Deadline Alert for Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance in Pennsylvania for Flooding

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) encourages businesses of all sizes, private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters to apply for a disaster loan for physical damage before the Feb. 11 deadline. Anyone in the declared counties in Pennsylvania with damages caused by flooding on Aug. 10-15, 2018 should apply for the SBA disaster loan assistance.

The declaration covers Bradford, Columbia, Delaware, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Susquehanna counties and the adjacent counties of Berks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Lebanon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montgomery, Montour, Perry, Philadelphia, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Wayne and Wyoming in Pennsylvania; New Castle in Delaware; Gloucester in New Jersey; and Broome, Chemung and Tioga in New York.

Businesses and nonprofits can apply up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged real estate, machinery, equipment, inventory, and other business assets. Loans for working capital, known as Economic Injury Disaster Loans, are available even if the business did not suffer any physical damage. Homeowners can apply up to $200,000 to repair or replace disaster damaged real estate. Homeowners and renters can apply up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged personal property including automobiles.

Interest rates are as low as 3.675 percent for businesses, 2.5 percent for private nonprofit organizations, and 2 percent for homeowners and renters, with terms up to 30 years. The SBA determines loan amounts and terms based on each applicant’s circumstances.

Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes. Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via the SBA’s secure website at DisasterLoan.sba.gov.
Additional details on the loan application process can be obtained by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email. Loan applications can also be downloaded at www.sba.gov. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The filing deadline to submit applications for physical property damage is Feb. 11, 2019. The deadline for economic injury applications is Sept. 11, 2019.

Business Program is a Great Opportunity for Local Students

Winners of BizQuiz, PFEW’s version of Jeopardy, celebrate on a busy Wednesday afternoon!

From Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week

Note: The Chamber is hosting a free informational breakfast for those businesses, students and parents that may be interested in learning more about this program on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 7:30 a.m. at the Greenly Center, 50 East Main St., Bloomsburg (learn more).

There is an award-winning summer economics education program that for forty years has benefitted our local students. Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW) immerses rising high school juniors and seniors in the world of business, allowing them to experience firsthand what you face each day. Offered by the Foundation for Free Enterprise Education, PFEW was founded specifically to teach students about the American private enterprise system and provide tools to help students become the great employees and employers of the future. PFEW annually holds five week-long sessions in July and August on the campuses of Lycoming College and the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa, serving nearly 2,200 students and 250 volunteers each year.

At PFEW, participants are grouped into management teams of junior executives who have been hired to turn around underperforming manufacturing companies. These teams, mentored by adult volunteers called Company Advisors, operate their firms for a computer simulated three-years, competing against other student companies. They formulate production and financial strategies, develop income statements and balance sheets, prepare marketing and advertising campaigns, all the while reacting to a variety of external factors. Sound familiar?

PFEW is designed to give every participant an idea of real-world relevant issues facing today’s businesses. Each day’s activities include four to five presentations from world-class speakers from across the nation who deliver talks that both inspire and motivate our young entrepreneurs for their futures. Does it work? Consider the following quote from 2018 PFEW graduate Maya Moktan from West Chester East High School: “I actively participate in DECA at East, and I am pleasantly surprised at the more in-depth analysis of business at PFEW… However, my favorite part of PFEW by far was the motivational speakers. Each and every one was able to leave a mark in my mind. Each speaker had their own story, and I was left awestruck and truly inspired. At some points, I was almost brought to tears!”

The Chamber proudly supports PFEW and encourages our local companies and civic organizations to provide sponsorship for our students and, if possible, volunteers for the sessions. Every student attends PFEW on a fully tax-deductible $625 scholarship (the actual value of the scholarship exceeds $1,500) which is provided by a local firm, foundation, civic organization, or individual. PFEW is also an approved Educational Improvement Organization through the PA Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program. Scholarship donors are prominently recognized in several publications circulated throughout the state, and each student wears the name of their sponsor on their photo ID badge throughout the week. Students write their sponsors after graduation to report on what they have learned.

The Foundation for Free Enterprise Education proudly announces that they have recently expanded their programming to include the Stock Market GameTM, an interactive in-school game for students in grades 4-12 that teaches them about the Stock Market and Securities Industry. For more information on how to support or get involved with SMG, please contact Jeremy Kropf, Technology and Projects Manager at 814-833-9576 ext. 4, or email.

