Vote Yes on Constitutional Amendments

Voters will consider three amendments to Pennsylvania’s Constitution on the May 18th primary ballot. Two of those amendments deal with the governor’s authority related to emergency declarations and the third adds long-overdue language prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity. The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors is joining with groups across the state in encouraging people to vote yes on all three of these amendments.

The amendments related to disaster declarations would involve the General Assembly in how disaster declarations are managed and how long they are in effect. After 21 days, the Legislature would have to agree to continue a declaration and, if terminated, the governor could not issue a new declaration based on the same or similar circumstances without the General Assembly’s concurrence.

The third amendment would bring Pennsylvania’s Constitution in alignment with the U.S. Constitution by prohibiting restriction or denial of an individual’s equal rights because of race or ethnicity.

The Pennsylvania Department of State provides the language that will appear on the ballot, as well as a “plain English” explanation of each question. The Chamber of Commerce does not have a position on the referendum related to municipal fire and emergency medical services companies also referenced on this website.

Some legislators have expressed frustration over the wording that will appear on the ballot as being biased against the amendments. A website, VoteYesPA.com, has also been developed as part of a campaign to encourage voters to support these amendments. Posters are available at the Chamber office to anyone who wishes to display them.

COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at Berwick Hospital

There’s still time to register for the COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at Berwick Hospital that will be held on Thursday, April 22nd from 1 PM-5 PM.
Registration is appreciated but walk-ins are welcome.
Register here: https://bit.ly/3v9JNLN

Guidance Released for Upcoming Restaurant Revitalization Fund

The Small Business Administration released technical guidance and a sample application (see Supplemental Documents) for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The SBA will not begin accepting applications until later this month, but the release of these documents allows restaurant operators to see the application and begin organizing documents.

The National Restaurant Association is currently updating its FAQ document to reflect the specifics of this application.

The American Rescue Plan Can Save You Money on Your Health Insurance

There are an estimated 100,000 individuals enrolled in non-group coverage that is ACA-compliant who can enroll in Pennie™ coverage with access to savings under this legislation.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) includes provisions specific to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) resulting in significant impacts, including large savings, for Pennsylvanians seeking individual market coverage and those already enrolled in coverage through Pennie™.

This is the largest coverage expansion since the ACA passed in 2010. The eligibility enhancements under this law allow for money to be put back in the hands of people and provide potentially life-altering coverage and relief to many Pennsylvanians who may be struggling with the pandemic and its economic repercussions.

What’s included in ARPA?

The plan includes an increase in the eligibility for, and the amount of, premium tax credits for Pennsylvanians at all income levels during the 2021 and 2022 plan years. Those earning more than the current cap of 400% of the federal poverty level — about $51,000 for an individual and $104,800 for a family of four in 2021 – will be newly eligible for subsidy tax credit.

Under this law, no one will pay more than 8.5 percent of their income in premiums for the second lowest cost silver plan, the benchmark plan, in their county. In some cases, lower-income enrollees could have their premiums eliminated completely.

How does this affect existing Marketplace members?

These eligibility changes also affect the current customers in the marketplace. Under this law, most of the existing enrollees will have an increase in the amount of the financial assistance they receive each month, this also includes individuals who will now become eligible for these Advanced Premium Tax Credits.

Once the changes are implemented, customers will see a decrease in their monthly premium payments.  This is also an opportunity for individuals to check if they would like to move to a different plan.

How does this play out for a real member?

  • Scenario A: A 40-year-old single woman, nonsmoker who lives in Philadelphia with a $19,140 annual income. Under the old law she would be paying an estimated $66/month for the benchmark plan. Under this new law, she will now be paying $0/month. Savings of $792
  • Scenario B: a married couple, who are both 64-year-old, non-smokers from Dauphin County with an annual income of $77,580. Under the old law, they would be seeing a monthly payment of around $2,400 and now under the new law, they will be paying $550, capped at 8.5 percent of their income for the benchmark plan.  Savings of $22,200

What if a member enrolled in off-exchange coverage?

Another key target audience affected by this law is those Pennsylvanians enrolled in off-exchange coverage. Individuals enrolled in individual coverage without a subsidy should check to see if they would be better buying a plan on the exchange.

My Benefit Advisor’s team of certified specialist are available to make sure customers on the individual market are aware of these savings and to assist those who wish to make the transition and take advantage of this increase in financial assistance.  Please contact My Benefit Advisor at (855) 874-0267 or www.mybenefitadvisor.com/indvidual.

Bloomsburg Mayoral Candidates to Share Views at Public Forum

Bloomsburg’s Mayor and another member of Council vying for that position will share their views during an upcoming candidate forum being co-hosted by The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Bloomsburg Inc. Incumbent Bill Kreisher and Justin Hummel are the only registered candidates and will be on the Democratic ballot in the May 18th primary. The candidates will meet Wednesday, April 28th at 7:00 p.m. at the Alvina Krause Theatre.

The format will be a modified debate. Each candidate will be presented with the same questions in rotating order with a set amount of time for each response. A limited number of questions from the audience will also be presented. Fred Gaffney, president of the Chamber of Commerce, will be the moderator. Candidates will also be given two minutes for closing remarks.

The public is invited to attend the event. Safety protocols, including physical distancing and masks, will be in effect.