Shared-Work Program Provides an Alternative to Employee Layoffs

Pennsylvania’s Shared-Work program is a tool that that allows an employer to temporarily reduce the work hours of a group of employees while supplementing their lost wages with partial unemployment benefits rather than laying off any employees. Employees covered by the Shared-Work plan receive a percentage of their unemployment compensation (UC) weekly benefit amount while they work the reduced schedule, if they are otherwise eligible for UC.

Shared-Work plans empower employers to retain a trained and qualified workforce during periods of slowdown, and quickly ramp up operations without the expense of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.

Since January 2020, more than 900 shared-work plans have been successfully put into action from employers across the commonwealth. With changing dynamics in the modern-day work place, Pennsylvania’s Shared-Work program may help businesses.  

Who is included in the Shared-Work plan?

Employers select which employees will be included in the Shared-Work plan. A plan must apply to one “affected unit” which is defined as a department, shift, or other organizational unit. Employers may have more than one plan if there is more than one affected unit. For example, all employees working the night shift may be one unit. All employees in the affected unit must participate; however, an employee who has been employed in the affected unit for less than three months, or an employee who would work 40 or more hours a week under the plan may not participate. There must be at least two participating employees, determined without regard to corporate officers.

How much will the employees’ hours be reduced under the Shared-Work program?

After identifying the affected unit(s), the employer selects the percentage by which the employees’ hours are reduced, referred to as the “reduction percentage.” The employer determines the reduction percentage based on business needs, but it must be at least 20 percent and cannot exceed 40 percent of the employees’ normal weekly hours. The reduction percentage must be the same for all employees participating in the Shared-Work plan. For example, if an employee normally works 40 hours per week, and the reduction percentage is 20 percent, then the employee’s hours are reduced by 20 percent and he or she would work 80 percent of 40 hours, or 32 hours per week. If an employee in the same unit works 30 hours per week, then he or she would work 80 percent of 30 hours, or 24 hours per week.

How are UC benefits determined under the plan?

For each week in the plan, an employee receives a percentage of his or her UC weekly benefit amount (WBA) equal to the reduction percentage. For example, if the employee’s WBA is $400 and the employee’s hours are reduced by 20 percent under the plan, the employee would receive 20 percent of $400 (or $80) in Shared-Work UC benefits.

What qualifications are required for participation?

To participate in Pennsylvania’s Shared-Work program, the employer must have filed all UC tax reports and paid all amounts due under PA UC Law, have a positive reserve account balance (for contributory employers) and have paid wages for the last 12 consecutive quarters, according to the department’s Office of UC Tax Services.

For more information and to view FAQs, forms and the brochure, visit www.uc.pa.gov/sharedwork .

CDC Updates Isolation and Quarantine Period for COVID Exposure

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC has shortened the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID-19 to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

Additionally, CDC is updating the recommended quarantine period for those exposed to COVID-19. For people who are unvaccinated or are more than six months out from their second mRNA dose (or more than 2 months after the J&J vaccine) and not yet boosted, CDC now recommends quarantine for 5 days followed by strict mask use for an additional 5 days. Alternatively, if a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure. Individuals who have received their booster shot do not need to quarantine following an exposure, but should wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.  For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day 5 after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

Isolation relates to behavior after a confirmed infection. Isolation for 5 days followed by wearing a well-fitting mask will minimize the risk of spreading the virus to others. Quarantine refers to the time following exposure to the virus or close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. Both updates come as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the U.S. and reflects the current science on when and for how long a person is maximally infectious.

Click HERE for additional guidance.

Bill Would Require Legislative Approval for I-80 Bridge Tolling Plan

PennDOT believes it has the authority to implement tolls on Interstate 80 bridges to pay for replacement and maintenance and is advancing a plan to begin tolling nine bridges beginning in 2023. While municipalities and business groups are mounting legal challenges to the PennDOT plan, a bill being considered in Harrisburg would require the legislature’s approval for tolling. The Chamber’s board of directors is supporting the bill with the hope of blocking the tolling and providing oversight over any future plans.

Senate Bill 382 would prescribe a more open and transparent process for future projects proposed under the Public Private Partnership (P3) law adopted in 2012. Specifically, a detailed analysis would have to be developed prior to any consideration by the P3 board, and a 30-day public comment period would be held following publication of the project in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. Additionally, any P3 project that includes a user fee would require legislative approval.

The legislation passed in the House in mid-November and is awaiting final consideration in the Senate. As Governor Wolf is expected to veto the bill, the Chamber is gathering information on the various lawsuits across the state that challenge the legal authority of PennDOT to implement tolling.

Chamber Calls for Employers to be Able to Set Vaccination Policies

As OSHA is implementing the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more workers to require vaccinations or weekly testing, two bills are advancing through the state legislature that would restrict vaccination policies for employees. Previously, the board of directors of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution opposing the OSHA ETS. This month, the board sent a letter (link to attached) to state and federal lawmakers asking that employers be allowed to develop their own vaccination policies.

PA Senate Bill 471 would prohibit employers from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, and House Bill 2013 would implement a Constitutional amendment that would limit employers’ ability to manage employees based on vaccination status. Neither bill has been voted on in its respective chamber. However, both would create a conflict for employers that have to comply with the ETS.

