- A free job fair will be held this Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 21-23, at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds in the Industrial, Arts & Crafts and Educational buildings. Any business interested in booking a space should complete the one-page vendor application. For questions, please call Diane Considine at 570-479-0636 or Barb Belles at 570-387-4144.
- The Danville Business Alliance will host an economic vitality meeting and informational session this Friday, Feb. 22, at 8 a.m. at the DBA office at 620 Mill St., Danville. It has invited Paul Macknoskey, regional director from PA Department of Community and Economic Development for an informational session to explain what the Opportunity Zone designation, the Neighborhood Assistance Program, and a Façade program means for the area, how it works, and who can benefit. Jackie Hart, director of codes & building development for Danville Borough, will provide information on the Borough’s LERTA Ordinance. The Neighborhood Assistance Program/Enterprise Opportunity Zone and LERTA ordinance are incentive programs that provide tax credits to businesses or private companies investing in rehabilitating, expanding, or improving buildings or land located within designated areas. Please RSVP by email is you would like to attend this meeting.
- The Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit is seeking professionals in the business community to serve as judges in specific categories at its PA Media and Design Competition (formerly called the PA State Computer Fair). There will be separate regional competitions, one for middle school students on Monday, March 4, and one for high school students on Monday, March 25, both at CSIU #16 located at 90 Lawton Lane, Milton. If interested in participating in these events as a judge, please email Bill Herald by this Friday, Feb. 22. For more information about the event, including a list of categories, visit the event’s website.
- AGAPE is in desperate need of warehouse and driver volunteers. Even if you might only be able to help one day per month, that would be of tremendous value to AGAPE as it works to ensure it serves those in need. If interested, or for questions, please contact AGAPE at 570-317-2210 or stop in their office at 19 East 7th St. in Bloomsburg and fill out an application.
- Currently, and running through April 4, the United Way of Columbia and Montour County is again offering free basic tax help to low and moderate-income residents in the community. This program will be held Tuesdays and Wednesday from 2-6 p.m. and Thursdays from 4-8 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church, located at 130 W. 3rd St., Bloomsburg (use the rear entrance). No appointments are necessary, only drop-offs and walk-ins will be accepted. For questions, call the United Way at 570-784-3134 or email, and see the flyer for additional information.
- Knoebels Amusement Resort will hold its annual job fair on Saturday, March 2, from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m., at the Elysburg Fire Department, located at 1 East Mill St., Elysburg. There are seasonal positions available in games, ride operations, food service, gift shops, grounds crew, security & first aid, admissions, crystal pool, campground, guest services, and more. If you have a particular interest or skill set, Knoebels has a job for you. Visit the Facebook event for more information.
Economic development activities of the Columbia Alliance for Economic Growth are now being handled by DRIVE, a two-county council of governments created to consolidate the activities of several organizations. The Alliance Board of Directors voted to dissolve the organization at its annual meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, held at the Inn at Turkey Hill. Recent efforts of the Alliance include development of the Columbia County Business Park at the Lightstreet exit of Interstate 80, preceded by the development of the Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center on Market Street in Bloomsburg.
DRIVE’s other initiatives include marketing and reuse of the former Metso Minerals property in Danville, and developing wireless broadband in northern Montour County. More information about DRIVE is available at its website.
More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Java Momma, to help us fulfill our mission.
Founded in 2017, Java Momma is an online direct sales specialty coffee business that sells direct to consumers, baristas and others through its website. Based in Danville, it also sells other beverages in addition to coffee, including tea, cocoa and mocha, as well as variety of other specialty beverages and beverage accessories. Java Momma can be reached by email, call 570-594-8682, or visit its Facebook or Instagram pages.
Many employers currently offer tuition reimbursement as a component of their employee benefit programs, but this benefit is of limited use for employees who have already completed their education and who do not expect to take further coursework that would be eligible for reimbursement. At the same time, large numbers of prospective employees are burdened with significant student loan debt obligations. This student loan debt can limit the degree to which employees participate in taxdeferred benefit options such as health savings accounts (“HSAs”), dependent care assistance programs (“DCAPs”), and retirement savings programs such as 401(k) accounts.
