Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 3/5/2021 at 3:30 p.m. Updates in bold

We appreciate the ongoing support of all of our members, including our Visionary Members: Bloomsburg University, First Columbia Bank & Trust, First Keystone Community Bank, Geisinger, Kawneer, PPL Electric Utilities, USG, & SEKISUI KYDEX
 

Business Operations

– Current orders on gatherings and out-of-state travel as of March 1, 2021.

– SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, provides recommendations for developing a workplace vaccination strategy.

 – Geisinger has compiled resources and information for businesses including virus symptoms, safe practices in the workplace, and testing.

 


Safe Practices

Vaccine Distribution

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has developed a 4-phase plan for vaccinations. Currently, we are in Phase 1A. Links to determine eligibility and find a vaccination site are also available.

Individuals needing a ride to a vaccination appointment can call 1-800-632-9063 to schedule a free ride with rabbittransit.

Timelines and rollout details for moving to next phases are not yet available. 

Testing

If you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, contact your physician for a referral to a testing site.


Financial Assistance

The $900 billion federal relief package passed in December renews the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), Employee Retention Tax Credit, and SBA Loan Debt Forgiveness program. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has compiled an updated guide with FAQs for these programs. A webinar co-hosted by The Chamber and McKonly & Asbury provides additional details.

Federal programs

– The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides forgivable loans to small businesses, including sole proprietors and self-employed individuals, as well as some non-profit organizations, that maintain their payroll during the emergency. Organizations with less than 300 employees can apply for a “second draw” of up to $2 million. Terms of the program are expanded to allow employers to claim eligible expenses over a period of 8 to 24 weeks through March 31, 2021 and those expenses could include operations, property damage stemming from public disturbance not covered by insurance, supplier costs, and worker protection. The 60% payroll rule still applies. 

Small businesses with up to 500 employees can also apply for an initial PPP loan. 

Businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries are eligible to receive loans of 3.5 times average monthly payroll, rather than 2.5 times for other businesses. 

Eligible organizations apply through their banking institution.

First and Second Draw applications are now being accepted by local financial institutions. Updated PPP Lender forms, guidance, and resources are available at www.sba.gov/ppp and www.treasury.gov/cares.

– The updated Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program provides priority for the $10,000 grant to small businesses with less than 300 employees, located in census tracts approved for New Market Tax Credits, that have experienced a 30% reduction in gross receipts during any 8-week period between March 2, 2020 and December 31, 2021 compared to a comparable 8-week period before March 2. If you meet this description and received a grant that is less than $10,000 you can reapply to receive the difference. 

EIDL advances will not reduce PPP loan forgiveness and are not included in taxable income.

Click here for a list of frequently asked PPP Loan questions.

Click here for a map of census tracts approved for New Market Tax Credits. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration is contacting organizations eligible for the EIDL Advance.

Businesses needing assistance in applying for an SBA loan can contact the Small Business Development Center network.

Columbia & Luzerne County businesses – wilkes.edu/sbdc
Montour County businesses – bucknell.edu/sbdc

Employee Retention Tax Credit program

The Employee Retention Tax Credit is extended through June 30, 2021. The prior credit was 50% on $10,000 in qualified wages for the whole year (or a maximum of $5,000 per employee). The new credit, beginning January 1, is 70% on $10,000 in wages per quarter (or a maximum $14,000 per employee through June 30th).

The new law also expands which employers are eligible. Prior to the new law, the employee retention tax credit applied only to an employer who experienced a decline in gross receipts of more than 50% in a quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019. Eligibility is expanded to include employers who experienced a decline of more than 20%.

Employers can also apply to the PPP program and take advantage of the tax credit program, provided the same wages are not used.

State programs

Details on the $145 million in financial assistance for Pennsylvania in the hospitality industry are being finalized on a county by county basis.

Local programs

The Berwick Borough Council has allocated $55,799 of Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) program funding to assist restaurants that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. SEDA-Council of Governments and The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce will be evaluating the applications on Berwick Borough’s behalf.

