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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 Merski added that all applicants must apply online to the PennDOT Summer Maintenance Program 2020 posting at 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, Read more

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski offer support to Erie Coke employees

(Dec 19, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 19 – Reacting to news that Erie Coke permanently closed its doors today, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, are advising workers who were turned away from the plant this morning that their offices can provide important support and services. “This is why our offices are here – to support our community in difficult times when the future is uncertain,” Bizzarro said. “The workers who showed up this morning and were turned away through no fault of their own deserve the best support we can offer, and we don’t plan to let them down.” Harkins agreed, saying, “Our hearts are with the employees who were caught off guard this morning, a week before Christmas, when they showed up at Erie Coke, only to be told that their services are no longer needed. It’s important for people to know that our offices can provide valuable assistance – from helping people find new job opportunities to assisting them in filing unemployment insurance claims or applying for children’s health insurance.” Merski added that these resources are available down the line, as well. “Although residents may not need these resources immediately, we want everyone to know that we are prepared to help at any time in the future,” he said. “Whether it’s now or down the line, we want people to know that we will be there to support them with state Read more

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: More than $420,000 in tax credits to fund regional food bank

(Dec 18, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 18 – Tax credits of $420,563 under the state Neighborhood Assistance Program will boost the efforts of Erie-based Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania to alleviate food insecurity throughout the region, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. “Second Harvest has been playing a huge role in addressing hunger in our region for more than three decades,” Bizzarro said. “Keeping their operations running strong is essential because the issue of food insecurity undergirds so many critical life issues, from staving off sickness and disease to enabling parents to provide for their children. “No family should ever have to choose between keeping food on the table and affording other essentials, such as housing, utilities or medications. Securing this help is going to help eliminate those devastating choices for families.” Harkins agreed, adding, “Widescale food distribution by organizations such as Second Harvest is more complicated than many people realize. From cultivating partnerships and securing donations from retailers, restaurants, growers, packers and government agencies to coordinating the distribution of food to area pantries and shelters, it’s a complex operation. I’m thankful that this help will help keep this vital regional provider running strong.” Merski said that he was especially glad that the funding Read more

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski encourage Erie residents, businesses to apply for low-interest disaster loans

(Dec 12, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 12 – State Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, are urging residents and business owners who suffered property damage from area storms Oct. 31-Nov. 1 to apply for a low-interest Small Business Association loan. Federal assistance from the SBA’s Disaster Loan Program is now available after the agency approved Gov. Tom Wolf’s request to declare a disaster based on the severe storms, high winds and flooding that damaged numerous buildings and businesses. “Unexpected storm damage can wreak havoc with residents’ lives and cause interruptions that impact a small business’s bottom line,” Bizzarro said. “I strongly encourage residents and business owners who suffered property damage from these storms to take advantage of this program, which can provide access to critical resources for rebuilding – especially when that damage is not covered by insurance.” Harkins agreed, saying, “Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000, and owners and renters may be eligible for up to $40,000, to repair or replace personal property. In addition, businesses and nonprofits that suffered damage to their buildings, equipment or inventory can apply for up to $2 million in assistance. This is funding that can help residents put their affairs back in order and help businesses get back on their feet.” Merski added that the SBA will be establishing a help center at the North Read more

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $461,000 to strengthen protection and advocacy for victims of child abuse

(Dec 11, 2019)

ERIE, Dec. 11 – Grants totaling $460,735 will expand protection and advocacy services for children throughout Pennsylvania and enhance those supports and services for Erie-area children and families, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The funding – administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency – includes $400,000 to an Erie-based organization that trains support professionals on best practices and adherence to national standards in investigating and treating child abuse. “We’ve worked hard to secure this funding, which will allow us to broaden the reach of child protection and advocacy services throughout Pennsylvania – especially to unserved and underserved areas,” Bizzarro said. “I saw the effects of abuse while working as a witness coordinator and victims’ advocate, and I know how important access to those services can be. They need to be available to all children, regardless of where they live.” Harkins added that some of the funding will go to promote best practices in the Erie region. “Investigating and prosecuting abuse can place huge stresses on children who have already suffered unthinkable trauma,” Harkins said. “This funding will help ensure that children have a safe, supportive environment for evaluation and counseling and that professionals are trained on Read more