Currently, an employer cannot make tax-advantaged contributions toward an employee’s student loan debt or offer employees the option to elect a portion of their income to be directed toward student loan debt repayment on a tax-advantaged basis. But in a 2018 IRS private letter ruling, the IRS found that a 401(k) contribution program did not violate the 401(k) “contingent benefit” rule. Under the program, the employer made regular matching 401(k) contributions equal to 5% of the employee’s payroll period compensation if the employee contributed at least 2%. The employer’s proposed amendment to the program, which the IRS addressed in its ruling, allowed employees with student loan debt to voluntarily opt out of the regular matching contributions and earn a similar employer contribution provided that the employee made student loan repayments of at least 2% of their payroll period compensation. This benefit allowed the employer to reward the employee for making student loan payments by increasing the employer’s contribution to the employee’s 401(k).
This letter ruling is not precedential and should not be solely relied upon to adopt a student loan repayment benefit. There are unresolved nondiscrimination, administration, and verification issues that will accompany any student loan repayment plan. Further, pending legislation may dramatically alter the scope of student loan repayment benefits and tax advantages to employers and employees related to these programs. Employers should consult with their legal, accounting, and benefits advisors to consider whether there is a role for a student loan repayment benefit in their broader benefit package and the possible costs and benefits associated with this in-demand benefit option.
This article gives a basic overview of recent regulation as in effect on the date of the article. Please be aware that the determination of the requirements and the application of these rules to each employer may differ due to a number of variables. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice.
From PA Chamber of Business & Industry
Gov. Tom Wolf presented his fifth budget address last week to a joint session of the state House and Senate. His 2019-20 proposal calls for a spend amount of $34.1 billion – a 2.79 percent increase over the current year.
Speaking with optimism about the work elected officials achieve when political divisiveness is put aside, Gov. Wolf focused much of his speech on a bipartisan issue on which the PA Chamber is heavily engaged – workforce development. During the address, the governor announced the formation of the new Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center that will be co-chaired by PA Chamber President Gene Barr and PA AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and will engage state agencies that are involved in workforce efforts to develop a multi-tiered, public-private strategy to close the jobs skills gap and build a competitive 21st century workforce in Pennsylvania.
What the governor did not mention during his speech but was unveiled in the days prior to the budget address were several proposals about which the PA Chamber has already voiced opposition: first, an increase in the minimum wage to $12 an hour with gradual increases until it reaches $15 an hour and elimination of the tipped wage; another severance tax on the natural gas industry that would help to pay for a bond that would fund Gov. Wolf’s new “Restore Pennsylvania” initiative; and a move to combined reporting in exchange for a reduction in the state’s Corporate Net Income Tax. The PA Chamber wholeheartedly supports a reduction in the CNI, which is among the nation’s highest and raises a red flag for would-be investors to come to the Commonwealth; but has long argued that combined reporting would bring unnecessary complexity and economic hardship to many Pennsylvania companies.
Despite areas of disagreement between the Wolf administration and pro-business lawmakers, the general takeaway from the governor’s budget address was that both sides should work on areas on which they can agree. The more positive outlook can certainly be attributed in large part to a strong economic year which has seen revenues coming in higher than expected. In a statement following the budget address, PA Chamber President Gene Barr also embraced a positive tone – particularly in regard to prospects for greater collaboration on workforce – while warning of the elements of the proposal that would end up hurting the state’s competitiveness.
“We commend the governor for using his budget address to shine a spotlight on the need for the private sector and government to work together to ensure Pennsylvania’s workforce is equipped to meet the needs of the state’s evolving jobs market,” Barr said. “We are, however, concerned with some components of the governor’s proposal – including an aggressive mandated increase to entry level wages …. Additionally, we are disappointed by the administration’s continued call for an additional tax on the state’s natural gas industry. We are at risk of losing our competitive edge in the critical energy arena if state elected officials continue to look at higher energy taxes as a way to generate more revenue for government spending.”