For businesses to be eligible for funding assistance through this program, the recipient business must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Submit a fully completed BERWICK BOROUGH Small Business Support Grant Program application to Tyler Dombroski, SEDA-COG, by February 26, 2021; and
  2. Be a for-profit restaurant business located within the municipal limits of BERWICK BOROUGH; and
  3. Be an incorporated business in and/or registered to conduct business within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and
  4. Be negatively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic shutdowns; and
  5. Be able to meet one of the national objective requirements (primarily benefit to low and moderate income persons) of the CDBG-CV program.

Grants will be evenly distributed between all successful applicants. Successful applicants will need to provide demonstrable business costs for rent/mortgage, utility, staffing salaries, inventory/supplies, and/or marketing/advertising. Grants from this program cannot cover expenses already addressed through other financial assistance programs.

Applications for the grant are available here. Questions and applications can be emailed to [email protected].

– SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) has created a loan program with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. For-profit businesses can apply for loans of at least $10,000 with an interest rate of 3.25%. Funds can be used for working capital and can be disbursed based on past working capital expenses. No payments are due in the first six months. 

There is a $500 underwriting fee and a $100 filing fee.

For more information, visit https://seda-cog.org/covid-19/ or contact SEDA-COG’s Business Finance Department at [email protected]

– The Chamber’s low-interest loan program is offering loans of up to $10,000 for members at 3% interest for 30 months, with interest only payments for the first 12 months. If you are interested in the Chamber’s loan program, contact Fred Gaffney at the Chamber of Commerce at 570-784-2522 as funds are limited.

Private programs

 The nonprofit Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund was launched by business leaders throughout the Commonwealth. Forgivable loans of $3,000 are available.

Pennsylvania businesses that qualify for assistance from the Fund are:

  • Small businesses that employ three to 30 people;
  • Based in Pennsylvania and have been operating for at least one year;
  • Owned and operated by a Pennsylvania resident.

The funds dispersed to small businesses by the Pennsylvania 30 Day fund do not need to be repaid. Click here for details and to apply.


 

Unemployment, Benefits & HR Issues

 

 

 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to individuals not eligible for regular benefits, including the self-employed and those who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. Click here for more information and to apply for PUA. Qualifying self-employed individuals will need to submit a copy of the Governor’s order closing businesses, available here

The PA Department of Labor and Industry provides additional UC guidance for employers with impacted employees.

New temporary paid sick leave and Family and Medical Leave Act programs are 100% reimbursable by the federal government. The effective date of both programs is April 1 and they expire December 31. Both programs are in addition to any leave the employer already offers. Click here for a guide for employers from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Click here for details from the IRS about the tax credits for paid leave.

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a required posting and FAQ regarding the FFCRA which went into effect April 1. 

Employee Rights: Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave under The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

Families First Coronavirus Response Act Notice – Frequently Asked Questions


Small Business Recovery Program

The Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania Zeigler College of Business has established a Small Business Recovery Program (SBRP) to assist local businesses in recovery from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know these are challenging days for small businesses throughout the region, and the Zeigler College of Business wants to be a partner to help solve those problems,” said Todd Shawver, dean of the Zeigler College of Business.”

The SBRP will assist regional small business with any aspect of their business, except for financial assistance. These services can include, but are not limited to:
• Professional sales assistance
• Social media and marketing strategy
• Business strategy redevelopment
• Cost structures and monitoring
• Tax guidance
• Open to customizing services depending on business needs.

Anyone wishing to access the services of the SBRP can do so by filling out a request form


Member News- March 3, 2021

Leadership Strategies for Building a Positive Workplace Culture

McKonly & Asbury is teaming up with our partner, Dale Carnegie Mid-Atlantic, to bring you a webinar entitled, “Leadership Strategies for Building a Positive Workplace Culture.”

The new year brings welcome hope for fresh opportunities and a respite from the difficulties of the last one. For many, stress and burnout rose sharply in 2020 as work invaded the sanctuary of home life. Productivity grew and then, frequently, declined. Rumors filled the voids left when remote work disrupted communication patterns and trust suffered as a result.

