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Petrarca supported veto override to give school districts the right to make decisions on sports, activities

(Sep 23, 2020)

VANDERGRIFT, Sept. 23 – An effort to override the governor’s veto of a bill that would give school districts the authority to make their own decisions on school sports and activities, including practices, games and spectator rules, failed in the House today on a 130 to 77 vote, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca announced. Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, who voted for H.B. 2787 earlier this month, called today’s action extremely disappointing. “Our school districts should have the ability to develop their own plans for sports and extracurricular activities, not the governor,” said Petrarca. “They know our students, our buildings, and our communities and I still have every confidence in them to conduct these and other activities in a safe manner, just as I have continued to support our local businesses in their efforts to reopen safely. It’s time to trust our communities to do what it best, and the governor needs to stop with the mandates. Our communities have been through enough. While this virus may be with us for a while, I strongly believe that our schools and our businesses can take steps to keep people safe.” Petrarca today also voted for H.B. 2513 , which would expand capacity for restaurants and bars to a minimum of 50%, provided they comply with CDC safety guidelines. The bill would also remove the requirement of a meal with purchase of alcohol and allow patrons to sit at bars. It now Read more

Merski, Harkins: Area food bank receives $50,000 Veterans Trust Fund grant

(Sep 18, 2020)

ERIE, Sept. 18 – A $50,000 grant from the state Veterans Trust Fund to Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest Pennsylvania will benefit the food bank’s program helping veterans and their families, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the funding will support Second Harvest’s Military Share program, which is designed to provide fresh, nutritious foods for families with at least one member who has served in the armed forces. “I am proud to have Second Harvest Food Bank operating in my district,” Merski said. “The work they do transcends legislative boundaries, and I am thrilled to work with my Erie colleagues to get them the funding they need to continue this great work. This grant will help feed Erie veterans and their families in need and is a valiant use of state resources.” Harkins added: “No one should have to worry where their next meal is coming from, especially the brave servicemen and women who’ve selflessly served our country. Second Harvest Food Bank serves Erie well, and it’s heartening to see Erie tax dollars return to serve those who have served us.” More information on the grant program is available here . Read more

Harkins, Merski: Erie Access Improvement Grant Program now open

(Sep 18, 2020)

ERIE, Sept. 18 – Applications are now being accepted for the recently expanded Erie Access Improvement Grant Program, state Reps. Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the grants are open to public entities that are interested in acquiring land or other property rights, developing or improving public access sites, or carrying out other projects that benefit public fishing in the Lake Erie watershed. “We are excited that the program is open for applications, especially because it was recently expanded to fund a broader range of projects, including fish-cleaning stations and other projects to benefit publish fishing,” Harkins said. “We are looking forward to seeing more projects that allow residents to take fuller advantage of the lake and opportunities it offers.” Merski, who sits on the House Game and Fisheries Committee, said, “The Lake Erie Watershed offers tremendous benefits for our region, from recreation, to commerce to tourism. Projects that expand access to the lake and fishing allow more residents and visitors to enjoy this unique Erie gem while also helping our local economy. We are encouraging public entities to apply as soon as possible.” Act 56 of 2020 expanded Erie Access Improvement Grant Program funding – previously limited to access and habitat-related projects – to a more diverse Read more

Merski, Harkins: $430,000 in grant funding to support Erie fresh food providers

(Sep 17, 2020)

ERIE, Sept. 17 – Grant funding of $430,000 will help two important Erie food retailers continue supplying the community with fresh, nutritious meat, produce and other staples, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the funding, awarded under the Fresh Food Financing Initiative and funded by the federal CARES Act, includes $350,000 to Gordon’s Market LLC and $80,000 to Whole Foods Cooperative. “When the pandemic arrived, local retailers providing fresh, perishable food faced unprecedented obstacles, including revenue shortfalls, supply storages and transportation issues,” Merski said. “Securing this funding is going to help fortify these important local businesses and provide the resources they need to adapt to changing conditions so they can continue to be there to serve our communities.” Harkins agreed, saying: “Access to nutrition is more important than ever as the pandemic strains budgets for small businesses and families alike. Securing this funding is going to help families – and particularly lower-income households – maintain that vital link to the fresh, healthy food that helps residents stave off illness and stay strong through trying times.” The funding is part of a package of $10 million in funding to 115 retailers in 39 counties. Grocery stores, cooperative entities, farmers’ Read more

Harkins: $1.55 million in funding to support Great Lakes water quality projects

(Sep 16, 2020)

ERIE, Sept. 16 – Projects to protect and improve water quality in the nation’s Great Lakes will move forward thanks to $1.55 million in grant funding awarded by the Great Lakes Commission, state Rep. Pat Harkins, D-Erie, announced today. Harkins, who sits on the commission, said the grants – funded by the Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program – will support efforts to install nutrient- and erosion-control practices in the Great Lakes basin. “Lake Erie and our other Great Lakes are unique and treasured resources, but we need to remain vigilant in combating erosion and runoff, which can damage water quality and the natural habitat,” Harkins said. “The grants announced today are going to advance those goals by funding projects to reduce the runoff of sediments, nutrients and other pollutants into the lakes.” Harkins said the program provides competitive grants for projects not typically funded by other federal cost-share programs, which allows it to fund innovative and unique approaches. The 2020 projects focus on long-term sediment and nutrient management, streambank restoration and green infrastructure. Funding for the Great Lakes Sediment and Nutrient Reduction Program is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Natural Resources Conservation Service under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Over the past 10 years the program has awarded 126 grants totaling Read more

