Governor Wolf Vetoes Restaurant Reopening Legislation

PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Legislation that would have created more certainty for dining establishments operating during the COVID-19 pandemic was vetoed by Governor Wolf on Friday, October 16th.

House Bill 2513, which passed with strong bipartisan support in the General Assembly, would have allowed restaurants that adhere to state and CDC-issued health guidance to operate at a minimum 50 percent capacity. Last month, the Wolf Administration relaxed more stringent guidelines that it had set in place in mid-July regarding restaurant capacity; however the updated guidelines still include caveats that have a net negative impact on the restaurant industry. The bill the governor vetoed would have removed a self-certification process put forth by the administration that targets the industry with yet another burden; allowed for bar seating and eliminated the requirement that consumers order a meal to be able to purchase alcohol.   

The governor’s veto message stated his belief that the bill “jeopardizes public health and safety as it permits eating establishments … to operate to up to 100 percent capacity, without having to follow any mitigation guidelines,” adding that he felt the bill “increases the likelihood of COVID-19 outbreaks.” He also noted his concern about a resurgence of the virus in the upcoming fall and winter months, along with the need to keep schools open, as reasons behind his decision to veto H.B. 2513.

The restaurant industry that has struggled enormously during this pandemic and had viewed enactment of this legislation as their top priority expressed dismay at the governor’s veto. According to a story in Pennlive, John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, said in a statement Friday that the veto will have a “long-lasting and negative impact on the hospitality industry.”

“The PRLA has repeatedly asked the Wolf Administration to listen to struggling business owners and employees who want nothing more than to earn a living and protect their guests, employees and families,” Longstreet said. “The administration has repeatedly rebuked requests for a return to the reasonable, well researched, and common-sense standards that were in effect before July 15.”

Welcome Jonelle’s Salon

More than 425 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and the region. Increased membership allows the Chamber to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives. The Chamber welcomes Jonelle’s Salon.

Since 2011, Jonelle’s Salon has been located on Main Street in Bloomsburg. The salon provides a wide variety of services including cuts, coloring, advanced up-do styling, weddings, special events, facial waxing, and more. Walk-ins and appointments are accepted.

For more information on Jonelle’s Salon visit its website, Facebook page or call 570-380-3323.

Member News- October 14, 2020

McKonly & Asbury Named One of the Best Places to Work in PA for 16th Time

McKonly & Asbury – a regional accounting and business advisory services firm – recently announced that they were named as one of the Best Places to Work in PA for 2020. This marks the 16th time in 18 years that McKonly & Asbury has made this incredible list following an evaluation that considers both company policies and employee feedback.

“We are honored to be recognized for the 16th year as one of the Best Places to Work in PA,” noted Managing Partner, Michael Hoffner. “This award is a testament to our amazing team and the work they do on a daily basis. Our leadership team is humbled to work with such an outstanding group of professionals, and we recognize and appreciate that they are the reason McKonly & Asbury continues to be one of the best places to work in Pennsylvania.”

The Best Places to Work in PA initiative was designed to identify, recognize, and honor the best places of employment in Pennsylvania, who are benefiting the state’s economy and its workforce. Over 75% of the scoring for this competitive award comes from a direct survey of all employees.

McKonly & Asbury continually strives to be one of the best companies to work for, and the firm is proud to be publicly recognized for it. McKonly & Asbury is fortunate to have some of the best and brightest talent working for them and hope that this honor will continue to help retain the high-caliber professionals their clients have come to rely on as part of the McKonly & Asbury team.

McKonly & Asbury will be recognized at the Best Places to Work in PA awards in a virtual ceremony on Thursday, December 3, 2020. Rankings will be revealed at the ceremony. Tickets may be purchased online at www.CPBJ.com/events. To see the full list of companies making this year’s list, click here.

Swift Kennedy Helps Businesses During Pandemic

As businesses continue to endure repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more employers are turning to insurance brokerage firms like Swift Kennedy & Associates for help in solving health insurance issues that have surfaced during this challenging time.

“We are trying to help our clients as much as possible during this crisis, because we know that their companies’ survival may be at stake,” said Jerry Calistri, Swift Kennedy’s President and CEO, who is a Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist.

For example, since insurance carriers are now adjusting benefits frequently according to evolving circumstances, Swift Kennedy is keeping clients informed via e-mail about the latest developments regarding carrier decisions (such as coverage for COVID-19 tests and treatments), group health insurance requirements, human resources, and other issues.

Since many employees now being laid off are choosing to continue their health insurance, Swift Kennedy also offers companies COBRA administration, which includes providing HIPAA certificates and required letters, as well as billing continuation premiums and employer reporting.  Companies using this service rather than in-house COBRA administration usually see substantial savings.