But through every adversity, there are those whose ability to cope, recover and learn stand out from the rest.

As we move on from the coping phase of this crisis and look toward recovery, leaders have an important role to play. While many will be eager to forget the tough times and return to “normal”, this is also an unmissable chance to build organizational resilience. By consolidating the good that has come of recent changes and recognizing where old behaviors and techniques are no longer achieving the desired outcomes in a world where virtual communication and flexible work arrangements retain a great deal of their heightened importance, organizations can further strengthen their ability to “bounce back” from adverse experiences.

Experience tells us that further adversity awaits us in the not-too-distant future; now is the time to level-up organizational resilience using the four strategies we’ll explore in this session with special guest, Dale Carnegie President & CEO, Joe Hart.

What you will learn:
Attendees will learn how performance has been impacted by the crises of 2020 and the four strategies that can help their organization improve collaboration, innovation, and organizational agility in the post-pandemic recovery by:

  • uncovering potential leadership blind spots that have may been exacerbated in virtual communication,
  • demonstrating reliable leadership,
  • creating an environment of psychological safety, and
  • developing resilience across the organization.


    This free, 45-minute webinar will take place on Wednesday, March 17th at 2:00 p.m. EST. You can register by clicking here.

 


Community Giving Foundation Now Accepting Scholarship Applications

The Community Giving Foundation is pleased to announce that applications for scholarship awards for the 2021-2022 academic year are now available. Graduating high school seniors, current undergraduate students, and non-traditional students residing across the Foundation’s regional service area (Columbia, Lower-Luzerne, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union Counties) can apply for a variety of scholarships. There are two different application processes. The scholarship opportunities are available through an online application process, available at csgiving.org (click on “grants &
scholarships”). The deadline for applications requiring an online submission is April 1, 2021. Additional scholarship funds managed by the Foundation require a paper application process and are available in coordination with local school districts. For more information on those opportunities, as listed below, please contact your high school guidance office.


 

rabbittransit Provides Free COVID-19 Vaccination Transportation

rabbittransit has partnered with area organizations to offer free shared ride transportation service to any community member who needs transportation to and from their scheduled COVID-19 vaccination appointment. As the COVID vaccine continues to become more available, rabbittransit is dedicated to ensuring that transportation is not a barrier in getting vaccinated and is ready to assist the community with transportation to reach their vaccine appointments.

Advance reservations are required. When scheduling a shared ride trip to a vaccination site, riders must have a confirmed COVID-19 appointment at the location they are requesting transportation. Residents will need to call rabbittransit no later than noon the business day prior to their appointment. rabbittransit staff will assist individuals through the reservation process.

If you are in need of transportation to a COVID vaccination site, contact the rabbittransit Call Center at 1-800-632-9063 Monday through Friday between the hours of 8:00AM and 5:00PM.

 

Guidance on State Taxability of CARES Act Funding

The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has released guidance on how financial assistance provided to businesses and individuals through the CARES Act should be treated for state tax purposes. The information addresses Federal stimulus checks, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the Paycheck Protection Program, and local grants.

Governor Revises Order on Gatherings and Lifts Out-of-State Travel Restrictions

As COVID-19 cases continue to decline and vaccinations continue, the Wolf Administration announced revised and lifted mitigation restrictions that are effective statewide as of Monday, March 1.

The revised mitigations restrictions include:

  • Revised maximum occupancy limits for indoor events to allow for 15% of maximum occupancy, regardless of venue size. Core public health measures such as face covering (mask-wearing), social distancing, and hand hygiene still must be enforced. The 15% of maximum occupancy is permitted only if attendees and workers are able to comply with the 6-foot physical distancing requirement.
  • Revised maximum occupancy limits for outdoor events to allow for 20% of maximum occupancy, regardless of venue size. Core public health measures such as face covering (mask-wearing), social distancing, and hand hygiene still must be enforced. The 20% of maximum occupancy is permitted only if attendees and workers are able to comply with the 6-foot physical distancing requirement.
  • Eliminate out-of-state travel restrictions.  In November, the Department of Health provided an updated travel order requiring anyone over the age of 11 who visits from another state to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test or place themselves in a travel quarantine for 14 days upon entering Pennsylvania. This order has been rescinded. The current downward trend of cases nationwide and implementation of testing requirements and universal face covering on public transportation and transportation hubs are reducing the risk that interstate travel is a vector of disease transmission.

