Employer Survey Shows Business Interest in Assisting Workers with Childcare, Flexible Scheduling to Support Families

Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President and CEO Gene Barr issued the following statement upon the release of a joint report between the PA Chamber, PA Early Learning Investment Commission, and the Center for Rural Pennsylvania on childcare and the workforce:

“Families have long strived to balance work and raising children. This tension was made all the more obvious throughout the pandemic when business closures threw many Pennsylvania families’ childcare arrangements into chaos. As part of our ‘Bringing PA Back’ initiative, we teamed up with the PA ELIC and the Center for Rural PA to determine what employers across the Commonwealth are doing today to support families and their workforce and how we can help them in the future. The findings in this report include best practices for businesses and program administrators and, we hope, will help inform lawmakers developing public policy that strengthens childcare and the workforce.”

Key Report Findings:

  • Many employers have a workforce with moderate to high childcare needs.
  • While flexible work schedules and remote work arrangements are the most common solutions, Pennsylvania employers currently employ various strategies to assist with childcare.
  • During the pandemic, childcare emerged as one of the more significant reasons why employers believe they lost employees.
  • Most employers offered additional childcare supports during the pandemic to meet labor needs, with 41 percent planning to keep those supports in place after the pandemic ends.
  • There is strong interest among employers of all business sizes to support working families with childcare needs – most employers see it as a way to improve retention, recruitment, productivity and reputation.

A summary of the report is available here.

Montour County Considering Solar Energy Development

The Montour County Commissioners are considering amendments to the County Zoning Ordinance that would allow for the development of solar energy systems in the townships that fall under the County’s Planning Commission. The proposed changes are in response to the Montour Solar One project in Derry and Anthony townships on land owned by Talen Energy around the Montour Steam Electric Station. A public hearing regarding the proposed amendments will be held Thursday, July 22nd at 7 p.m. at the County Administration Center on East Front Street.

Last week, Montour Solar One hosted a Business After Hours at the Pine Barn Inn to provide an overview of the project and answer questions. Tele-town halls were also held within the past 9 months. Information about the proposed project is available at montoursolar.com.

The Board of Directors of The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce has encouraged zoning that allows for solar energy systems while reasonably protecting the environment and neighboring residents and businesses. The development of such projects provides an economic boost with temporary construction jobs and diversifies Pennsylvania’s renewable energy portfolio. In a letter to the Montour County Planning Commission in November, the Chamber suggested that zoning language should address development setbacks, glare, vegetative and other screenings, and provide for the responsible removal of the equipment at the end of the project or the useful life of the equipment.

A draft of the proposed amendments is available here.

June Jobs Report Shows Need for Workers

By Curtis Dubay, Senior Economist, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) June jobs report topline numbers are great. Digging into the data shows that more work is still needed to increase our workforce so we can maximize the prolonged economic boom we are in the beginning stages of.

The economy turned out 850,000 jobs, handily exceeding the consensus estimate of 700,000. The unemployment rate remained steady at 5.9% as 151,000 workers came back into the labor force. Wages grew 0.3% from May, and on an annual basis are up 3.6%.

With the 850,000 new jobs, there are 145.8 million jobs. That is 6.7 million below the February 2020 level of 152.5 million workers. At June’s pace, it would take another 8 months to get back to the pre-COVID employment level.

The less-good news is the workforce remains stubbornly small relative to where it should be given the reopening of the economy. The labor force was 161 million in June, down 3.4 million from February 2020.

The employment-population ratio is another way to look at the workforce. The Civilian Labor Force Participation data depends on definitions of who is working or looking for work, whereas the employment-population ratio looks solely at the segment of the population that is employed. In February of 2020, the ratio was 61.1%. Last month it was 58%, or 3.1 percentage points lower. That is a huge difference. If the employment-population ratio was the same in June as it was prior to COVID there would more than eight million more workers on the job.

Bottom line: Businesses are adding jobs at a rapid pace. Now we need to get workers into those jobs at a similarly rapid pace.


Taxation of PTE’s: Working Around the $10,000 SALT Cap

From McKonly & Asbury

Are your itemized deductions limited by the $10,000 SALT cap? New IRS guidance and state filings could provide a solution.

One of the changes made by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits the amount of state taxes deductible on an individual’s Schedule A to $10,000. Long story short – if you pay a lot of state tax, it reduces the amount you can deduct – that increases the tax you pay!