Even while facing the challenges of a pandemic, employers must comply with the government regulations imposed by ERISA and the Affordable Care Act to avoid audits and large penalties.  As a result, Swift Kennedy gives compliance guidance and provides clients with the Benefit Notices they must send employees, as well as Wrap Summary Plan Descriptions (SPDs) and Wrap Plan Documents (which wrap around their certificates of insurance and benefit plan booklets) in order to satisfy ERISA and ACA mandates.

Swift Kennedy also offers clients a digital benefit administration platform, Swift Virtual, which allows an employer’s Human Resources staff to conduct virtual open enrollment meetings, process enrollments digitally, and have online access to tax forms, invoices and payroll integration.  This system streamlines absence management, enhances benefit communication to employees, and provides access to a comprehensive digital library of HR and benefits information.

This digital platform also allows employees to make better informed decisions when selecting benefit packages by providing digital support tools like cost calculators, plan comparison tools, and online benefit summaries, and it gives them access to a virtual benefit support team via phone, webchat or video conference.  What’s more, it lets employees access their benefit information remotely around the clock, which millennials and Gen Z employees especially value.

“Modernizing their benefits administration by going digital gives companies the added benefit of being able to continue their operations seamlessly during any emergency,” said Calistri.

Swift Kennedy also offers clients day-to-day administration (including claims assistance, billing support, enrollments, and terminations) and provides employers with the opportunity to meet virtually with benefit specialists to review their insurance options.

“Our goal is to help employers solve the thorny insurance issues that have arisen during this pandemic so that they can spend more time doing what they do best – running their businesses!” said Calistri.

Swift Kennedy & Associates is an insurance brokerage firm that specializes in group employee benefits, as well as individual and senior insurance products.  The firm helps businesses find affordable employee benefit plans, including medical, dental, vision, life, disability, and alternative funding options.  This full-service agency offers all health insurance carriers in Pennsylvania and has offices in State College, Williamsport, Scranton, DuBois, and Virginia Beach.

Jerry Calistri is President and Chief Executive Officer of Swift Kennedy & Associates.  He has over 20 years of experience in the employee benefits industry, including working at the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund in Harrisburg.  A Certified Healthcare Reform Specialist, Calistri is a Senatorial Member and a PAC Board Member of Health Agents for America, as well as a member of the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.  In addition, he is an active member and past president of the Mid Penn chapter of the National Association of Health Underwriters.  He can be reached at [email protected].

Your Neighbors: LGBTQ in Central and Northeast Pennsylvania

A community panel discussion on living in Pennsylvania as a member of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community will be hosted on Zoom the evening of October 22, 2020.

This event is made possible through a confluence of organizations concerned for the cultivation and growth of the LGBTQ community in Pennsylvania.

It is through sharing our experiences that we hope to show our similarities, provide insight into our struggles, and help inspire understanding.

All those who would like to learn more about the lives of LGBTQ people in Central and Northeast Pennsylvania, and how to support them, are invited to attend this event.

Spellbinding Social Media Strategies Webinar

On October 27th from 9-11 am the Bucknell University Small Business Development Center will be hosting a webinar on social media strategies. 

Social media isn’t just for social media sake, it’s a low cost high impact marketing option for small businesses if you know how to use it. Using it isn’t complicated and there are ways to get a big bang for a few bucks.

Topics covered will include:
*Understanding the Algorithms
*Tag you’re it: how many hashtags should you use and how do you choose?
*Cross-posting: do you post the same thing everywhere?
*Video killed the radio: why you need video content
 
Register here
 
Creating Effective Job Postings & Ads
 
Join PA Careerlink and Press Enterprise on Tuesday, October 27th from 10-11 am as they partner together for a virtual webinar on how to create effective job posting and ads.  
 
Register here to receive the Zoom link. 

 

 

 

 

Civil, Social, Human Services and Healthcare Expo at Bloomsburg University

Bloomsburg University will be holding an expo to help connect employers with students interested in careers in the Social, Health, and Human Services & Non-Profit career fields on October 28 & 29 from 2-5 p.m. Recommended employers include: Health Care Providers, Non-Profit Organizations, Government Agencies and Residential Treatment Facilities. Primary student attendees are those majoring in Nursing, Allied Health Sciences, Exercise Science, Communication Studies, Languages & Cultures, Social Work, Sociology, and Psychology.

The standard registration fee includes your participation on both dates of the expo and our Fall Finale Bonus Expo in November. 

Upon registration, we will review the details you submitted for approval. At our fair, you’ll be able to engage with students in a variety of formats, including:

  • Video, audio, and chat communication with students
  • Group meetings with up to fifty students
  • 1:1 meetings scheduled in advance or after a group session
  • Share documentation with students ahead of time and have access to students who register to attend one of your sessions, resumes and contact information.

