Governor to Move Columbia County to Yellow on May 22

Today, May 15th, Governor Wolf announced that Columbia County will move from the red to the yellow phase at 12:01 a.m. next Friday, May 22nd. This change lifts the stay at home order for individuals and allows more businesses to resume operations, with safety protocols in place.

Businesses that remain closed under the yellow phase include indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities, personal care services (salons, barbers, spas), entertainment, indoor malls, and restaurants and bars for dine-in. Additional details and guidance for businesses allowed to reopen is available on the Chamber’s website.

With the governor’s announcement, the resolution passed by the Columbia County Commissioners is nullified.

Columbia County Commissioners Vote to go to Yellow Phase

Today, May 13th, the Columbia County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to move the county from the red to yellow phase related to Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 reopening plan. While the change is scheduled to take effect Friday, May 15th, the commissioners have offered to comply with the red phase if the Governor announces moving Columbia County to the yellow phase by the 22nd. The PA Supreme Court has ruled that the governor has the authority to order businesses to close under a disaster declaration. 

During the meeting, Columbia County District Attorney Thomas Leipold stated that he would advise local law enforcement against prosecution of businesses that resumed operations, as long as they comply with safety protocols issued by the Department of Health. The commissioners cautioned that the county cannot defend businesses against any enforcement actions taken by the state. On Monday, Governor Wolf outlined consequences to counties and businesses that do not abide by his order to remain closed:

  • Counties will not be eligible for federal stimulus discretionary funds the state receives and intends to provide to counties with populations of fewer than 500,000.
  • Businesses that do not abide by the law risk liability insurance coverage.
  • Restaurants that reopen for dine-in service will be at risk of losing their liquor license.
  • Other businesses that reopen will be at risk of losing occupancy permits and state-issued licenses.

The governor did not publicly indicate any plan for identifying and penalizing businesses that violate the order.

Several bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate in Harrisburg that would limit the governor’s role as it relates to business closures and give the authority of easing restrictions to the counties. Gov. Wolf has previously vetoed legislation with similar intentions.

 

 

Welcome Freas Farm Winery

More than 435 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 Freas Farm Winery to help us fulfill our mission.

Freas Farm Winery is located outside of Berwick, in the village of Summerhill.  They began producing wine in the fall of 2013 and bottling in spring 2014, offering PA Preferred farm to table wines.  For additional information, visit their website or Facebook page. 

 

Welcome Harry’s Sporting Goods

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 Harry’s Sporting Goods to help us fulfill our mission.

Harry’s Sporting Goods is located in downtown Berwick. They carry a variety of brands, and specialize in athletic goods including sneakers, clothing, equipment, and more. For additional information, visit their website or Facebook page. 

Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 5/27/2020 at 4:30 p.m. Updates in bold

We appreciate the ongoing support of all of our members, including our Visionary Members: Bloomsburg University, First Columbia Bank & Trust, Geisinger, Kawneer, PPL Electric Utilities, USG, & SEKISUI KYDEX

 

Business Reopening & Operating

Montour County will move from the yellow to green phase on May 29th. Columbia County moved from the red to yellow phase on May 22nd.

These changes lift the stay at home order for individuals and allows more businesses to resume operations, with safety protocols in place.  Businesses that remain closed under the yellow phase include indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities, personal care services (salons, barber shops, spas), entertainment, indoor malls, and restaurants and bars for dine-in.

Updated guidance for yellow and green phase operations is below. (Updated 5/27/20)

Guidance for general business operations in the green phase is provided here.

A FAQ issued by the Wolf Administration provides additional guidance for business operations.

Specific guidance for restaurants and bars is provided here.

Specific guidance for the summer recreation industry is provided here.

Specific guidance for the construction industry is provided here.

A required notification poster for employees is provided here.

CDC Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility

A FAQ providing additional clarification on cleaning and safety is provided here.


Protection Equipment and Cleaning Supplies & Services

 

Hand sanitizer, masks, cleaning products, plastic barriers
(Contact individual stores for in-stock items)

  • Coles Hardware – 1089 Columbia Blvd., Bloomsburg
  • Commercial Stainless – 570-387-8980 (glass/plexiglass barriers only)
  • Renco Ace Hardware – 2251 Columbia Blvd., Bloomsburg
  • Wal-Mart – 100 Lunger Drive, Bloomsburg

Cleaning services

  • 3B Consultant Services – 570-799-5774
  • MaxWorx – 272-202-4435
  • Marr Development – 570-416-0570
  • ServPro of Columbia Montour & Sullivan Counties – 570-759-0966

Members that provide these products or services and are not listed should contact the Chamber.  


Financial Assistance

A webinar discussing the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, Paycheck Protection Program, Employee Retention Credit, and other resources is available on the Chamber’s YouTube channel.

Federal loan programs

PPP and EIDL loans are being processed. Local financial institutions are still accepting PPP applications. The EIDL application portal has been reopened for agricultural businesses only including those engaged in the production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)).

– The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides loans to small businesses, including sole proprietors and self-employed individuals, as well as some non-profit organizations, that maintain their payroll during the emergency. These loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward. 

