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

(16 hours ago)

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: New program can help residents in danger of losing utilities

(May 15, 2020)

ERIE, May 15 – State Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, is advising residents about a new program to help households struggling with utility bills because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harkins said the newly announced Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) Recovery Crisis Program will provide a crisis benefit and a supplemental payment for households that previously received a crisis payment made directly to utility companies or fuel providers to help offset utility costs. “LIHEAP has been key to helping low-income households keep the power on,” Harkins said. “But when the pandemic struck, it created a whole new series of challenges. This new program will provide essential help during these emergency times, when keeping the power on and stay connected are more important than ever. I’m urging all residents to learn about the new program and how it may be able to help.” Harkins said that LIHEAP Recovery Crisis benefits may be available if a household: Has had their main or secondary energy source completely shut off. Is notified that their utility service will be shut off in the next 60 days. Has broken energy equipment or leaking lines that must be fixed or replaced. Is in danger of being without fuel in 15 days or less. Owes funds to a utility provider that would constitute a service termination if not for the Public Utility Commission’s Read more

Merski, Kortz bills would lower hunting, fishing fees for frontline workers

(May 14, 2020)

HARRISBURG, May 14 – Pennsylvania’s health care workers and first responders would pay just $1 for one-year hunting and fishing licenses under legislation being introduced by state Rep. Bob Merski, D-Erie, and state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny. The lawmakers said they will be introducing the bills as a way to thank these frontline workers for their lifesaving efforts and to encourage them to take advantage of the state’s abundant fish and game opportunities. “Pennsylvania’s health care professionals and first responders have been there for us 24/7 throughout this pandemic, working tirelessly to save lives even when doing so puts their own lives at risk,” said Merski, who is a member of the House Game and Fisheries Committee. “Words are barely adequate to thank them, but we can give back in small ways. Offering reduced fees on hunting and fishing licenses is one way to do that while encouraging these frontline heroes to relax outdoors.” Kortz, the Democratic chairman of the committee, agreed, saying “Our first responders and health care workers have and are working in extremely unprecedented times and dealing with enormous amounts of stress. Being able to offer them these reduced licenses will encourage them to spend time outdoors and relax. This is just one way we can show our appreciation and tremendous thanks for all they do to help save lives and keep us safe.” The 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

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

Harkins: State funding of $380,000 granted for school safety resources, community violence reduction

(Feb 26, 2020)

ERIE, Feb. 26 – School and community safety will benefit from $380,000 in grants administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. Harkins said the funding under the School Safety and Security Grant Program will benefit the Erie City School District, the Iroquois School District and the Erie Community Violence Reduction Project. “Ensuring the safety of our schools and reducing violence in our community go hand in hand,” Harkins said. “Kids need a safe learning environment, but they also need a safe, stable place to come home to in order to thrive. I’m encouraged that the funding announced today is going to help move us forward on both fronts.” Harkins said the funding includes the following: $300,000 to the City of Erie for the Community Violence Reduction Project. $45,000 to Erie City School District for school safety and preparedness planning and the purchase of security-related technology. $35,000 to Iroquois School District for school safety and emergency preparedness planning and the purchase of security-related equipment. The School Safety and Security Grant Program is administered by PCCD’s School Safety and Security Committee, which is tasked with developing the criteria that schools must use in performing safety and security assessments. Read more