Not surprisingly, as soon as this was in place, states with high tax rates were trying to circumvent it. An initial solution involved allowing individuals to contribute to a “charitable” fund and take a corresponding credit to state taxes. This would have allowed individuals to deduct the amount as a charitable contribution rather than taxes on Schedule A, since contributions are much less likely to be limited. However, the IRS rejected this method since the contributions were just taxes in disguise.

In November 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-75. This notice offers proposed regulations stating the IRS will permit pass-through entity (PTE) level taxes, which allow owners of pass-through businesses to pay an additional state tax at the business level with an offsetting credit against their individual income tax liability. In simpler terms, business owners can pay state tax through their business so it is deductible there rather than on their 1040 where it could be limited.

Several states have already enacted PTE taxes. Connecticut has made the return mandatory, whereas other states including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin have voluntary PTE taxes. For the voluntary PTE taxes, some states require an election to be made, which may be irrevocable. More states are expected to follow this trend in 2021, including California which is currently in legislation.

Businesses will want to consider the effects before electing the PTE tax, as it could be detrimental to certain business owners. Taxpayers who file in multiple states can often get a credit for taxes paid to other states. However, many of these credits are tied to income taxes and won’t apply to taxes that are reclassified as entity-level payments. This could result in the entity paying PTE tax and the nonresident partner getting no credit, which could negate any benefit from deducting the PTE tax paid.

As with most tax issues, taxpayers will have to look at each state in question and their own personal fact pattern to determine whether electing a PTE tax will be beneficial to them. McKonly & Asbury can assist in these determinations. For more information on McKonly & Asbury’s State and Local Tax Services or for questions regarding this article, please contact Lindsey Waltemyer, SALT Leader and Tax Manager, at [email protected].

July 29 Webinar: 2021 State and Local Tax Update:

Join McKonly & Asbury on Thursday, July 29 at 2pm EST for its 2021 State and Local Tax Update webinar! Mark Heath, Partner and Director of Tax Services along with Lindsey Waltemyer, Manager and SALT Leader will be discussing the state tax implications of recent federal tax changes, including those changes related to COVID-19. Other topics to be covered include a discussion of states imposing new pass-through entity taxes; the various tax consequences of having employees working from home in other states; as well as voluntary disclosure agreements and when they can be beneficial to taxpayers. The webinar will round out with some state tax updates from the past year and will look at state comparisons and the trends in state taxation going forward.

You can learn more and register by clicking here.

Member News- July 7, 2021

Geisinger Medical Center, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center recognized for use of technology

 Geisinger Medical Center and Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center made Newsweek’s 2021 list of World’s Best Smart Hospitals for their commitment to innovation and advancement in health care. 

Only 250 hospitals worldwide were recognized, and Geisinger Wyoming Valley and Geisinger Medical Center ranked 119th and 149th, respectively. They are among only seven hospitals recognized in Pennsylvania and just 89 hospitals selected in the United States. Both medical centers are the only hospitals in their service areas to make the list, and they’re the only two Pennsylvania hospitals recognized outside of Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. 

Ranked hospitals were evaluated on five criteria: digital surgery, digital imaging, artificial intelligence (AI), telehealth and electronic medical records. 

More than 13,000 votes from hospital managers and health care professionals with backgrounds in health care technology were considered, and every nominated hospital was thoroughly researched and validated by a team of analysts at Newsweek. 

Geisinger has long embraced utilization of technology to improve quality of care, catalyze research, and make communication with providers and use of services easier for the patients and members it serves. 

Robotic-assisted surgeries allow a higher degree of precision, smaller incisions, less scarring, less pain and discomfort, and the ability to treat areas difficult to reach with the human hand. At Geisinger, the da Vinci Surgical System® is used for less-invasive general surgery, colorectal surgery, thoracic surgery, surgical oncology procedures, OBGYN procedures and urology surgery. Mako® robotic arm-assisted surgery is used to perform partial and total knee replacements and total hip replacements, and Geisinger is the sole provider of Mako joint-replacement surgery in the region it serves.

“We value the use of digital systems in our surgical procedures because we know more precise, less invasive surgery leads to better outcomes and shorter recovery times for our patients,” said Ron Beer, chief administrative officer for Geisinger’s northeast region. “We’re honored to be among Newsweek’s World’s Best Smart Hospitals, because it’s a reflection of our continued effort to provide the best possible care, closer to home, for our patients and members.”

Advanced imaging is used in a variety of diagnostic and surgical procedures at Geisinger. These include the cardiac catheterization labs where severe heart attacks and other cardiovascular issues are identified and treated swiftly, and the Comprehensive Stroke Centers — namely Geisinger Medical Center and Geisinger Wyoming Valley — that care for patients with complex strokes and neurovascular conditions. 

