Member News – November 29, 2017

Member News

  • The Weis Center for the Performing Arts has added a free show featuring Lenny Kaye, acclaimed guitarist for the Patti Smith Group, to its schedule for Monday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. 

    Guitarist Lenny Kaye (photo by Dina Regine)

    As musician, writer, and record producer, Kaye has been intimately involved with the creative impulse that marks the music.  He has been a guitarist for poet-rocker Patti Smith since her band’s inception more than forty years ago, and has worked in the studio with such artists as Suzanne Vega, Jim Carroll, Soul Asylum, Allen Ginsberg, and Pussy Riot. He is the co-author of Waylon, the life story of Waylon Jennings; and his impressionistic study of the romantic singers of the 1930’s You Call It Madness: The Sensuous Song of the Croon, was published in 2004. His seminal and influential anthology of 60’s garage-rock, Nuggets, has long been regarded as defining a genre.

 

  • Secret Agent 23 Skodoo will bring its unique kid-friendly hip-hop to the Weis Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m.

    Secret Agent 23 Skidoo

    The performance is free and tickets are not required. More Fraggles than Wiggles, more Soul Train than Thomas the Train, Secret Agent 23 Skidoo is equal parts Dr. Seuss and Dr. Dre. This Grammy-winning artist combines the excitement of hip-hop with the magical world of childhood. With sophisticated instrumental funk and positive, witty wordplay, he has earned a loyal national following. His latest album, Infinity Plus One, took home the Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album of the Year. 

 

 

  • Dr. David Hamilton of Hamilton Dental Care and president of the The Jubilate Choir and Orchestra, is pleased to announce The Jubilate Choir and Orchestra’s Annual Christmas Concert, A Holy Night of Angels, will be on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. The choir and orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Alan J. Hack, is made up of community singers and instrumentalists along with Mrs. Kathy George accompanying on the piano. It invites all to join them at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 123 Market St., Bloomsburg for this exciting concert, a high point of the Christmas season celebration in our area!

 

  • Co., a social and professional networking group that is run by the United Way of Columbia and Montour County, will hold its annual holiday party on Tuesday, Dec. 12, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Filet 18, 18 W. Main St., Bloomsburg. Come and join this group of area professionals for a fun night of socializing and networking. Co. was founded to give area residents the opportunity to take advantage of all the great things this area has to offer. This group is for everyone, which means any age, ability, or area of residence. It holds multiple events each month. For more information about Co., including future events, visit its Facebook page

 

  • It is the season of giving and the Ken Pollock Auto Group, is continuing its yearly tradition of collecting new or slightly used coats, in all sizes to benefit local families. From now through Dec. 15, Ken Pollock Auto Group will be collecting coats that can be donated at any of its auto dealerships, including locally at Ken Pollock Ford Lincoln in Berwick. All coats collected in our area will be donated to the Columbia Child Development Program – Head Start for distribution to families in need. For more information, contact the Ken Pollock Auto Group at 570-655-4575. 

Career Hub Website to Help Young People Explore Career Options

Here at the Chamber, we continue to hear from our member businesses and organizations about the challenges of finding the talent needed to compete and grow. The Chamber and Chamber Foundation are working to increase the awareness of local opportunities among students and their parents in helping to meet future needs. Many members have also told us that their organizations would welcome chances to engage with students to help them better understand the career opportunities available in the region. 

We have been engaged with the Central PA Workforce Development Board (CPWDC), Career & Technical Education Administrators, PA CareerLink® staff, and other Chambers of Commerce to strategize the answer to the question: How might we get more students to see the value of pursuing a career in the skilled trades?  One idea being pursued is the creation of an online career hub with a searchable database that helps match students with local employers offering career experiences, such as company tours, job shadowing, internships, and educator in the workplace tours. 

The Columbia Montour Chamber and our Foundation are working with the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, CPWDC and PA CareerLink® to collaboratively develop the platform, and we are seeking your input to make sure a site serving our area will be responsive to your needs.  A brief survey has been developed to allow you to indicate what you would like to see in this career hub. We would appreciate it if you could let us know how this tool could be most beneficial to you and your business. To provide your input, please complete this survey by Wednesday, Dec. 6.

PA Chamber Signs Multi-Chamber Letter in Support of Federal Main Street Lending Bill

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The PA Chamber joined more than 100 other chambers of commerce nationwide earlier this month in signing on to a letter to Congress urging them to roll back regulations that were first implemented following the Great Recession and have since slowed lending and hurt economic opportunities for small business owners.

Specifically, the signatories support a bipartisan effort that was recently unveiled in the U.S. Senate that would offer relief to community and regional banks by reducing the threshold at which they are considered “risky.” This Main Street lending bill would greatly help small businesses and entrepreneurs secure the financing they need to invest, expand and create jobs. The U.S. Chamber is pushing for tailored bank rules and a properly calibrated regulatory system to help businesses grow.

“Since the financial crisis, community, mid-size, and regional banks have become regulated under an ineffective and inefficient ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that does not consider an institution’s actual risk profile,” the letter stressed. “We believe Congress should develop common-sense reforms for community, mid-size, and regional banks, which would help empower Main Street businesses.”

