Bloomsburg University Extends Spring Break Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Bloomsburg University students are on Spring Break the week of March 9-13. As of Tuesday, March 10th, the University does not have any reported or confirmed cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).  However, over health and safety concerns for campus and the surrounding community, spring break for students is being extended by one week, with classes anticipated to resume on Monday, March 23.  During this extension, faculty will be provided training, both locally and remotely, specific to online course delivery methods.  This will enable continuity of instruction if further delays of students’ return to campus become warranted. 

Welcome Jim & Vera’s Hoagie Hut

More than 430 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 Jim & Vera’s Hoagie Hut to help us fulfill our mission.

Jim & Vera’s Hoagie Hut offers a variety of hoagies, sandwiches, cheesesteaks, hoagie trays, desserts, and beverages.  Visit their Facebook page for more information.

 

Partnership Seeks to Reduce Substance Use Disorder in the Region

Adrienne Mael (right), President and CEO of the United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties recently welcomed Olivia Oden (left), as the organization’s new stigma reduction and education coordinator.

The United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties along with Geisinger Health Plan have joined forces on a two-year program for those struggling with substance use disorder. A $118,500 grant from Pennsylvania’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency enabled the United Way to hire Olivia Oden as their new stigma reduction and education coordinator as well as expand their current United in Recovery program. The Columbia Montour Chamber is a partner organization in United in Recovery to help individuals lead more healthy and productive lives.

“Through a cooperative agreement with Geisinger, Olivia is also an employee with the health insurance company which gives her access to its vast resources and network of providers,” said Adrienne Mael, President and CEO the United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties. The main goal of this program is to reduce stigma surrounding addiction, support individuals in recovery, and reduce opioid overdose deaths. Last year the country saw 192 overdose deaths per day, and Pennsylvania is the third-worst state impacted by overdose related deaths.

“We have to realize the disease of substance use can affect anyone,” said Oden. “One in three people are directly affected by substance use disorder or SUD, if not in their immediate family then someone they know.”

Oden’s outreach will include presentations to schools, health care professionals, civic organizations, and employers in an effort to change society’s view on those suffering from substance use disorder. In addition, the United Way is also hosting Recovery Resources Events throughout the year. These community events bring local and state organizations together in one place to offer a judgement-free atmosphere where those in recovery or active addiction can find free assessments, childcare resources, counseling and so much more. The United Way has developed a resource guide (link to attached file) to assist individuals struggling with substance use or other issues.

For more information on the United in Recovery program, upcoming Recovery Resources Events, or the United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties in general, visit www.cmcuw.org or call (570) 784-3134.

Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 3/30/2020 at 11:30 a.m. Updates in bold

Business Resources

The Wolf administration has issued guidelines related to the order for all “non-life-sustaining businesses” in the Commonwealth to close their physical locations.  The updated guidelines can be found here. Enforcement actions against businesses that don’t comply with the governor’s order began at 8 a.m. on Monday, March 23.

If there are questions about whether an organization needs to close, they 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 direction for individuals to protect themselves from getting the virus.

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

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also offers advice on policies and workplace practices in planning and responding to the virus.

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.

Pennsylvania’s Shared-Work Program is a voluntary program that provides employers facing a decline in business with an alternative to layoffs.
• Shared-Work preserves employees’ jobs and the employer’s trained workforce during disruptions to the firm’s regular business activity by allowing the employer to reduce the work hours of a group of employees as an alternative to a layoff.
•Employees covered by an approved Shared-Work plan receive a percentage of their normal UC benefit while they work the reduced work schedule, assuming they are otherwise eligible for UC.

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 to provide diagnostic testing for coronavirus, 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

– 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.

– Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA) will provide loans of up to $100,000 to for-profit businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees. The interest rate for the program is 0% except for agricultural producers in which case the interest rate is 2% fixed for the life of the loan. Loan terms are three years with a 12-year amortization. In addition, 1) No payments will be due and payable during the first year, 2) Principal and if applicable, interest payments will be due monthly for years two and three, and 3) A balloon payment will be due and payable at the end of the third year. 

Loan applications for businesses in Columbia and Montour counties can now be submitted through SEDA-COG.

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 amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payroll during this emergency. These loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward. The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship has developed a FAQ document to help small businesses learn more about the program. The administration soon will release more details including the list of lenders offering loans under the program. 

– The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan 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. 

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

A growing number of companies are offering their online tools, classes, and resources at no cost in response to the impact on small-business owners from the coronavirus. 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.  
Tuesday, March 31 9:00 – 10:30
https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/26685

Wednesday, April 1 9:00 – 10:30
https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/26686

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.

Explore Member Offerings at Chamber’s Orientation

Anyone is welcome to attend the Columbia Montour Chamber’s Member Orientation, which will be held at one of its members, Hampton Inn, Thursday, March 12th from 8:00-9:30 a.m..  Whether you are a new or existing member, this orientation will help you discover the multitude of benefits and marketing opportunities offered through the Chamber, as well as its ongoing initiatives aimed at economic and community development.  A light breakfast and beverages will be served, free of charge.

Register today online or by calling 570-784-2522.

Member Orientations are sponsored by USG, Kawneer, Bloomsburg University, SEKISUI SPI, PPL Electric Utilities, and Geisinger