Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 1/26/22 at 10:45 a.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

On Thursday, January 13th, by a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden’s administration’s rule requiring larger businesses (more than 100 employees) to ensure that workers receive the COVID vaccine or wear masks and get tested on a weekly basis. On Tuesday, January 25th, OSHA announced that it would be withdrawing the Emergency Temporary Standard. Mandates for federal contractors are still under legal review.

– The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shortened the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for 5 days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others. Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious.

Click here for additional guidance.


Vaccination and Testing

 

Vaccination

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Geisinger in encouraging eligible individuals to get vaccinated. Click here for information. 

Click here to find vaccination sites statewide. 

Resources to help employers communicate with their employees about vaccination are available from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

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

Testing

Geisinger offers both symptomatic testing and testing for travel.  Visit here for details.

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


Financial Assistance

 
Federal programs

– The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced significant enhancements to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, a federal disaster relief loan designed to support small business communities dealing with the pandemic, especially hard-hit sectors such as restaurants, gyms, and hotels. The SBA is ready to receive new applications immediately from small businesses looking to take advantage of these new policy changes.

Key changes include:

  • Increasing the COVID EIDL Cap. The SBA has increased the COVID EIDL cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loan funds can be used for any normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, purchasing equipment, and paying debt.
  • Implementation of a Deferred Payment Period. The SBA will ensure small business owners will not have to begin COVID EIDL repayment until two years after loan origination so that they can get through the pandemic.
  • Establishment of a 30-Day Exclusivity Window. To ensure Main Street businesses have additional time to access these funds, the SBA will implement a 30-day exclusivity window of approving and disbursing funds for loans of $500,000 or less. Approval and disbursement of loans over $500,000 will begin after the 30-day period.
  • Expansion of Eligible Use of Funds. COVID EIDL funds will now be eligible to prepay commercial debt and make payments on federal business debt.
  • Simplification of affiliation requirements. To ease the COVID EIDL application process for small businesses, the SBA has established more simplified affiliation requirements to model those of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Businesses can apply directly with the SBA for EIDL loans.

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

Local programs

– 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.

– 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]


Unemployment, Benefits & HR Issues

 

 

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

Member News – January 26, 2022

Area Employers Invited to Talk with Students at Vo-Tech Open House

Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School is holding an open house on Sunday, February 6th from 1 to 4 p.m. for junior high school students considering attending the school and their parents. Area employers are invited to attend to talk with students about job opportunities. Interested employers should contact Tracy Gillespie by February 1st at [email protected] or 570-784-8040 ext. 3322.


New Board Members Announced for Community Giving Foundations: Bloomsburg and Danville

The Community Giving Foundation: Bloomsburg recently welcomed four new members to its 2022 Board of Directors. In addition to the four new board members, the Bloomsburg board is represented by: John Thompson (chair), Pam Young (vice chair), Donna Coombs, Lynn Cromley, Tom Kapelewski, Jessica Lehman, and Patti Leighow.

Ms. Elizabeth Dowd

Ms. Dowd is a resident acting company member with the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE). She moved to Bloomsburg from Chicago to pursue private study with legendary acting teacher Alvina Krause when she became part of the founding of BTE. Forty-four years later, Bloomsburg has long been the place she calls home. Ms. Dowd is the grateful partner of Rand Whipple and mother to two adult children. She is an active community member, most recently with the Coalition for Social Equity, Women in Action workgroup, and co-organizer of the “Bloomsburg Reads” event.

Dr. Heather S. Feldhaus, PhD

Dr. Feldhaus is a sociologist who specializes in the study of social problems. She earned her BA and MA in sociology at the University of South Alabama and her PhD at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She is currently the Interim Associate Provost for Faculty Development, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Professor of Sociology at Bloomsburg University. She also founded the Center for Community Research and Consulting at BU. Her research focuses on how communities define and think about social problems and how this shapes their efforts to solve problems. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding rural poverty and homelessness.

Dr. Feldhaus enjoys being active in the community. She is currently the vice president of the board of directors for the Community Strategies Group and serves on the United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties allocations committee. She is a regular volunteer for the Bloom Seed Library and uses her professional skills as a frequent volunteer or consultant for many regional groups that need help with strategic planning or data collection and analysis. Dr. Feldhaus lives in Orangeville with her husband and two sons.