If you would like to learn more about the award-winning PFEW program and how you can help, please call the Chamber directly or contact Scott Lee, vice president of marketing & development for the Foundation for Free Enterprise Education at 814-833-9576 ext. 8, or emailPFEW is open to all current sophomores and juniors in Pennsylvania and information on attendance, as well as program applications, can be found on the PFEW website. Questions can be directed to Amber Goss, Schools Manager for PFEW, by calling her office at 814-833-9576 ext. 6, or email.

Email Safety Tips – A Must Read for Every Employee

From MePush

See original article from MePush website.

EMAIL IS THE #1 THREAT

Hi, this is Andy Gritzer with MePush.  I just wanted to send out an email to assist with email safety.

Unfortunately, email has become the biggest concern regarding virus related incidents.  While there are measures in place to catch most viruses (spam filters and antivirus) the easiest way to prevent them is through proper handling of spam/malicious email.

I will assume that most of you receive spam email.  Spam filters will catch about 99% of spam that flows to your organization.  It’s the ones that get through that we need to worry about.  Below are some tips on how to avoid compromising your accounts, your computer, and your company’s network.  Really, all it comes down to is being aware and diligent.

Example of an organization’s spam filter statistics is in the below picture

 

 

NOTE:  I will use the terms “spoofing” and “phishing”.  Spoofing is a fraudulent practice in which an unknown source sends communication disguised as a known source.  Phishing is when an unknown source attempts to acquire information such as account credentials or credit card information.

Just because it says it’s from John Smith does NOT mean it is from John Smith.  You may receive an odd email from someone you have constant contact with.  Remember to look at the email address it is from and NOT just the name.  It might show John’s return address as “[email protected]” (just an example) when the reality his email address is [email protected]

That being said we are at the point where there are a lot of spam/fake/phishing emails being sent via “spoofed” addresses.  The name AND email address will look proper.  It will say it is from John Smith with an email address of [email protected]  But when you hit reply it goes to another account completely.  Anyone can spoof anyone.  Which makes it very difficult to determine what is legitimate or not.  Also, check to make sure the signature (if there is one) matches the sender.

 

 

I am not trying to scare you; just please assume anything that comes in with a link or attachment is NOT legitimate.  Make sure you cover your bases when opening attachments from known senders and especially UNKNOWN senders.

Were you expecting [email protected] to send you a document?  Does the document pertain to something you do at your workplace or a shared interest?  If not, do NOT open it.  Contact the sender and inquire about it to make sure before opening.  A lot of times the sender or the sender’s organization was compromised at one point and you might just be receiving spoofed emails.

You receive an email from Microsoft, Google, DocuSign, etc. asking you for your account credentials. These can look very legitimate.  No self-respecting company would every ask you provide your login credentials to them.  They have them already.  A dead giveaway is if you happen to click on the link and it takes you to a landing page asking to select what type of account (Microsoft, yahoo, google, adobe) and to enter your email address and password.  Also, ask yourself, do I even have an Office 365 account?  If not, then chances are it’s a scam/phishing email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you oversee finances never make a requested wire transfer or open a random invoice.  These phishing experts target specific people/positions within companies.  They will get the name of the CEO, send an email that looks like it is from the CEO to the CFO requesting a money transfer.  Please check the language of the email.  If it sounds generic, chances are it isn’t valid.  We have had clients do this at great financial loss.

 

 

So please just keep this in mind when opening email.  Email has generally been the part of our jobs/home that takes very little effort.  You never really had to pay much attention when looking at your email.  Email was just, email.  Unfortunately, now we need to be very careful.  So, if something seems a little odd, chances are it might be.

I hope these tips were helpful!

Thank you, Andrew Gritzer

Reference-Based Pricing: A Unique Self-Insured Option for Employers

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

It’s no secret that health care pricing varies widely and has a direct impact to the bottom line for employers of all types and sizes.

As health care costs continue to increase, employers have sought innovative and creative strategies to lower expenses. One strategy, which has gained momentum, is referenced-based pricing (RBP). The RBP approach typically doesn’t involve a
traditional insurance company or provider network negotiating covered services for the health plan. Instead, RBP sets limits on the amount a plan will pay for certain medical services.

Smart Business spoke to Michael Galardini, director of sales at JRG Advisors, to break down how RBP works and whether it might be right for you. 

How does RBP work with health plans?

RBP sets limits on the amount a health plan pays for procedures or services performed in hospitals and free-standing surgical centers without the use of a PPO network. For physician charges, a national PPO platform is utilized. The limits are based on a percentage above the amount that Medicare pays, which is based on the cost that each facility files with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The limits are selected by employers in consultation with their benefits advisor, to provide a reasonable and fair profit to the provider. A good RBP model considers both Medicare reimbursement and the actual cost to deliver the service; and adds a fair profit margin for the provider.

