Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 10/18/2021 at 1:30 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, First Keystone Community Bank, Geisinger, Kawneer, PPL Electric Utilities, USG, & SEKISUI KYDEX
 

Business Operations

On Thursday, September 9, President Biden issued executive orders regarding new policies to combat COVID-19. The White House has released a document summarizing the orders, which can be found here.

The orders include the following:
• Department of Labor Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring employers with more than 100 people to require vaccination or weekly testing
• Department of Labor rule requiring employers with more than 100 people to provide paid time off for vaccinations
• Require federal employees to get vaccinated within 75 days or risk termination (which would remove the option for weekly testing in lieu of vaccination)
• Extend the federal employee vaccination requirement to federal contractors
• Require Medicare and Medicaid funding recipients to fully vaccinate their staff
• Urge schools to set up regular testing based on community spread
• Expand free COVID testing

These orders will be implemented via an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). On Tuesday, October 12th, OSHA sent the ETS to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). The specifics of the ETS, including how employers will have to report information , what employees will be included in the requirement, and who bears the costs of testing, or how long it’s expected to remain at OIRA, have not been released./span>

As more information becomes available on the ETS, this post will be updated.

– Restaurants, bars, stores, salons, gyms, theaters, event venues, nightclubs, and other businesses can operate at 100% capacity, and crowd-size limits are lifted on all indoor and outdoor gatherings.

– While Pennsylvania’s face covering order was lifted on June 28th, the PA Department of Health continues to urge individuals to follow CDC guidance for wearing a mask where required by law, rule, and regulations, including healthcare, local business, and workplace guidance. For the protection of themselves and others, individuals who have not yet been vaccinated or are partially vaccinated are still encouraged to wear a mask when in public. The CDC requires individuals to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States, and in U.S. transportation hubs, such as airports and stations. Masks are also recommended, regardless of vaccination status, while indoors in areas of substantial or high transmission. As of August 30th, Columbia and Montour counties are at a high transmission rate.

The latest CDC guidance regarding masking indoors is not an OSHA regulation. However, an employer could be cited for creating an unsafe working condition if a claim is filed, according to OSHA’s Wilkes Barre office.


Vaccination and Testing

 

Vaccination

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Geisinger in encouraging eligible individuals to get vaccinated. Resources to help employers communicate with their employees about vaccination are available from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, provides recommendations for developing a workplace vaccination strategy.

Vaccine Distribution

Geisinger is offering vaccines to anyone age 12 or older either by appointment or through a walk-in clinic. Click here for information. 

Click here to find vaccination sites statewide. 

Columbia County EMA is assisting Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties with COVID-19 vaccination appointments.  Those eligible should call 570-389-5735, Monday through Friday only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Provide name, date of birth, address and phone number.  Someone from Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties will call back to schedule an appointment. The clinic expects to experience a large volume of inquiries and asks callers to allow ample time for a call back. Callers who are not contacted within 72 hours are asked to call again. Another way to schedule an appointment time for their vaccination, patients simply need to log on to our website at svmedspec.com and click on our Covid-19 vaccination link to enter their contact information.

Individuals needing a ride to a vaccination appointment can call 1-800-632-9063 to schedule a free ride with rabbittransit.

Testing

Geisinger offers both symptomatic testing and testing for travel.  Visit here for details.

If you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms, contact your physician for a referral to a testing site.


Financial Assistance

 
Federal programs

– The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) included a tax credit for small employers that offered paid time off for receiving and recovering from the COVID-19 vaccine. This tax credit makes it easier for businesses to incentivize their workforce to get vaccinated, as well as give employees the proper time they need to get vaccinated and recover from it if they experience side effects. In July, the program was expanded to provide tax credits for employees who need time to take care of family members. 

The original employer tax credit for COVID-19 vaccine paid time off was announced in April 2021. It allowed eligible businesses and nonprofits to be reimbursed for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave or family leave (10 days or two work weeks) given to any employee to get vaccinated or recover from vaccination side effects. The reimbursement of $511 per day or $5,110 in total is deducted from the employer-portion of Medicare taxes and applies to paid time off taken between April 1 and September 30, 2021.

The July 2021 update to the ARP’s paid sick leave and family tax credits now allows employers to claim tax credits for paid time off given to employees to get vaccinated themselves or to accompany a family or household member to get vaccinated. It also includes paid time off for employees who need to take care of a family or household member that is recovering from vaccine side effects.

Click here for additional information from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about the Small Business Vaccine Tax Credit.