Mr. Jeff Lylo

Mr. Lylo is the owner of J. Lylo Jewelers, located in downtown Bloomsburg. Born and raised in Berwick, he graduated from Berwick High School and then Penn State University with a degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management. After completing gemological certifications and apprenticing at Good as Gold (Bloomsburg), Mr. Lylo opened his own business in 1999. Through the jewelry business, he plays a role in community members’ major life events from births to engagements to wedding anniversaries. This role is a legacy from his grandfather, owner of Nespoli Jewelers, who instilled the importance of personal relationships with customers.

In addition to his constant presence at J. Lylo Jewelers, Mr. Lylo also serves on the board for Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc. As the father of two active boys, he can often be found around town at youth sporting events, church activities, and school performances.

Mr. Leo V. Sokoloski

Mr. Sokoloski is the Chief of Police at Bloomsburg University, overseeing the day-to-day management of police operations and life safety, property protection, and investigations on campus. He also serves as a consultant for the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit, offering school crisis preparedness and practical services to help make schools safer and ready for all emergencies. Mr. Sokoloski was the previous Chief of Police for the Town of Bloomsburg for 12 years. He has served on many initiatives and community groups across the region to promote education and safety for local residents.

The Community Giving Foundation: Danville recently welcomed four new members to its 2022 Board of Directors. In addition to the four new board members, the Danville board is represented by: Bonnie Trump (chair), Linda Brown (co-vice chair), Dennis Hummer (co-vice chair), Wendy Tripoli (financial liaison), Donna Cush (secretary), Ken Ackerman, Marc Baranouski, David Betz, Kimberly Burke, Greg Cole, Mark LaMotte, Christen Mowad, Mary Petrick, and Gary Visneski.

Mrs. Marsha Albertson

Mrs. Albertson is a Senior Accountant at HRI, INC., an asphalt manufacturing and construction company located in Muncy, PA. She is a 1989 graduate of Hughesville Area School District and graduated from Bloomsburg University with a BS in Business Administration. She has worked with HRI, INC. for 25 years. Mrs. Albertson owned Fran’s Dairy Bar in Millville for 13 years and Grandma Edwards’ food stand at the Bloomsburg Fair for 10 years. She enjoys relaxing on the beach, entertaining, and spending time with family and friends. She also finds great pleasure in volunteering and fundraising, which she has done over the years through her son’s sporting teams. Mrs. Albertson has been married for almost 26 years. They have a son who attends Bloomsburg University and a daughter in high school.

Mr. Tim Karr

Mr. Karr grew up in Selinsgrove. Following college, he served with the Army Black Horse Armored Cavalry Regiment as a 1st Lt. on the East/West German Border, followed by two years with the Reserves. Returning to the area in 1973, Mr. Karr opened Villager Realty, Inc. Today, he serves as CEO/President of Villager Realty, a sales leader in the Central Susquehanna Valley with 33 agents, three locations, and appraisal, relocation, development, and construction divisions. He resides in Riverside with his wife.

Mrs. Shelley Nemeth

Mrs. Nemeth is currently an independent consultant specializing and focusing on the training of pre-school teachers and educators. As an early childhood education professional, she has extensive experience in classrooms, administration of childcare programs, managing multiple childcare facilities, early learning programs, public relations, staffing, recruitment, curriculum development, staff training, and developing leadership training materials.

Originally from Canada, Mrs. Nemeth and her husband have lived in the United States since 2000 and have been happy to call the Danville community home since 2007. In addition to her professional activities, Mrs. Nemeth is involved in a local book club, church fellowship, and pursuing her personal interests of cooking, art, and decorating.

Mr. Bob Stoudt

Mr. Stoudt grew up near Turbotville and graduated from Warrior Run High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography/Environmental Planning from Bloomsburg University and a master’s degree in Geography from Indiana State University. After living in Indiana for several years, he moved to Pittsburgh to work for Navigation Technologies, a digital mapping company. Mr. Stoudt and his wife moved back to Watsontown in 2002, where he continued to work part-time until the births of their three kids. While being a stay-at-home dad, he volunteered with a number of local organizations for several years. In 2010, Mr. Stoudt became part-time deputy director of the Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC) and assumed the role of Director later that year—a role he continues to hold today.

Mr. Stoudt’s recent volunteer service has included board/committee roles with: Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce; Columbia Montour Partnership for Community Development; Columbia Montour Visitors’ Bureau; Warrior Run Community Corporation’s Pathways Committee; Montour County Recreation Authority; Friends of Allegheny Wilderness; SEDA-Foundation; Watsontown Borough Parks Renovation Committee; Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Land Steward; and the Boy Scouts of America. Additionally, he has worked with 31 Eagle Scout candidates and one Girl Scout Gold Award candidate on projects through his roles with the Warrior Run Community Corporation and Marc, with another four projects now underway.