If the employee is balance billed for the difference, the RBP provider assigns legal counsel to the employee, at no cost, including defending the RBP payment in court.

Employers often partner with a third party administrator (TPA) to establish the best limits for a given medical procedure. The TPA helps conduct market research and negotiate the most appropriate deals with providers. Finding a reliable TPA, which works well with your company and the RBP provider, is crucial for negotiating the best price for your employees.

What are the advantages of using RBP?

Because there is no assigned network for hospitals and surgical centers, covered individuals may seek treatment at any facility they desire. RBP generally provides anywhere from 60 percent to 70 percent savings from billed medical charges. Typical PPOs only provide 40 percent to 50 percent from billed charges.

Hospital billed charges are taken from a charge master that each hospital maintains. The charge master is a list of the retail price of services that the facility charges for patients without insurance, or network discounts. The charge master changes from time to time, however, generally the charges are about 800 percent to 1,000 percent above the amount that Medicare pays the facility. Even after PPO discounts are applied, employer health plans are paying 400 percent to 500 percent above the amount that Medicare pays.

Are there any drawbacks to RBP?

Given the complexity of RBP, employers and employees need to carefully consider a number of things and be properly educated on how RBP will work for their employees. It is vital to work with a trusted partner that is reliable and experienced in the RBP process.

Furthermore, not using an experienced partner (and its legal advocacy) could potentially leave you and your employees vulnerable to providers attempting to balance bills. While the potential for payment disputes between employers, participants and health care providers always exists over RBP, there has been little RBP litigation to date. Litigation is always a potential threat to both the employer and employees, but disagreements over these issues are typically resolved by negotiation.

RBP can be an innovative strategy for lowering health care costs. As the market continues to evolve, employers are seeking cost reductions. The RBP option is unique in its ability to potentially reduce costs and create informed consumers. Is your business ready to investigate this innovative approach?

Are You an Applicable Large Employer?

From ChamberChoice

An employer who employed an average of at least 50 full-time employees per month during the prior calendar year is an applicable large employer (ALE) for Affordable Care Act (ACA) purposes. ALE status must be determined each year, and ALEs are subject to the ACA employer shared responsibility and information reporting provisions for offers of minimum essential coverage to employees. There are many items to consider in determining whether an employer is an ALE. The first question an employer must consider is how are full-time employees defined under the ACA? Full-time employees include an employee who works 30 hours or more per week or employees working 130 or more hours in a calendar month.

Employers must also include full-time equivalent employees in the count of full-time employees. Full-time equivalent employees are not full-time employees; instead, the number of full-time equivalent employees is determined by combining the number of hours of service for all part-time and variable hours employees working 120 hours or less during the month and dividing that total by 120. This number only counts towards the total number of full-time employees for that month for determining if the employer is an ALE – it will not change an employee from part-time to full-time status for purposes of whether an offer of coverage must be made.

Employers who exceed 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) are not considered ALEs where the employer employs seasonal workers if certain conditions apply. First, the employer’s total workforce must only exceed 50 full-time employees for 120 or fewer days during the year. Second, the employees who exceed 50 full-time employees during those 120 or fewer days must be seasonal workers. Seasonal workers are generally defined as employees who work on a temporary or seasonal basis, such as retail employees who work during the holiday season or summer staff at a swimming pool.

Companies with common ownership may be part of a controlled group which requires employers to aggregate the total number of employees across the group in order to determine whether included companies are ALEs. The employees of every company within a controlled group determine whether any company within the controlled group is an ALE. Also, for a calendar year in which an employer is an ALE, the regulations applicable to ALEs apply to each company within the controlled group regardless of whether the individual company has 50 or more full-time employees or full-time equivalent employees.

The final item to consider is the definition of a common law employee. Common law employees are generally defined as workers whose work schedule is controlled by the employer (rather than the worker or another employer). Employers should closely review the job duties and expectations for workers from temporary staffing agencies and who are classified as independent contractors because their employment status can be easily confused, and they may be considered common law employees who count towards an employer’s full-time employee or full-time equivalent employee number. Failure to correctly account for these employees can result in a false conclusion as to whether an employer is an ALE.

Compliance is a critical component of any successful benefits plan. Contact our Compliance Team by email or at 888-279-5150 for help with ACA and ERISA requirements that may impact your business.

This article gives a basic overview of recent regulation as in effect on the date this notice was created. Please be aware that the determination of the requirements and the application of these rules to each employee welfare plan may differ for a number of variables. Nothing in this notice should be construed as legal advice.