– The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has announced significant enhancements to the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, a federal disaster relief loan designed to support small business communities dealing with the pandemic, especially hard-hit sectors such as restaurants, gyms, and hotels. The SBA is ready to receive new applications immediately from small businesses looking to take advantage of these new policy changes.

Key changes being announced by the SBA include:

  • Increasing the COVID EIDL Cap. The SBA has increased the COVID EIDL cap from $500,000 to $2 million. Loan funds can be used for any normal operating expenses and working capital, including payroll, purchasing equipment, and paying debt.
  • Implementation of a Deferred Payment Period. The SBA will ensure small business owners will not have to begin COVID EIDL repayment until two years after loan origination so that they can get through the pandemic.
  • Establishment of a 30-Day Exclusivity Window. To ensure Main Street businesses have additional time to access these funds, the SBA will implement a 30-day exclusivity window of approving and disbursing funds for loans of $500,000 or less. Approval and disbursement of loans over $500,000 will begin after the 30-day period.
  • Expansion of Eligible Use of Funds. COVID EIDL funds will now be eligible to prepay commercial debt and make payments on federal business debt.
  • Simplification of affiliation requirements. To ease the COVID EIDL application process for small businesses, the SBA has established more simplified affiliation requirements to model those of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Businesses can apply directly with the SBA for EIDL loans.

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

The Employee Retention Credit is extended through December 31, 2021. The new credit, beginning January 1, is 70% on $10,000 in wages per quarter (or a maximum $28,000 per employee through December 31, 2021).

The new law expands eligibility to include employers who experienced a decline of more than 20% in a qualifying quarter.

Employers can also apply to the PPP program and take advantage of the tax credit program, provided the same wages are not used.

The IRS has issued updated guidance on utilizing ERC.

The Shuttered Venue Operators (SVO) grant program provides assistance to live venues that were harmed by COVID-19 restrictions. The SVO grant program will distribute $16 billion in funds to live venue operators, including eligible movie theaters, concert spaces, museums and performing arts organizations.

SVO grants are being administered directly by the SBA. Click here for program details and to apply. 

Local programs

– The grant program for small businesses in Columbia County impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic closed on October 14.

A grant program for nonprofits and government agencies in Columbia County negatively impacted by COVID is accepting applications. The Columbia County Commissioners ARP Nonprofit Relief Grantround has $500,000 available. Grant requests up to $25,000 are now being accepted online until the application deadline of October 28. Additional funding may be considered on an individual basis. Upon review by the Community Giving Foundation Grants Committee and County Commissioners, grants will be awarded by November 30.

The grantround is designed as a flexible response to provide relief for a variety of unexpected costs. The Foundation is specifically interested in helping organizations maintain their operations and respond to increased demands.

Only 501(c)(3) nonprofit and government organizations are eligible to apply and the requested funding must be invested within Columbia County. 

Grant applications must be completed and submitted at www.csgiving.org/ccc-nonprofit-relief/. Grant requests must be submitted online by 11:45 pm on Thursday, October 28, 2021.

For grant-related questions, please contact Christine Orlando, Senior Program Officer, at 570-752-3930 ext. 2, or corlando@csgiving.org.

– 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 $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 cwca@seda-cog.org.

– 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.


Unemployment, Benefits & HR Issues

 

 

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

Welcome Bend-Fab to The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce

Bend-Fab’s standing steal metal roofing will give you the peace of mind that your roof is destined to last without the need for constant upkeep. Bend-Fab custom rolls its standing seam panels on-site and offers custom metal bending utilizing its 21-foot computerized metal break.

At Bend-Fab, they’ve installed standing seam metal roofing on healthcare offices, churches, government buildings, office buildings, restaurants, stores, and hotels, as well as residential homes throughout the Susquehanna Valley. No project is too small for their team.

Visit Bend-Fab’s website at www.bend-fab.com for more information. They can be found in Milton at 2733 State Route 45.

Bend-Fab joins 415 members of The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce to receive benefits and support the Chamber’s efforts to enhance the region.

Reliable Glass Joins The Chamber of Commerce

Whether you are planning a large-scale corporate building front or a university entrance way, Reliable Glass offers high-end performance solutions and a level of personal service that’s second to none.

Reliable Glass’ team of experts have experience designing and installing glass and aluminum solutions across a variety of industries including: Education, Food Service, Government, Healthcare, Hospitality, Residential, and Retail.  

Reliable glass offers cracked or broken glass repairs, commercial glass, residential glass, and bullet-proof glass windows and doors. Reliable Glass also offers custom installations that can give your business the attention it deserves.

For more than 20 years, general contractors and custom homebuilders have looked to Reliable Glass for professional glass & aluminum solutions.