 Note: During registration, you’ll be asked to share the number of representatives who plan to attend the fair—up to 15 representatives per employer are able to participate in the fair. Each representative you register will be able to create their own unique schedule to engage with students. To learn more about these features check out this Handshake-hosted training webinar.

Employers are invited to discuss job shadowing, internship or employment opportunities with freshmen through graduate students and alumni. All expos are open and promoted to students from all majors and class years.

Although recruiting at Bloomsburg may look a little different this Fall, we are available to assist with all of your recruitment needs! Please review the toolkits provided by Handshake which will answer many of the questions you may have about participating in virtual events.

 If you have any remaining questions after reviewing the toolkits or need help registering for the event in Handshake, please contact our team at [email protected]

Round Two of Columbia County Grant Program Opens October 16

Small businesses in Columbia County that have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 crisis are invited to apply for up to $20,000 in financial assistance.  Applications will be accepted October 16th through November 9th.

Businesses that did not receive a loan or grant through the Federal Paycheck Protection Program, or the Economic Disaster Loan Program will be given priority, though all eligible businesses are encouraged to apply.

Eligibility:
-For-profit businesses or individuals operating businesses with a base location in Columbia County.
-One owner per business may apply.
-Businesses that applied for and/or received grant funding through the first grant round in August are NOT eligible to apply again in round two. 

Approval requirements:
-Must be in business by March 1, 2019 and still in business on July 1, 2020
-Must intend to stay in business through, at least, July 1, 2021
-Total employees less than 100 OR an entity primarily engaged in the Tourism industry
-Business must be based in Columbia County, PA
-Net profit in March 1-June 30, 2020 window must be less than net profit in March 1- June 30, 2019 window.
-Must not owe federal, state or local taxes
-Must not be subject to criminal justice process as per the question in the application

Document requirements:
-Most recently filed federal tax return
-Entity documents including DBA or FBN certificate and proof of ownership
-Business license (if sole proprietor)
-Government-issued ID
-Evidence of fixed costs, including mortgage/rent/lease payments, utility costs, license fees, property tax bills, property and liability insurance bills, attest to any lost inventory

Grant applications must be completed and submitted through the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation’s website, www.csgiving.org.

Timeline of the Grant Process:
• October 15: Commissioners approve the amount of funding, grant process and timeline 
• October 16: Grant application window opens
• November 9: Grant application window closes
• November 16: Team compiles data, determines qualifying businesses, determines 5-month fixed cost calculation or ceiling amount, calculates pro-rata share in applicable
• November 19: Grant amounts recommended to Commissioners
• November 20: Letters of approval sent out to qualifying businesses including Grant amount and Grant contract
• Checks will be issued upon return of grant contracts to the County Commissioners Office
• Checks must be accepted December 11 or Grant will be forfeited

The online application deadline is 11:59 p.m. Monday, November 9th. For questions about the application, contact Christine Orlando, CSCF Senior Program Officer, [email protected], 570-752-3930, extension 2.

Auditor General Finds Inconsistencies in Business Closure Mandates

From the PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Last week, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale announced some initial findings related to an audit being conducted of the Wolf Administration’s handling of the business closures mandates that were ordered in March in response to COVID-19.

Auditors have found that the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s rationale for determining which businesses were “life-sustaining” and could remain open early last spring, versus those that had to shutter immediately, was “inconsistent” and “subjective.” Moreover, the AG’s office has found that the waiver process by which businesses could apply for an exception to keep their doors open was “built on shifting sands of changing guidance, which led to significant confusion among business owners.”

“The criteria and guidelines for such evaluations were developed, updated and maintained outside the department,” DePasquale told reporters. “So DCED was running the process but not in charge of the criteria and guidelines used for the process.”

The audit reviewed 42,380 waiver applications that were submitted by businesses from March 20 to April 3 and noted that at least 523 received a response from DCED that later changed, often without explanation, as the list of industries that were allowed to stay open continued to evolve.

The Wolf Administration opted to establish its own process rather than using the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) list, which many groups – including the PA Chamber – had suggested as it was more transparent, easily understood and emphasized maintaining supply chains.  Legislation that passed the General Assembly and would have adopted the CISA list as the basis for authorizing businesses to operate was vetoed by the governor in April.

According to a story in the Central Penn Business Journal, the Auditor General’s office is continuing to investigate the matter, and is reviewing hundreds of pages of correspondence regarding business waiver applications. PA Chamber President Gene Barr acknowledged to the media outlet that this unprecedented situation was undoubtedly challenging for DCED; but said that restricting certain business sectors forced companies to reroute their supply chains and incentivized business owners to conduct business in less restrictive states.

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce worked with the PA Chamber and legislators at the state and federal levels to assist area businesses in seeking clarification or waivers related to the Governor’s closure orders.