The administration considered a broad range of data for the announcement (all data is as of Feb. 26):

  • Percent of population receiving at least one dose of vaccine: 14 percent of the population under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health has received at least one dose of vaccine; if you remove those under age 16, the percentage increases to 16.9.
  • Percent positivity; this stands at 6.3%
  • The incidence rate per 100,000 residents; this stands at 101.3 over a 7-day period; and
  • Hospital bed capacity (availability) stands at 41%.

The Governor’s revised order on travel can be found here.

The Governor’s order for mitigation, enforcement and immunity protections can be found here.

The Acting Secretary of Health’s revised order on gatherings can be found here.

The Acting Secretary of Health’s order rescinding travel restrictions can be found here.

Find FAQs for the mitigation order changes here.

U.S. House Passes $1.9 Billion COVID-19 Stimulus Bill

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Over the weekend, the U.S. House approved a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, marking a significant first step in what would be the Biden administration’s first major piece of legislation.

The “American Rescue Plan” provides $1,400 stimulus checks, with those making less than $75,000 being eligible for $1,400 and married couples earning less than $150,000 would receive $2,800. It would also increase the weekly unemployment compensation benefit (which currently sits at $300 and is set to expire in a few weeks) to $400 through the end of August.

Notably, the House-passed version of the bill includes an increase in the federal minimum wage rate to $15 an hour – but that provision is in peril, as the Senate parliamentarian ruled late last week that the minimum wage increase cannot remain in the legislation as written – a ruling that prompted White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki to say that President Biden was “disappointed in this outcome” but that he “respects the parliamentarian’s decision and the Senate’s process.” U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has since committed to continue his party’s push to raise the wage.

The bill also provides $25 billion in grants to restaurants and bars that have lost revenue because of the pandemic. Another $15 billion will fund the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance grants of up to $10,000 per business. Additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program loans and expanded eligibility to nonprofits and digital media companies is also in this bill, totaling $7 billion. It also sets aside $58 billion in grants for multi-employer pension plans and changes to single-employer pension rules.

The legislation also expands the Child Tax Credit to $3,000 per child, and $3,600 for children under age 6; and expands the Child and Dependent Tax Credit so families can claim up to half of their child care expenses on their taxes.

The bill also invests heavily in COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, to the tune of $50 billion; while another $19 billion will increase the size of the public health workforce and $16 billion will fund vaccine distribution and supply chains.

Other notable provisions in the legislation include:

  • $350 billion for state and local governments
  • Nearly $130 billion for K-12 education, which would be dedicated to improving ventilation systems, reducing class sizes, buying personal protective equipment and implementing social distancing
  • Almost $40 billion would go to child care providers through the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. The bill also would dedicate $1 billion for the Head Start program, which is focused on helping young children from low-income families.

The bill now heads the U.S. Senate for consideration.

Local Restaurants Invited to Help Thank Healthcare Workers

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with local employers to support area restaurants while thanking essential employees. Beginning in March and running through April, thousands of employees in the region will have access to a $10 meal voucher through the Chamber of Commerce’s website redeemable at a participating restaurant as a thank you for their efforts throughout the pandemic. Area restaurants are invited to participate in the program at no cost. Vouchers will be specific to participating restaurants and the business will receive the full value of the voucher through the Chamber of Commerce. The number of vouchers offered for each restaurant will be based on the total number of those that participate to ensure that all businesses have equal opportunity.

Restaurants interested in participating can register online at www.columbiamontourchamber.com/meals-in-march or contact the Chamber of Commerce at 570-784-2522 by Friday, March 12th.