The ETS and both bills create more work for employers in compliance and reporting. They also set up collective bargaining and employee relations issues. With the challenges employers are having hiring and retaining quality employees, the Chamber board believes that employers should be permitted to develop their vaccination policies in the best interests of their employees and business operations.

Member News – December 22, 2021

MARC (Montour Area Recreation commission) Announces Release of New Chillisquaque Creek Watershed Mapping and Visitors’ Information

Click here to view it 

Blessed with abundant natural resources and more than 300 years of recorded settlement history, the Chillisquaque Creek Watershed is rich in history and resources alike.  Encompassing an area of approximately 112 square miles in Montour, Northumberland, Columbia, and Lycoming Counties, the watershed includes more than 200 miles of waterways, including approximately 17.5 miles of the Chillisquaque Creek, from Washingtonville Borough to the creek’s confluence with the West Branch Susquehanna River, navigable by small watercraft during much of the year.

Numerous organizations – including the Montour County Conservation District, Chillisquaque-Limestone Watershed Association, Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Bucknell University, Washingtonville Revitalization Committee, and MARC – have been working to rehabilitate, protect, and promote the Chillisquaque Creek Watershed.

MARC recognizes the tremendous potential of the Chillisquaque Creek and the roadways, landscapes, and rural communities within the watershed and is working to promote the cultural and recreational opportunities available in the area.  With funding support by the Community Giving Foundation’s 2021 Danville Youth in Philanthropy program and the Montour County Commissioners’ Tourism Fund, administered by the Columbia-Montour Visitors Bureau, MARC has been working to identify, map, and promote the many resources within the watershed. 

MARC is pleased to release the new Chillisquaque Creek Watershed map and web page, intended to familiarize residents and visitors alike with the many natural and cultural points of interest throughout the watershed and to better allow all to understand the interrelatedness of the watershed’s many features.  MARC thanks the following contributors for their significant support of this project: Tyler Dombroski – Mayor, Washingtonville Borough; Kit Kelley – Washingtonville Revitalization Committee; and Van Wagner – local environmental educator.

In the coming weeks and months, MARC will be releasing new brochures and mapping of bicycling routes in and around the Chillisquaque Creek watershed and a new paddlers’ map and brochure for the Chillisquaque Creek.  In partnership with the Washingtonville Revitalization Committee and other partners, MARC plans to host a stream cleanup event and a paddling event on the Chillisquaque Creek in 2022 and is working to develop new public access locations along the stream.

MARC thanks the many individuals and organizations working toward a bright future for the Chillisquaque Creek Watershed and the Montour County region.  The combined efforts make Montour County an increasingly great place to live, work, learn, and play.


McKonly & Asbury to Host January Webinar: Best Practices in Cash Flow Management

This free, one-hour webinar will take place on Thursday, January 27 at 2:00 p.m. EDT. One “Other (Management)” CPE credit is available for this webinar. The level for this CPE is basic and there are no prerequisites for attending. This program is a live webinar which offers the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the presenters.

Attendees of this McKonly & Asbury Webinar will gain insight on the following:
  • How cash flow is defined
  • Best practices in review of profit and loss and balance sheet activity
  • Cash flow and impacts to valuation

Join David Blain, Partner and Director of Entrepreneurial Support & Client Accounting along with Lindsay Young, Senior Manager and Leader in the Entrepreneurial Services Group as they provide guidance on best practices in cash flow management to help organizations and businesses best monitor use of cash for business decision making purposes


Bloomsburg Children’s Museum Announces Gingerbread Competition Winners

The Bloomsburg Children’s Museum, 2 West 7th Street, is currently hosting its 6th Annual Gingerbread Competition. They received over 50 entries. The gingerbread creations are currently on display during regular Museum hours (Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). They will remain on display through Saturday, January 8, 2022.

Winners are listed below and pictures can be found here.

Winners:

1st Place Child- Eleanor Harte
2nd Place Child- Ellen Mika
3rd Place Child- Raleigh Olsen
Honorable Mention Child-Addison McCormick
Honorable Mention Child- Sullivan Harte
Honorable Mention Child- Isaac Allbeck 
Honorable Mention Child-Eleanor Houser
1st Place Family/Adult- Megan Allen
2nd Place Family/Adult- Nicole Allbeck
3rd Place Family/Adult- Christine Luschas
Director Choice Family/Adult- Karen Rauch
Staff Pick Family/Adult- Denise Bosworth
1st Place Kits- Etta Leighton
2nd Place Kits- Megan Allen
3rd Place Kits- Jen Spangler
1st Place Schools- Emmie Rowe from Central Columbia High School
2nd Place Schools-Evan Huckans & Izaiah Wynings from Central Columbia High School
3rd (tie) Schools- Kylie, Tessa, Madison from Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School
3rd (tie) Schools- Hannah, Laura, Darrien, Fabian from Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School
Staff Pick Schools- Hailee Blue and Mikayla Martinez from Columbia-Montour Area Vocational Technical School
1st Place Student- Hazel Gatski
2nd Place Student- Charlotte Olsen