Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 6/3/2021 at 9:00 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

All mitigation orders for businesses except masking were lifted on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31st.  

This change means that restaurants, bars, stores, salons, gyms, theaters, event venues, nightclubs, and other businesses can open at 100% capacity, and crowd-size limits will be lifted on all indoor and outdoor gatherings.

The current order requiring Pennsylvanians to wear masks will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated or by June 28th, whichever comes first. Face coverings are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home. In accordance with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance,fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians are not required to wear a mask during certain activities. Businesses may still require masks for all employees and/or customers.

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

 


Vaccination and Testing

 

Vaccination

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is encouraging eligible individuals to get vaccinated. Resources to help employers communicate with their employees about vaccination are available from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

Vaccine Distribution

All Pennsylvania adults are now eligible to schedule vaccination appointments. Click here to find a vaccination site. 

Columbia County EMA is assisting Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties with COVID-19 vaccination appointments.  Those eligible should call 570-389-5735, Monday through Friday only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Provide name, date of birth, address and phone number.  Someone from Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties will call back to schedule an appointment. The clinic expects to experience a large volume of inquiries and asks callers to allow ample time for a call back. Callers who are not contacted within 72 hours are asked to call again. Another way to schedule an appointment time for their vaccination, patients simply need to log on to our website at svmedspec.com and click on our Covid-19 vaccination link to enter their contact information.

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

Testing

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


Financial Assistance

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has compiled an updated guide for the latest Federal programs. 

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. 

Funds through the PPP program have been exhausted. Some funds for minority and women-owned businesses may still be available. Check with your commercial lender. 

– The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program provides priority for the $10,000 Advance 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. The U.S. Small Business Administration is contacting organizations eligible for the EIDL Advance. 

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

Small businesses and nonprofit organizations may qualify for EIDL loans with a 3.75% fixed rate for companies and a 2.75% fixed rate for nonprofits. 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

The Employee Retention Credit is extended through December 31, 2021. The new credit, beginning January 1, is 70% on $10,000 in wages per quarter (or a maximum $28,000 per employee through December 31, 2021).

The new law expands eligibility to include employers who experienced a decline of more than 20% in a qualifying quarter.

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

The IRS has issued updated guidance on utilizing ERC.

The Shuttered Venue Operators (SVO) grant program provides assistance to live venues that were harmed by COVID-19 restrictions. The SVO grant program will distribute $16 billion in funds to live venue operators, including eligible movie theaters, concert spaces, museums and performing arts organizations.

SVO grants are being administered directly by the SBA. Click here for program details and to apply. 

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) provides funding to help restaurants, food trucks, caterers, bars, brewpubs, wineries, and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. Grants are based on lost gross revenue between 2019 and 2020, with maximum grant sizes totaling $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023. The application portal closed on May 24th.

Local programs

Businesses in the hospitality industry are urged to apply as soon as possible for the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) grants.

Businesses can apply at the Community Giving Foundation’s website at www.csgiving.org until the funds are exhausted or June 15, 2021.

Grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000 and the funds will alleviate revenue losses and pay eligible operating expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible hospitality industry businesses include hotels, restaurants, bars, and taverns. These businesses must fall within eligible industry codes which include the Accommodations subsector NAICS code (721) or Food Services and Drinking Places subsector (722) found here:: https://www.naics.com/search/

Eligibility includes, but is not limited to, having fewer than 300 full-time employees; a net worth that does not exceed $15 million and a 25% reduction in gross receipts in 2020 compared to 2019.

Priority will be given to businesses that did not already receive COVID relief funds; that were subject to closure following the disaster emergency declared by Gov. Tom Wolf on March 6, 2020; and had more than a 50% reduction in gross receipts from March 31, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. For a full listing of eligibility requirements and prioritization guidelines, visit www.csgiving.org.

– 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.


 

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 businesses 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


SECV8 Spotlights Chamber

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is spotlighted in the latest edition of SECV8’s In Your Neighborhood program. Host Chris O’Rourke interviewed Chamber President Fred Gaffney about the organization’s activities since the pandemic began, and how the Chamber is looking to help members and the general business community going forward. 

The episode will air every Wednesday at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m., every Friday at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m., every Saturday at 1 and 4:30 p.m., and every Sunday at 1, 5, and 9:30 p.m. through the month of June.

New Unemployment Compensation System Now Online

Pennsylvania’s new unemployment benefits system is now online and accepting claims at benefits.uc.pa.gov.

The new unemployment system replaces a 40-year-old outdated mainframe that made filing for unemployment benefits complicated for users and processing benefits cumbersome for staff. The new system makes filing for benefits easier and faster for claimants. Staff will need less time to process claims, which is expected to help reduce the number of claimants waiting for their claim to be processed.

These changes will allow employers to:

• Receive important information and notices via a dashboard.
• View all notices of separations, dates of appeal hearings, and UC correspondence in real-time.
• Have greater oversight, faster response time, and better communication regarding changes in information.

 

Member News- June 9, 2021

Attorney Travis Petty Recognized as Rising Star by Peers
 
Travis Petty, an attorney with Law Offices of Lutz, Grieco & Petty, LLC in Berwick, was recently named a Rising Star for 2021 by the website Super Lawyers. The designation means that he is a top-rated attorney as recognized by peers. 
 
Petty assists clients in areas of personal injury, criminal law, real estate and family law.
 