Visit Reliable Glass’ website at www.reliableglassco.com for more information. They can be found in Elysburg at 938 Penn Avenue.

Welcome T Ross Brothers Construction, Inc.

T-Ross Brothers Construction, Inc. has been the leader in the construction industry for the past 60 years. At T-Ross Brothers Construction, Inc. Its team is committed to reaching beyond construction; their passion brings dreams to life with quality craftsmanship! They build relationships built on honesty and integrity, they understand their clients and what they are trying to accomplish and promote innovative solutions that exceed the needs and requirements of the clients. 

T-Ross Brothers Construction, Inc. has been providing innovative general contractor services, commercial construction, industrial construction, steel building, religious facilities, and crane services.

Today, T-Ross Brothers Construction, Inc. is owned by brothers, Todd G. and Tom E. Ross. In 1996, the brothers purchased the 38-year-old business from their father, Thomas H. Ross, after working their way up through the construction business. The brothers began with sweeping floors and sorting nails from the time they were old enough to hold a broom.

From childhood, they were taught by their father the proper use and installation of materials. Having worked through each phase of the construction business, the Ross Brothers have the knowledge and expertise to propose the most suitable solutions to any construction challenge.

Visit T-Ross Brothers Construction’s website at www.trossbrothers.com for more information.

T- ross joins 415 members of The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce to receive benefits and support the Chamber’s efforts to enhance the region.

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Member News – October 20, 2021

B.I.D.A. Reforms Scholarship Program for Underemployed and Unemployed

Berwick Industrial Development Association (B.I.D.A.), a leader in economic development focusing on industrial development and manufacturing, is excited to pilot a program that will provide property owners in Columbia and Southern Luzerne Counties an opportunity to learn of economic development initiatives.  

B.I.D.A. launched a scholarship program for high school graduates from the Berwick Area School District (which included students attending Columbia-Montour Vocational Technical School) that were to attend post-secondary or higher education institutions to pursue their education in the vocational trades.   

Although the program has been successful with students applying for and being awarded to two students each year, B.I.D.A. has re-examined the present state of the workforce in our area, and with having a shortage of skilled labor in the region, the board of directors has voted to offer the scholarship to unemployed and underemployed individuals in the Berwick Area School District geographic area. 

This shift would allow residents to apply for the $1,000 that could essentially pay for an entire program at the Columbia Montour Vocational Technical School’s adult education.  There is an application process, and it will still run annually as it does for the high school applicant.  In the Spring, residents can request a scholarship application that also provides instruction on what needs to be included.  

Amy Shortlidge, Marketing Director for B.I.D.A. stated, “This is an opportunity for people to acquire employment quicker, with courses and training programs that can take six to twelve weeks to complete, as opposed to waiting for students to graduate from a two or four-year degree program.”  


Bloomsburg Children’s Museum Announces November Programs

Located on 2 W. 7th Street, the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum officially announced it’s full slate schedule for its programs. The jam-packed month includes unique classes, clubs, music and infant/toddler programs. you can view all of the programs HERE

Community Giving Foundation Announces Columbia County Commissioners ARP Nonprofit Innovation Grant

Community Giving Foundation is administering the Innovation Grant in partnership with the Columbia County Commissioners. This grant will provide funding to a qualified nonprofit or government entity for the implementation of an emerging idea and initiative that can substantially impact or provide measurable progress toward the betterment of our community. The Innovation Grant is a vehicle to enable continued growth and strengthening of Columbia County.

The Columbia County Commissioners ARP Nonprofit Innovation Grant will provide one grant of up to $100,000 to one organization. Interested applicants can review the guidelines and submit a Letter of Interest (LOI) online until November 15, 2021, by 11:45 p.m. The LOI is limited to a two-page document introducing your organization, project description, service area, and requested budget summary.

If the LOI is approved, an application will be made available. Those invited to submit a full application will be notified on December 1, 2021. Completed applications with supporting documents will be due by December 30, 2021, at 11:45 p.m. Full application submissions will also require an in-person presentation with the grant committee on January 11 or 12, 2022. Final grant decisions will be announced January 21, 2022.

Only 501(c)(3) nonprofit and government organizations are eligible to apply, and the requested funding must be invested within Columbia County. Individuals are not eligible to apply. To discuss your organization’s eligibility, please contact the Foundation.

Grant applications must be completed and submitted through a web-based program. Interested applicants can access the guidelines and application by visiting csgiving.org/grants.

Letters of Interest must be submitted online by 11:45 pm on November 15, 2021.