  • The most up to date information and application form are available on the U.S. Treasury’s website
  • Considerations for non-profit organizations are available here.

Applications can be submitted to approved lenders. Contact your commercial lender or banking institution for specific application requirements.

The SBA has provided information regarding how to apply for loan forgiveness. 

  • The loan forgiveness application is available here.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce provides a guide to help borrowers understand the process by which their loan forgiveness amount will be calculated and the overall approach of the forgiveness process.

– The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program provides businesses with less than 500 employees working capital loans of up to $2 million. Click here for basic details about the program. 

Applicants can obtain up to a $10,000 advance on EIDLs. The advance is available as part of the full application and will be transferred into the account provided after the application is submitted. The amount of each advance will be determined by the number of the applicant’s pre-disaster (i.e., as of January 31, 2020) employees. The advance will provide $1,000 per employee up to a maximum of $10,000.

Click here for additional information about the advance.

Businesses needing assistance in applying for an SBA loan can contact the Small Business Development Center network.

Columbia & Luzerne County businesses – wilkes.edu/sbdc
Montour County businesses – bucknell.edu/sbdc

Federal tax credit programs

– The CARES Act also created a new employee retention tax credit for employers who are closed, partially closed, or experiencing significant revenue losses as a result of COVID-19. The Employee Retention Credit is a fully refundable tax credit for employers equal to 50 percent of qualified wages (including allowable qualified health plan expenses) that eligible employers pay their employees after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. The maximum amount of qualified wages taken into account with respect to each employee for all calendar quarters is $10,000, so that the maximum credit for an eligible employer for qualified wages paid to any employee is $5,000.

Click here for details from the IRS.

Local programs

– SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) has created a loan program with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. For-profit businesses can apply for loans of at least $10,000 with an interest rate of 3.25%. Funds can be used for working capital and can be disbursed based on past working capital expenses. No payments are due in the first six months. There is a limited pool of funds available so interested businesses should apply now as soon as possible.

There is a $500 underwriting fee and a $100 filing fee.

For more information, visit https://seda-cog.org/covid-19/ or contact SEDA-COG’s Business Finance Department at [email protected]

– 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.

– The Central Susquehanna Community Foundation has activated its Disaster Relief Fund to support 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Lower-Luzerne, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union Counties. The Foundation is specifically interested in helping front-line organizations maintain their operations and respond to increased demand from clients during this critical time.

A second grant round will be announced on June 1, 2020.

Donations to the Fund can be made online at csgiving.org/disaster-relief or mailed to Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, Attn: Disaster Relief Fund, 725 West Front Street, Berwick, PA 18603.

Private programs

Employees of bars, restaurants, cafes and nightclubs might be eligible for a grant through the Restaurant Strong Fund, a partnership between the Greg Hill Foundation and Sam Adams. To learn more and apply, visit: restaurantstrong.org/apply-for-grant

– A growing number of companies have set up relief funds, online tools, classes, and other resources at no cost in response to the impact on small-business owners. This link contains a list that Inc. is curating and continuously updating.


Business Tax Deadlines Extended

In addition to extending tax filing and payment deadlines for individuals, the Commonwealth has also extended a number of business tax deadlines, including moving the due date for corporations with tax returns due in May to August 14, 2020 and removing the requirement for some businesses to make prepayments of Sales and Use Tax for April, May and June 2020.

Full details are available on the PA Department of Revenue’s website


Unemployment, Benefits & HR Issues

 

 

 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to individuals not eligible for regular benefits, including the self-employed and those who have exhausted all rights to such benefits. Click here for more information and to apply for PUA. Qualifying self-employed individuals will need to submit a copy of the Governor’s order closing businesses, available here

The PA Department of Labor and Industry provides additional UC guidance for employers with impacted employees.

New temporary paid sick leave and Family and Medical Leave Act programs are 100% reimbursable by the federal government. The effective date of both programs is April 1 and they expire December 31. Both programs are in addition to any leave the employer already offers. Click here for a guide for employers from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Click here for details from the IRS about the tax credits for paid leave.

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a required posting and FAQ regarding the FFCRA which went 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


Small Business Recovery Program

The Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania Zeigler College of Business is establishing a Small Business Recovery Program (SBRP) to assist local businesses in recovery from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know these are challenging days for small businesses throughout the region, and the Zeigler College of Business wants to be a partner to help solve those problems,” said Todd Shawver, dean of the Zeigler College of Business.”

The SBRP will assist regional small business with any aspect of their business, except for financial assistance. These services can include, but not limited to:
• Professional sales assistance
• Social media and marketing strategy
• Business strategy redevelopment
• Cost structures and monitoring
• Tax guidance
• Open to customizing services depending on business needs.

“This will be a fabulous learning opportunity for our students, under the supervision of our amazing faculty,” said Shawver. “It will provide the subject matter expertise necessary to provide guidance for our small business and assist them in recovering from this negative economic impact.”

Anyone wishing to access the services of the SBRP can do so by filling out a request form that can be found here