Bloomsburg University Celebrates New Building
 
Bloomsburg University’s new Arts and Administration Building has been open several months, but officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday following the statewide easing of coronavirus restrictions.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to have an actual event,” said Dan Knorr, the university’s director of external and government relations.

Knorr spoke to about two dozen people, including state Rep. Kurt Masser, Chamber of Commerce President Fred Gaffney and BU administrators and staff, gathered outside the new four-story, $35 million building near Centennial Hall on campus.

“I know this is just a small thing, but I feel like I’ve been dreaming of it for a year. So this is very exciting,” Knorr remarked.

The light-filled glass building features a large, central atrium and is home to administrative offices as well as student classrooms and art studios.

That’s an unusual mix for a campus building, noted BU President Bashar Hanna. He called the new facility a “collaboration.”

“Often, when universities build buildings, they design them either as academic buildings or as administrative buildings,” Hanna told the crowd. “What we’ve done here at Bloomsburg emphasizes that it’s one family.”

Just inside the main entrance, the new admission’s office welcomes incoming students in the same building as other student services, such as financial aid and the registrar. Those offices had been scattered throughout campus, making it harder for students to access those services, university spokesman Tom McGuire said.

History and art students who had crowded into the aging 114-year-old Old Science Hall for classes now have space and resources spread throughout the building’s four floors, McGuire added.

The university broke ground on the building in late 2018. It opened early this year.


 

State Revenue Collections Strong Heading into Last Month of Fiscal Year

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

With less than one month remaining in the state’s 2020-21 Fiscal Year and negotiations on the upcoming year’s budget beginning in earnest, the Commonwealth continues a strong fiscal showing. May’s revenue collections totaled $3.9 billion – representing a staggering 65.4 percent increase over official estimates.

Last month, the state’s Independent Fiscal Office forecasted the Commonwealth would finish the fiscal year with a $3.16 billion revenue surplus. The state is on track to realize that number with revenue collections to date totaling $36.6 billion, or $2.9 billion over estimates.

The higher than anticipated revenues come as welcome news for state government officials. With the fiscal year nearing an end, June historically marks a period of intense negotiations over the upcoming year’s state budget. Adding another dynamic to budgetary discussions is the influx of more than $7 billion in federal stimulus aid.

While strong revenues help to alleviate pressures on the General Fund brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still several areas of disagreement between the Wolf administration and Republican majorities in the General Assembly – including the final spend number and the allocation of the stimulus dollars.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed interest and optimism in finalizing the 2021-22 budget plan well ahead of the June 30 constitutional deadline.

State System Hosting Public Hearings on Integration Plans

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education is hosting public hearings in June to review the proposed integration of six universities into two institutions, doubling the number of opportunities the public has to directly voice their feedback.

The virtual hearings are part of a transparent, consultative process outlined in state law that has guided the System toward its goal of expanding student opportunities through integrations. The proposed plans would create two combinations of three co-equal campuses: California-Clarion-Edinboro universities in the western region and Bloomsburg-Lock Haven-Mansfield in the northeast.

“Feedback from the public is an integral part of our efforts to creatively reimagine the structure of public higher education in a way that expands student opportunities, supports their success, and sets these campuses for sustainability deeper into the 21st century,” Board chair Cindy Shapira said. “The hearings are not only part of the process outlined in state law, they are also the right thing to do because these efforts are in support of public higher education in the Commonwealth.”

The hearing schedule will be:

• June 9, 8-9:30 a.m. (western plan)
• June 9, 4:30-6 p.m. (western plan)
• June 10, 8-4:30 a.m. (northeastern plan)
• June 10, 4:30-6 p.m. (northeastern plan)

Each hearing will include brief presentations by system leaders as well as opportunity for the public to voice their feedback on the proposed integrations. The public can view the hearings, participate, or submit comments here.

“By hosting morning and late-afternoon hearings, the public will have greater opportunity and choice for when they would like to participate,” Chancellor Dan Greenstein said. “We made a commitment when this journey began almost a year ago to be consultative and transparent because we are doing nothing less than reimagining how public higher education is delivered in Pennsylvania. This is historic. This can profoundly support students by giving them access to academic programming and other activities across three campuses, more than a single campus can offer. And if successful it will mean serving these regional economies deeper into the 21st century by maintaining and expanding quality, affordable higher education.”

The process involves organizing public comments submitted through email and other means by subject matter and their potential as actionable items. The comments are reviewed and evaluated daily by subject matter experts at the System.

“We’re committed to documenting and showing any improvements to the integrations plans based on public comment before final plans are presented to the Board for their consideration,” Greenstein said. “Transparency is key to the success of integrations. So too is the involvement of stakeholders from the grassroots all the way to university and System leadership. We are the public’s higher education system, and as such, we’re committed to continuing to be consultative and transparent to stakeholders across the Commonwealth.”

Integrations are possible through Act 50 of 2020, legislation passed by near-unanimous vote in the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf. It proposes at both California-Clarion-Edinboro and Bloomsburg-Lock Haven-Mansfield single leadership teams, faculty cohorts, enrollment management, and budgets while opening academic program at the co-equal campuses to all students. It also places priority on maintaining unique identities and experiences at the six campuses and, while maintaining traditional residential education experiences, expanding into potential growth areas – non-degree credential and non-credential upskilling programs in the northeast and affordable, Pennsylvania-based fully online programming in the west.