To read more about the U.S. Chamber’s engagement on this issue and receive updates, visit here. The Columbia Montour Chamber has not yet taken a position on this issue. 

Affordable Care Act Mandate Enforcement Continues

From ChamberChoice

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) taxpayers are required to maintain what is considered “minimum essential coverage” (MEC) health care for themselves, their spouses and dependents, as applicable. Failure to maintain MEC during any month in the year (with limited exceptions) exposes a taxpayer to a “shared responsibility” penalty. Because the tax penalty has the effect of requiring individuals to have health coverage, this aspect of the ACA is commonly referred to as the “individual mandate.”

Additionally, the ACA requires that an Applicable Large Employer (ALE) offer its full-time employees and dependents minimum essential coverage. That coverage must also provide minimum value and be affordable for the full-time employee. If the employer does not meet this responsibility, and a full-time employee receives subsidized coverage from the Marketplace, then the employer may be assessed a penalty. The amount of the penalty will depend on whether the offer of MEC was met (it must be offered to 95 percent of full-time employees and dependents), and whether the coverage offered was affordable minimum value. This penalty is referred to as the “employer mandate.”

The Internal Revenue Service is the agency that is responsible for the enforcement of both mandates.

Individual Mandate

For individuals who were covered with minimum essential coverage in 2015, coverage providers began providing individuals with a Form 1095-B or 1095-C in 2016. This information was also provided to the IRS as assistance with the administration and enforcement of the individual mandate. These forms are required to be provided every year in January as long as the ACA is in effect.

Taxpayers use the information from a Form 1095-B or 1095-C to indicate on their 1040 tax filing whether they and everyone on their returns had health coverage, were exempt from the health coverage requirement, or are making a penalty payment. In response to President Trump’s executive order telling agencies to exercise authority and discretion to reduce potential burdens under the ACA, the IRS accepted 2017 tax returns, regardless of whether the health coverage information was or was not provided. Thus, the tax filing process may have been delayed, but it was not rejected.

In mid-October, the IRS stated that for the 2018 tax filings, electronic taxpayer returns that do not indicate meeting the ACA health coverage requirements or are not paying the penalty will be rejected. If a taxpayer files a paper return, the IRS provides it could suspend processing of the return and delay any taxpayer refund if the filing omits information addressing the individual shared responsibility.

Employer Mandate
As to the employer mandate, the IRS has confirmed that employers are still subject to the mandate and compliance is expected. There are indications that the IRS will begin mandate enforcement and will begin issuing penalty notices. Take note, “indications” does not mean a confirmed statement from either the IRS or
the Administration.

As a reminder, an ALE’s ACA reporting obligation requires that it must provide its full-time employees a Form 1095-C by Jan. 31 of every year. The employer then files a Form 1094-C with the IRS attaching copies of the 1095-C distributed to employees.

In 2016, the IRS sent letters notifying employers that they may be noncompliant with their ACA reporting obligations. This communication gave employers the opportunity to either file their ACA returns late, or provide further information to the IRS. However, receipt of a letter, or actually not receiving a letter, was not a determination that the employer would, or would not be penalized.

Conclusion
The IRS’ guidance on the collection of information under the individual and employer mandates is a reminder that the Affordable Care Act is still a viable law and requires compliance. The ultimate enforcement
of the ACA mandate provisions by the agency remains to be seen and probably relies on further Administration guidance. In the meantime, employers should continue their ACA compliance strategy in order to avoid possible penalties. If that strategy consisted of not complying with the mandate, then a possible strategy review may need to be considered.

Businesses & Individuals Encouraged to Explore Health Insurance Options During Open Enrollment

Panelists at the recent community health insurance forum included (L-R); Craig Pritts, ChamberChoice; Craig Shively, Geisinger Health Plan; Sandy Darlington, Columbia Montour Area Agency on Aging; and Mark Middlebrook, PA Health Access Network.

As evaluating and selecting health insurance in today’s ever-changing environment is confusing, resources exist to help individuals and businesses choose the best option. At a recent community forum co-sponsored by the Chamber, panelists advised people on the marketplace to reevaluate their coverage. This year’s timeline for making changes is considerably shorter than in previous years, as open enrollment ends Dec. 15.

Recent changes to the Affordable Care Act are significantly impacting health insurance marketplace rates, particularly with silver-level plans, according to the panelists. In some cases, gold-level plans with better benefits can be competitive with silver plans. Group plans have also seen smaller annual increases, compelling small business owners to revisit the overall affordability of having an employer-sponsored plan.

The forum, held Nov. 15 at The Greenly Center, was co-sponsored by the United Way of Columbia and Montour County. Panelists included representatives of Geisinger Health Plan, the Columbia Montour Area Agency on Aging, the PA Health Access Network, and ChamberChoice, the Chamber’s member benefits program. The PA Health Access Network offers the services of free navigators to help individuals register and enroll with the marketplace. ChamberChoice agents can also help individuals select plans and work with members to set up group plans for employers, including health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts. Certified counselors at the Agency on Aging can work with anyone of any age who is eligible for Medicare. Geisinger Health Plan has local representatives to help individuals and businesses understand their options on and off the marketplace.