Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins: Erie going green June 26 ‘the best possible news’

(Jun 19, 2020)

ERIE, June 19 – State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Robert Merski and Pat Harkins, all D-Erie, issued the following statements in response to news that Erie County will be moving to the green phase of the state’s reopen plan on Friday, June 26. “To say that this has been a trying period for Erie is an understatement,” Bizzarro said. “It’s hard to remember a time when our community’s endurance and patience were tested more severely, or for so long. “Our delegation fought hard to move Erie to green, but ultimately, it was the people of Erie, doing their part to slow the spread of the virus, that made the difference. To be sure, we face a long road ahead. But with the rest of our businesses soon free to reopen, a community ready and willing to support them and a small business grant program on the horizon, we will soon be forging a path to revitalization.” Merski said, “We fought for weeks to move Erie to green, and the announcement today that this is finally happening is the best possible news we could have received. The pandemic and related shutdowns stopped our economy in its tracks, placed a huge burden on business owners and working families, and left many in our community feeling isolated. Getting into the green will help change all that by lifting most restrictions. “Businesses already running at 50% occupancy will be able to run at 75% occupancy; barbershops and hair Read more

 

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins: Nearly $155,000 awarded for law enforcement coronavirus preparedness

(Jun 10, 2020)

ERIE, June 10 – Erie law enforcement will be able to apply for up to $154,780 in emergency funding to address challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding – administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency – will fund critical protections for workers and the communities they serve. “I know from my work as a victim/witness coordinator and victims’ rights advocate how much of our criminal justice system depends on face-to-face, time-sensitive work such as interviewing witnesses and supporting and treating crime victims,” Bizzarro said. “ This funding is going to help address the added challenges staff face in carrying out those essential duties safely in the midst of the pandemic.” Harkins said, “Law enforcement agencies and staff already face a host of challenges, and the pandemic has added another whole layer of logistical problems. Containing the spread of COVID-19 – whether in our county jails, juvenile detention centers, courthouses or the general community – requires resources and planning. This funding will help our agencies implement infection control and keep our dedicated criminal justice workers safe in the field.” Merski said the funding will support a broad Read more

 

Erie lawmakers express anger, frustration over failure to move Erie to green

(Jun 05, 2020)

ERIE, June 5 – Joined by fellow Erie lawmakers on the steps of the county courthouse, state Reps. Pat Harkins, Bob Merski, and Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, expressed deep frustration that Erie is not among the counties moving to the green phase of the state’s reopen plan Friday, June 12. “We had a conference call with one of the governor’s staff, and it did not go well,” Harkins said. “Secretary Levine was on the call. We presented the numbers we are working from, and we asked for additional information. We never received it. “As I was on the phone most of last evening, my line was blowing up with calls from residents and business owners I totally sympathize with. Then, this morning, after we had a press call arranged with the governor, he jumped off the call. “I ran for this office 14 years ago to speak for people who don’t have a voice in Harrisburg. Now, I feel like we don’t have a voice. I worked with the Teamsters and with UPS for 25 years, and I have never experienced anything like this. I have supported Tom Wolf and worked well with him, but this is uncalled for. We need to stick together and do what we have to do to move Erie green.” Merski said, “Today, from the data we received from the state, there are five new cases. We’re keeping this county closed for five new cases. This is ridiculous. “I have stuck with the governor and I Read more

 

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins renew demand to move Erie to green, open phase

(Jun 03, 2020)

ERIE, June 3 – Renewing their demand to open Erie County, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, all D-Erie, have written to Gov. Tom Wolf urging him to add the county to the list of others moving to the “green” phase of the state’s reopen plan on June 5. The lawmakers say they hope the letter – co-signed by state Sens. Dan Laughlin and Michele Brooks; state Reps. Curt Sonney and Brad Roae; and local mayors and county executives – will bring swift action. Bizzarro said, “We’re continuing to push the administration to move Erie to green, for the sake of our small businesses and local economy. Each day that goes by makes it that much harder for these businesses to get back on their feet. To be sure, the health of our residents is priority No. 1, but we must not ignore the health of our local economy, which is hanging in the balance.” Merski said, “Keeping Erie in the yellow is doing nothing to keep residents safer; it’s only hurting our local businesses. Surrounding counties – including those in Ohio and New York – are fully open, forcing Erie consumers to travel elsewhere for services. It only creates unnecessary competition for our business community and increases the risk of spreading the virus. “What’s more, the numbers don’t support the continued restrictions: Statistics from our local health department show that our county Read more

 

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins issue statements on weekend Erie protests that turned violent

(May 31, 2020)

