Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 4/1/2020 at 1:00 p.m. Updates in bold

Business Resources

Governor Wolf’s order that all “non-life-sustaining businesses” in the Commonwealth close their physical locations is in effect “until further notice” (unless a waiver is granted.) The updated list of business types that may continue physical operations is available here

Organizations with questions about closing should contact the Department of Community and Economic Development at [email protected]. Businesses can request a waiver from this order by emailing [email protected]. Senator John Gordner’s office has asked to be copied on any requests at [email protected]. Businesses can also complete an online form. The administration has also developed a FAQ for businesses with questions about the governor’s order. One of the most common questions we’ve received since the order was issued is from small business owners. 

Q. May non-life sustaining businesses which are required to suspend in-person operations retain essential personnel to process payroll and insurance claims, maintain security, and engage in similar limited measures on an occasional basis?

A. Yes, but telework (i.e. working from home) should be employed whenever possible, and social distancing must be observed.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website provides updated information about cases in Pennsylvania and the list of “Stay at Home Order” counties.

The Centers for Disease Control is offering advice to employers on how to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in the workplace. 

Employment Related Issues

Workers in Pennsylvania who are impacted may be eligible for Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation benefits. The PA Department of Labor and Industry provides UC guidance for employers and sole proprietors. Employers should review the new Federal Paycheck Protection Program below before moving forward with Unemployment.

An overview of benefit-related issues that may arise as a result of layoffs or reductions of hours is available here.  

Employees may also be wondering whether there is coverage for testing and care under their medical plan and whether they can take a leave of absence. The attached document provides some high level information intended to address these inquiries. This information is subject to change.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed on March 18th addresses Paid Sick Leave, Paid Family and Medical Leave, and Unemployment Insurance for workers displaced by the ongoing outbreak.  Furthermore, it includes provisions for diagnostic testing, and bolsters Medicaid and nutrition programs for at risk populations.  Click here for a summary from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a required posting and FAQ regarding the FFCRA which goes 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

Financial Assistance

 
Federal programs

– The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates $349 billion to help small businesses, including sole proprietors and self-employed individuals, as well as some non-profit organizations, keep workers employed. The Paycheck Protection Program provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses that maintain their payroll during this emergency. These loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward. 

  • An overview of the program is available here.
  • Information for borrowers is available here.
  • The application for borrowers is available here.
  • Information for lenders is available here.

– The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program provides businesses with less than 500 employees working capital loans of up to $2 million. The interest rate is determined by formulas and is fixed for the life of the loan. The maximum interest rate for this program is 3.75 percent. Terms can be a maximum of 30 years and will be determined by the SBA based upon the financial condition of each borrower. Click here for additional details about the program. 

The recently passed CARES Act includes the opportunity to get up to a $10,000 advance on an EIDL. This advance may be available even if your EIDL application was declined or is still pending and will be forgiven.

If you wish to apply for the advance on your EIDL, visit www.SBA.gov/Disaster as soon as possible to fill out a new, streamlined application. In order to qualify for the advance, you need to submit this new application even if you previously submitted an EIDL application. Applying for the advance will not impact the status or slow your existing application.

Businesses needing assistance in applying for an SBA loan can contact the Small Business Development Center network.
Columbia County businesses – wilkes.edu/sbdc
Montour County businesses – bucknell.edu/sbdc

State programs

– Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA) provides loans of up to $100,000 to for-profit businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees.  As of 6:00 p.m. on March 31, 2020, applications are no longer being accepted. Reportedly the demand for the program has far exceeded the $61 million loan pool available.

Over the next several days, the successfully submitted applications will be evaluated for approval. Successful applicants will be notified by the Department of Community and Economic Development as to the process for closing on the loans once this information is made available.

If you have contacted SEDA-COG regarding this program, you will receive an email regarding the status of your inquiry and application status. For questions regarding your submission, email [email protected]

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.

– The Central Susquehanna Community Foundation is now accepting applications for its Disaster Relief Fund to support 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Lower-Luzerne, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union Counties. The Foundation is specifically interested in helping organizations maintain their operations and respond to increased demand from clients during this critical time.

Grant requests ranging from $500 to $10,000 are currently being accepted. Additional funding may be considered on an individual basis. The Foundation expects to award two rounds of grants over the coming months to account for immediate and long-term needs.

Guidelines and the online application are at www.csgiving.org. Grant requests must be submitted by 11:59pm on Thursday, April 9, 2020.

For grant-related questions, contact Christine Orlando, CSCF Senior Program Officer, at [email protected]

Private programs

A growing number of companies have set up relief funds, online tools, classes, and other resources at no cost in response to the impact on small-business owners. This link contains a list that Inc. is curating and continuously updating.

Upcoming Educational Opportunities

The SBA is offering daily webinars from Noon -1:30 pm. https://score.zoom.us/j/723846010

The SBDCs are also offering seminars regarding disaster assistance.  
Thursday, April 2, 9:00 – 10:30
https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/26687

Thursday, April 2, 9:00 – 10:30
https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/26688

Remote Work Resources

Compiled below are some resources to help organizations maintain their productivity while employees work remotely.

15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered from Harvard Business Review
Free LinkedIn Learning Courses for Remote Working Strategies
Free Grow with Google Remote Work Hub
New to Working Remotely? These Resources Can Help
26 Easy Ways to Make Your Online Meetings, Workshops, and Programs a Success

A Virtual Private Network (VPN), provides remote workers the ability to access their employer’s network, while providing extra protection from online threats.  The attached document provides some insight on VPN remote access and cyber security. 

Work/team collaboration resources:

  • Conference call services
    FreeConferenceCall.com

  • Video conference services
    GoToMeeting – offering 14 days free  
    Cisco Webex – has a free option with basic functionality and offering 90 days free for higher-level options
    Zoom – has a free option with basic functionality and higher-level options
    Google G Suite – Google Hangouts is free with additional collaboration tools on a paid subscription basis

  • File sharing/collaboration
    Google G Suite– Google Drive is free and G Suite offers additional collaboration tools on a paid subscription basis
    Microsoft Office Teams

Internet Availability

  • PenTeleData is allowing anyone use of their community Wi-Fi locations for the next 60 days.
  • Atlantic Broadband has opened up its Wi-Fi hotspots so that the public has free access. A user within range will see the “AtlanticBB Free WiFi” option and will not need to provide any credentials to access.