OSHA Withdraws Vaccinate-or-Test ETS

On Tuesday, January 25, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it would be withdrawing it’s mandate that employers with at least 100 employees require vaccinations or weekly testing. The move follows the Supreme Court decision earlier this month which stated that “challengers were likely to prevail on their claims” challenging the Emergency Temporary Standard. As part of the announcement, the Biden administration said that it would be requesting that the lawsuits be dismissed.

Click here to read more.

Nominees Announced for the Chamber’s 2022 Annual Awards

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce the nominees for the 2022 Annual Awards. The awards will be presented at this year’s Annual Meeting, the 81st for the organization. This year’s meeting will be held virtually Wednesday, Feb. 9th at 11:00 a.m.

This meeting provides an opportunity to recognize organizations and individuals for their extraordinary efforts in serving the community throughout the year. The Chamber will present five awards: Small Business of the Year, Large Business of the Year, Nonprofit of the Year, Community Progress Award, and the Outstanding Citizen Award.

The Outstanding Citizen Award, the longest-tenured award, was first presented in 1970. The organization added the Small Business of the Year, Large Business of the Year, and the Community Progress Award in 2011.  The Nonprofit of the Year was first introduced in 2020.

The recipient of each award will be selected by the Awards Committee. Members are as follows:

  • Jeff Emanuel, Foundation Director
  • Renee Gerringer, Ronald McDonald House of Danville
  • Lisa Makara, Geisinger | Wilkes-Barre
  • Chris Stamatedes, PPL Electric Utilities
  • Jeffrey Whitenight, First Columbia Bank & Trust
  • Elaine Woodland, First Keystone Community Bank
  • Melanie Ziegler, FirstLight Fiber

Nominees for the 2022 Annual Awards are as follows:

Small Business of the Year

  • Martz Technologies, Inc.
  • Ponduce Farms
  • Shanty Secrets

Large Business of the Year

  • Crispin Multiplex
  • Great Dane
  • North Shore Railroad
  • Webstaurant Store

Nonprofit of the Year

  • Columbia County Traveling Library
  • Berwick Area United Way
  • For the Cause
  • The Hand in Hand Family Resource Center
  • Ronald McDonald House of Danville

Outstanding Citizen

  • Lissa Bryan-Smith
  • Jeff Emanuel
  • Harry Mathias
  • Catherine “Kay” Mentrikowski

Community Progress Award

  • Northeast Training Institute
  • Tri County Lumber

What is the Employee Retention Tax Credit?

The Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center is holding a free webinar Friday, January 28th to help employers understand the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC), including who qualifies, and the key questions to ask your CPA or payroll provider. The presenting firm has been able to help businesses calculate and amend their 941 filings to claim this credit. Register for this event here

Learner objectives: 

  • Learn what the Employee Retention Tax Credit is
  • Determine if your business qualifies
  • Identify qualifying wages
  • Calculate the Credit
  • Know “what to ask” to your CPA or payroll provider

Program to Develop Management and Team Leadership Skills Returns

A program designed to help employees develop and sharpen skills that relate to leading in today’s workplace environment is being offered again this Spring. The five-module Management and Leadership Certificate Program is appropriate for new or emerging leaders or existing workplace leaders, managers, and supervisors who have not previously been exposed to leadership training. The program is a collaboration between The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce and Bloomsburg University.

Sessions cover supervisor effectiveness and effective communication, understanding what motivates employees and change management, coaching, feedback, and performance management, navigating a multigenerational workforce, and conflict management. The course will include assessments, activities, and other learning enhancement components to help each participant individualize their learning experience. Participants will receive a certificate from Bloomsburg University upon completion and will have identified personal development goals to provide to their employers.

The program launched in the Fall of 2019 and is offered each Spring and Fall. Sessions for this Spring are scheduled to begin in-person Tuesday, March 8th and will be held every other week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at SEKISUI KYDEX’s South Campus, ending May 3rd. The program may shift to a virtual format depending upon trends. Cost is $595 for employees of Chamber of Commerce members. Complete program details and the application are now available online.

The program qualifies for WEDnet funding for eligible employers. For eligibility information, visit wednetpa.com or contact Jennifer Williams at 570-389-4004.