ERIE, May 31 – State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, all D-Erie, issued the following statements today in response to reports that peaceful community protests over the death of George Floyd turned violent last night in Erie: Bizzarro said, “ The events of the weekend, and the senseless acts against black Americans, are weighing heavily on our nation and our community. The injustices and struggles people of color continue to endure are disgraceful and must end. While I may never fully understand all the challenges they face, I stand firmly against racism. “Protesting is an important part of implementing change, but I believe our community must do so peacefully and without causing harm to others or property. I am calling for peace and unity in our community and for us to join together in support of our black neighbors, family and friends. They are afraid for their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers and more. We must be there to comfort and support them in this time and emerge with a new respect and camaraderie so we can make meaningful and bold steps to eradicate racism.” Merski said, "This weekend in Erie, peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd erupted into violence. It isn’t hard to understand the anger: George Floyd’s death at the hands of police was brutal and senseless – and sadly, a familiar reality for so many Americans of color. "While Read more

 

Merski, Bizzarro, Harkins: Decision to keep Erie County in yellow phase ‘the wrong move for our county’

(May 29, 2020)

ERIE, May 29 – State Reps. Bob Merski, Pat Harkins and Ryan Bizzarro, all D-Erie, issued the following statements in response to Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement today that Erie County will not be among the Pennsylvania counties moving to the green reopen phase of the state’s reopen plan on June 5. “I am extremely disappointed in the governor’s decision to keep Erie County in the yellow, restricted phase,” Merski said. “Although our county saw a brief spike last week, the numbers have stabilized, and we are ready for the next steps in reopening. “I have been fighting for our county to move into the green phase because I’m convinced that our residents are able to do the right thing. Erie County residents have been doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks and social distancing, and will continue that responsible behavior in the weeks to come. We have done what was asked of us. It’s time to let Erie open all of its doors.” Bizzarro said, “I’m calling on the governor to reconsider his decision, which I believe is the wrong move for our county. Erie residents are responsible, resourceful and careful. Our business owners understand how to keep residents safe, and our community is aware of social distancing and other safety protocols. They want to get back to supporting our community and our local economy. It’s time to get Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Bill would freeze cost-of-living adjustments for public officials

(May 26, 2020)

HARRISBURG, May 26 – State Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, joined fellow lawmakers today in voting to suspend cost-of-living adjustments for public officials. House Bill 2487 , which passed the House unanimously, would amend the Public Official Compensation Law to freeze COLAs through 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Although in the big picture, this measure is a drop in the bucket given our state’s $5.5 billion deficit, I believe this is when we need to step up and look to see how we can save precious taxpayer dollars,” Harkins said. “We don’t know what lies ahead, but we are determined to get through this and put Pennsylvania back on solid financial ground as quickly as possible. We all need to share the pain.” Merski said, “Our community has been through so much since this pandemic struck, and every day, we’re encouraging residents to stay strong and asking them to make sacrifices. With so many residents out of work and struggling to make ends meet, we need to be looking for ways to save money, not worrying about cost-of-living increases. I’m glad the bill received a unanimous, bipartisan vote.” The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $220,000 in funding to help food banks meet greater demand

(May 21, 2020)

ERIE, May 21 – State grants totaling $219,243 will help three Erie food banks serve the greater numbers of residents impacted by food insecurity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. “Our local food banks have always played a key role in helping low-income families combat food insecurity,” Harkins said. “But when the pandemic hit, it drove up demand, bringing logistical challenges. “Banks are partnering with new providers, such as farms, to meet the increased demand, but preparing, storing and transporting larger amounts of food requires additional resources. This funding is going to provide those resources so our local food banks can meet the needs of more families quickly and efficiently.” The representatives said the funding is going to help these important community providers connect more people with food and help them combat food insecurity. Merski said, “Fast, safe and efficient food distribution depends on the right equipment and transportation. This funding is going to help our local food banks purchase the additional equipment they need – such as refrigerated trucks and vehicles – to ensure that food gets to a broader sector of the community.” The grants were awarded under the Food Recovery Infrastructure Grant Program and include $95,000 to Emmaus Ministries. $70,902 to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: More than $1 million to help Erie child care providers safely reopen

(May 20, 2020)

HARRISBURG, May 20 – Erie County child care providers will receive more than $1 million in federal CARES Act funding to help them safely reopen their doors, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the funding will ensure these businesses are able to resume operations while providing the safest possible environment. “As residents return to work and the economy reopens, it’s critical for families to be able to rely on good child care,” Merski said. “But it’s equally important for parents to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are returning to a safe, sanitary environment. This funding is going to help providers restore services, while also providing new protections.” Harkins said, “Our child care providers are so much more than a place for parents to bring their children for safekeeping. They stimulate our kids’ minds and provide a place for early learning and first friendships. That said, safety is still priority No. 1, and the pandemic has created a brand-new set of challenges. Thanks to this funding, our providers will have the resources needed to meet those challenges.” The funding is part of an initial $51 million round of funding that will go to nearly 7,000 child care centers statewide preparing to reopen. In all, Pennsylvania will receive a total of $106 million in funding to Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: New law will bring earlier tax, rent rebates