Petrarca supports measure to allow school districts to make decisions on sports, activities

(Sep 16, 2020)

VANDERGRIFT, Sept. 16 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, today offered support for H.B. 2787 , which would give local school districts the power to decide what fall sports and activities are allowed, including practices, games, and spectator rules. “School districts across our state must have the discretion and the flexibility to develop their own plans, whether it’s sports, band, orchestra, or other extracurricular activities,” said Petrarca. “House Bill 2787 would do just that. Our local school district administrators know their facilities best, and I have confidence in them to conduct sporting and other events in a safe way.” Petrarca attended a news conference today and stood with his colleagues in support of the measure. The bill passed in the House and Senate and is now with the governor’s office for further action. Read more

Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $257,000 in grants to bolster Erie arts, cultural, natural science attractions impacted by pandemic

(Sep 15, 2020)

ERIE, Sept. 15 – Four grants totaling $256,916 will help key Erie arts, cultural and natural science attractions offset revenue losses caused by the pandemic, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the grants approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority include $125,052 to the Erie Zoological Society, $63,179 to the Erie Philharmonic, $43,685 to the Erie Playhouse and $25,000 to the expERIEnce Children’s Museum. “Erie has a wealth of unique resources, from our community of talented artists, musicians and performers to our museums and zoo,” Bizzarro said. “Unfortunately, the organizations that showcase those resources – and enhance area tourism – have been deeply impacted by the pandemic. Securing this funding will help them offset losses and regain strength so they can resume their role in enriching our community and stimulating our economy.” Harkins said, “Like other businesses and organizations, many of the attractions that make our Erie community special – our philharmonic, playhouse, children’s museum and zoo – have felt the impact of empty concert halls and exhibit rooms. Our unique zoo – which has served our region for more than 90 years and welcomes more than 300,000 visitors annually – has lost more than $1.6 million in revenue. These grants will help bolster these beloved Read more

Merski, Harkins: $22,500 grant will ensure urban development preserves Erie history, character

(Sep 09, 2020)

ERIE, Sept. 9 – A $22,500 project planning grant awarded by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will ensure that future development preserves the character and history of Erie’s landscape, state Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, announced today. The lawmakers said the grant to the Erie Downtown Partnership, which comes from the Keystone Historic Preservation Grant Program, will fund critical planning to guide future development. “Erie’s proud history and character are evident in our landscape, and any improvements made must preserve that character,” Merski said. “Securing this funding will help ensure that future development is executed in a way that maintains those special features that are uniquely Erie and beloved by generations of residents.” Harkins agreed, saying, “A key aspect of urban planning is ensuring that any changes made don’t erase the imprint of past generations that contribute to a city’s unique character and history. The funding awarded today will allow the Erie Downtown Partnership to develop design guidelines for the city’s 14-block core that ensure developers understand the significance of defining features so progress can happen without destroying well-loved landmarks and features from the past.” The grant is part of a package of $2.6 million in Keystone Historic Preservation grants to help historical and Read more

Sainato calls return to 50% capacity good news for local restaurants but questions alcohol service restrictions

(Sep 08, 2020)

NEW CASTLE, Sept. 8 – State Rep. Chris Sainato, D-Lawrence, said he is encouraged by news that restaurants may return to 50% indoor capacity beginning Sept. 21, subject to a self-certification requirement, but he questioned new and existing alcohol service restrictions he said could negate or dilute any positive economic impacts. “ We called on the governor to lift an overly broad, arbitrary rule that placed restaurants in an economic stranglehold, and we succeeded. The administration’s response abolishing the rule comes none too soon, with so many restaurants struggling to survive. Restoring the 50% capacity rule makes sense and will help our businesses get back on the path to economic vitality. “At the same time, the administration is keeping certain harmful restrictions in place, including a ban on bar service and a requirement that alcohol can only be served for on-premises consumption when in the same transaction as a meal. Those requirements – together with another that will require restaurants to stop serving alcohol by 10 p.m. – stand to counter many of the positive impacts achieved by restoring broader occupancy. “Restaurants depend on a robust after-dinner patronage, and many social and veterans’ clubs are not set up to serve food. Absent a sound, health-based justification, I would urge the governor to reconsider these restrictions.” Read more

Petrarca announces restaurants will soon be allowed to increase indoor capacity to 50%

(Sep 08, 2020)

VANDERGRIFT, Sept. 8 – Effective Sept. 21, restaurants will be allowed to increase their indoor occupancy to 50% capacity, provided they take part in a self-certification process to ensure they will comply with all public health and safety guidelines, state Rep. Joseph Petrarca announced. Last month, Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong/Indiana, joined several legislators in sending a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf , demanding he lift the 25% indoor capacity restriction, citing the current restrictions as hurtful to these businesses, which have been following state health guidelines and operations. “It’s clear the governor has heard our demands and those of our restaurant owners,” Petrarca said. “From the beginning, I felt it was extremely unfair to crack down on these businesses, especially during the pandemic. While I applaud today’s announcement and it’s certainly a step in the right direction, I won’t rest until they can fully reopen, and I am confident they can do so safely for their employees and their customers.” The self-certification process, called the Open and Certified Pennsylvania program, is required for any restaurant that wants to increase indoor capacity by 50%. This self-certification must be completed by Oct. 5. Documents and information regarding the self-certification will be available online beginning Sept. 21 and will contain the following items: A list of requirements Read more