated with higher community income and lower poverty levels,” Merski said. “For these reasons, it’s obvious that getting our small businesses back up and running as soon as the economy reopens benefits our entire community. Unfortunately, our small business owners have been trying to tap into funding streams that run dry before they even get to the well. The PA HEALS package of bills proposes innovative funding solutions to revive our small businesses and nonprofits now, so they’ll be back to benefit the community when the economy reopens.” Merski said the bill Read more

 

Merski: Governor’s job reopen announcement a step in the right direction

(Apr 21, 2020)

ERIE, April 20 – Calling it a hopeful first step for many of Erie’s workers and small businesses, state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, praised Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement today that the state will reopen online auto sales with the signing of legislation today and will allow limited construction activity beginning May 8. “Our workers and small business owners have been frustrated,” Merski said. “While they understand the need for safety, they have been waiting to return to work, to being productive and to providing for their families. “The governor’s announcement today makes the health and safety of the public the priority. It removes a barrier for some workers while ensuring that they will be returning to safe work environments – solitary jobs or those that can be performed safely with masks and social distancing. “It’s the right decision to support our workers and get our economy back on track.” Read more

 

Merski urging residents to turn on their porch lights for ‘Light Up Erie’

(Apr 14, 2020)

ERIE, April 14 – State Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, is encouraging residents to turn on their porch lights at 8 p.m. Friday, April 17 to show their support and appreciation for Erie’s medical community and other essential frontline workers. Merski is teaming up with Erie News Now, the city and the county to sponsor “Light Up Erie,” an event recognizing the lifesaving and life-sustaining efforts of those who continue working during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Our frontline workers have always been there for us – real-world heroes like the police, firefighters and emergency medical workers who risk their lives to keep us safe,” Merski said. “Now, COVID-19 is creating new heroes on the front lines. They’re the medical professionals and health care workers who battle the virus every day at their own peril to save lives. They’re also the workers who show up and work extended hours to keep our grocery shelves stocked, our medications available and our deliveries coming. “By providing a lifeline to essential services and goods, these heroes are making it possible for us to carry on in these challenging times. 'Light Up Erie' is a great opportunity to thank them and let them know how much we appreciate them – even when we can’t tell them to their faces. I encourage everyone in our community to participate – it’s a small act that will send a powerful message.” Read more

 

Merski calls on community for strong U.S. Census response

(Apr 01, 2020)

ERIE, April 1 – Calling it essential to Erie’s ongoing access to federally funded programs and services, state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, called on everyone in the community to respond to the U.S. census. “It’s hard to overestimate how important our community’s response is,” Merski said. “The federal government uses the census count information it receives every 10 years to determine how to allocate billions in funding – money for schools, roads, hospitals and more. Based on the last census, Pennsylvania receives nearly $27 billion annually for critical programs and services. “The count also determines the number of U.S. representatives we’re allotted, so it affects the strength of our voice in the halls of Congress. “Now, it’s time for everyone to be counted again, and today – on Census Day – I’m asking everyone to do their part. If we all get counted, we end up stronger because of it.” Merski emphasized that because census answers can’t be used against an individual, and data security is managed by security experts operating at the highest levels, residents should not be concerned about safety or security. Moreover, the law prohibits the U.S. Census Bureau from releasing any information that identifies individuals, under penalty of large fines and possible prison time. He added that although Read more

 

Fill out the 2020 census!

(Mar 30, 2020)

In Pennsylvania, everyone counts and April 1 is National Census Day! If you haven’t already, don't forget to fill out your census form. Our population count determines our voice in government and how much federal funding we’ll receive for education, health care, transportation and more. Whether you respond online, mail or by phone , participate and help shape PA’s future. Your responses are anonymous and protected by law. To learn more, visit pa.gov/census #PAcounts #2020Census Read more

 

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 COVID Support for PA Businesses : The following provides information and and links to federal, state, local and private resources. https://www.pahouse.com/News/?id=113388 **Self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers: Apply here for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits .** https://www.pa.gov/guides/responding-to-covid-19/#ForBusinessesUtilities Information from the PA Dept. of Labor and Industry on the federal CARES Act: https://www.uc.pa.gov/COVID-19/CARES-Act/Pages/default.aspx The following link provides you with 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

 

Harkins, Merski vote for comprehensive COVID-19 testing
May 05, 2020

Merski: $100,000 loan will help longstanding Erie employer power back up
May 05, 2020

Harkins, Merski: House unanimously passes bill to prevent state, local taxation of stimulus payments
May 04, 2020

Harkins, Merski support expansion of allowable business activities for real estate
Apr 28, 2020

Merski: Reopen of golf courses, marinas, private campgrounds more steps in the right direction
Apr 28, 2020

Merski supporting ‘PA HEALS’ legislation
Apr 27, 2020

Merski: Governor’s job reopen announcement a step in the right direction
Apr 21, 2020

Merski urging residents to turn on their porch lights for ‘Light Up Erie’
Apr 14, 2020

Merski calls on community for strong U.S. Census response
Apr 01, 2020

Fill out the 2020 census!
Mar 30, 2020

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