A robust electronic medical record and advancements in AI and machine learning are at the heart of research initiatives to detect risk of conditions like atrial fibrillation (A-fib) and even death. An innovative ECG Analysis Platform to detect A-fib risk, developed by Tempus in collaboration with Geisinger, was granted Breakthrough Device Designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this year. Geisinger is also using AI to improve imaging accuracy, diagnosis and follow-up care. A collaboration between Geisinger and Medial EarlySign to predict hospital admissions and complications was recently named runner-up out of more than 300 entries in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services AI Health Outcomes Challenge. 

Telemedicine has been a critical tool in some areas of care delivery for years at Geisinger, but the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic accelerated use of the technology across the system. Since March 2020, Geisinger has enhanced its capability to conduct telemedicine visits and now offers telehealth consultation in 72 specialties. 

“When the pandemic began, we expanded our telemedicine capacity to keep our patients safe by making sure they were able to keep their primary care and regular specialty appointments without exposure to COVID-19 infection,” said Megan Brosious, chief administrative officer in Geisinger’s central region. “We already knew telemedicine works, but we’ve learned it has more applications than we thought, has vast potential to reveal new and innovative ways of caring for our patients and members, and aligns with our vision of making better health easier for the communities we serve.” 

Adrienne Mael, Current President & CEO of United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties, Appointed as Interim President & CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way

Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way’s Board of Directors has named an interim President & CEO and concurrently has announced merger discussions and a national search for a permanent replacement following the resignation of its current leader.

Adrienne Mael, current President & CEO of United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties, has been appointed Interim President & CEO of Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way in addition to her responsibilities leading United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties, a position she has held for more than six years. Prior to leading United Way, Mael was the Downtown Manager for Bloomsburg. A native of Columbia County, Mael graduated from Bloomsburg University and holds a master’s degree in applied anthropology from the University of South Florida. 

Mael’s appointment and the search announcement follows the resignation of GSV United Way’s current President & CEO Joanne Troutman, who will step down in the coming days from the position she has also held for the last six years.

“I am thrilled to be joining the hardworking team at Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way,” Mael said. “Joanne Troutman has had an impressive career at United Way. She will be missed for many reasons, but possibly most importantly for her creativity and collaborative spirit. For many years Joanne and I have worked closely together co-creating programs, sharing staff, and building a strong bond between our nonprofits. It feels very natural to step in at this time as Interim President & CEO. I am excited to continue Joanne’s work as we build stronger communities together.”

Kristen Moyer, board president of GSV United Way, said, “While the GSVUW board and I will miss Joanne and her outstanding leadership, we are confident that Adrienne can step up to the challenge of serving as Interim President & CEO.  Our United Ways have collaborated on many programs, and we just see that this is a natural fit for us. We are excited to see where Adrienne will guide us as we move through this transition period. Finally, we wish Joanne the best as she starts a new journey in her career.”

As the transition transpires, the two organizations will also begin an exploratory discussion of a merger. The goal of a merger would be to maximize back-office operations and create more impact across the region.

Liz Masich, board chair of the United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties, said, “Our organizations have been partnering together on community impact initiatives and exploring shared staffing for many years. We are excited to have Adrienne Mael take on the Interim President/CEO role at GSVUW and deepen the connection between our two United Ways. Now more than ever, social service organizations must unite for the common good.  Some mergers make sense, and this is one of those mergers.  We strongly believe that our five-county area and our partner agencies will benefit from this endeavor.”

Masich added that a merger could help streamline workflow and create collaborations that strengthen programs and grant opportunities.

Joanne Troutman said, “Adrienne and I, as well as our organizations, have worked closely together on many major projects and priorities since we each joined United Way. Our personal and organizational values are well-aligned, so it feels natural that she would step into this role immediately. She is an amazing leader, and I feel confident that I’m leaving the organization in great hands.”

GSV United Way’s board of directors will release details about the search process for a permanent replacement in the coming days. For more information about the search, visit GSV United Way’s website at www.gsvuw.org.

Northeast Pennsylvania Business Center to Hold Job Fair

Join the Northeast Pennsylvania Business Center on August 28, 2021 – in person – for the 1st Annual NPBC Job Fair in the Industrial Building at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds. Over 30 employers will be present!
Visit the website for a complete listing of registered employers and to view the positions they are recruiting for. The website will be updated on a daily basis, so please check back often.
This job fair is organized by The Northeast Pennsylvania Business Center, in partnership with The River 105 & 103.5, the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, and The Good Insurance Group.