(May 19, 2020)

HARRISBURG, May 19 – Seniors and other Erie residents approved for property tax or rent rebates will no longer have to wait for July to receive their payments, thanks to a new law authorizing the state to process and distribute those rebates on a first-in-first-out basis, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. “The pandemic has created insecurity and strained budgets all around, but those problems are intensified for vulnerable, low-income seniors who are living on fixed incomes and possibly struggling with food insecurity,” Harkins said. “I supported this law because it gets rebate money into the hands of eligible seniors at a time when the funds are most needed to bring a greater measure of security. I’m urging residents who have not already done so to apply now so they can receive their rebates as soon as possible.” Merski said, “In previous years, residents had to wait until July for rebates to be distributed. The new law means that homeowners and renters who apply will be able to get their rebates much earlier. It’s a smart improvement to an important law, and one that is especially helpful right now, as residents deal with the challenges the pandemic brings.” The state will begin issuing rebates under the new law as early as tomorrow. More information about the law is available here. Read more

 

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $8.7 million to Erie schools to support continued learning during pandemic

(May 07, 2020)

ERIE, May 7 – Area school districts will receive approximately $8.68 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, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the funding to five school districts and their schools will be key to helping develop and deliver ongoing education and supports. “Like every aspect of life, our kids’ education came to a standstill during pandemic,” Merski said. “It was reassuring to see our dedicated teachers return to the job eager to provide online and remote lessons. But revamping the system to offer the maximum benefit requires planning, purchasing, student supports and a host of other resources. “Securing this funding will not only help get the framework in place, it will ensure that our Erie students have the resources they need to continue learning and thriving in this new environment, now and into the future.” Harkins said, “Although remote learning can’t take the place of the rich classroom experience students receive with peers, it’s an essential substitute for times like these, when safety requires distancing. The funding on the way will ensure that our students remain safe and have the equipment and other resources they need to succeed, regardless of household income.” The lawmakers Read more

 

Gaming Committee approves bill to keep service clubs afloat

(May 06, 2020)

ERIE, May 6 – A bill approved yesterday by the House Gaming Oversight Committee would help bolster local service clubs that have been forced to close their doors during the pandemic by allowing them to tap into a greater share of gaming revenue to fund operating expenses, state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, announced. Merski, a committee member who joined in the unanimous vote, said H.B. 777 would allow service organizations that raise money for charity to use 100% of the revenue they receive from small games of chance to fund operating expenses during an emergency disaster. Under current law, 60% of that revenue goes to charity, and the other 40% remains with the clubs. “These service clubs reflect the heart of our community – they’re gathering spots for our veterans and places for residents to connect and raise money for charity and community projects,” Merski said. “But when the pandemic struck and forced them to close their doors, they lost the revenue they need to survive. “I supported this bill because it would throw these organizations a lifeline by allowing them to keep all the revenue they raise during times of emergency and use it for operating expenses such as rent, payroll and utilities. That way, when our local businesses reopen and activities resume, these vital clubs that do so much for our community will come back to life, as well.” The bill next heads to the House for Read more

 

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

 

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins: Erie going green June 26 ‘the best possible news’
Jun 19, 2020

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins: Nearly $155,000 awarded for law enforcement coronavirus preparedness
Jun 10, 2020

Erie lawmakers express anger, frustration over failure to move Erie to green
Jun 05, 2020

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins renew demand to move Erie to green, open phase
Jun 03, 2020

Bizzarro, Merski, Harkins issue statements on weekend Erie protests that turned violent
May 31, 2020

Merski, Bizzarro, Harkins: Decision to keep Erie County in yellow phase ‘the wrong move for our county’
May 29, 2020

Harkins, Merski: Bill would freeze cost-of-living adjustments for public officials
May 26, 2020

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $220,000 in funding to help food banks meet greater demand
May 21, 2020

Harkins, Merski: More than $1 million to help Erie child care providers safely reopen
May 20, 2020

Harkins, Merski: New law will bring earlier tax, rent rebates
May 19, 2020

Harkins, Merski: Nearly $8.7 million to Erie schools to support continued learning during pandemic
May 07, 2020

Gaming Committee approves bill to keep service clubs afloat
May 06, 2020

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