Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 11/23/2020 at 3:30 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

 

Safe Practices

The Chamber urges everyone to continue to follow CDC guidelines for personal protection and safety, which includes properly wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing whenever possible. If you are exhibiting symptoms, do not go out or to work. If your child is exhibiting symptoms, do not send them to school. 

CDC guidance for wearing a mask and other safety practices, as well as identifying COVID-19 symptoms, is available here

Business Operations

All businesses must continue to follow CDC and Department of Health guidance for social distancing and cleaning.

Amended guidelines for gathering limits allow for occupancy limits to determine the number of people permitted both inside and outside for events or gatherings.

Large events and gatherings are now reduced until further notice. View the governor’s amended order hereNew limits are as follows (Updated 11/23/2020):

Maximum Occupancy Calculator for indoor events:
Maximum Occupancy     Allowable Indoor Rate
0 – 2,000 people              10% of Maximum Occupancy
2,001 – 10,000 people   5% of Maximum Occupancy
Over 10,000 people        No events over 500 people

Maximum Occupancy Calculator for outdoor events:
Maximum Occupancy     Allowable Indoor Rate
0 – 2,000 people              15% of Maximum Occupancy
2,001 – 10,000 people   10% of Maximum Occupancy
Over 10,000 people        5% of Maximum Occupancy up to 2,500 people

Restaurants may increase indoor occupancy to 50 percent if they commit to complying with all public safety guidelines and orders through a self-certification process. Click here for details.

Guidance for businesses (including restaurants) and schools is provided here. (Updated 9/23/20)

CDC Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility

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


Financial Assistance

Federal programs

The PPP program is currently closed. Another round is being considered as part of the next federal relief package. EIDL loans are being accepted and processed, though funds for the EIDL advance have been allocated. 

– 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, including the application and loan forgiveness forms, are available on the U.S. Treasury’s website
  • Considerations for non-profit organizations are available here.
  • A guide to PPP loan forgiveness is available here.

The Small Business Administration and U.S. Treasury recently issued new guidance for small business owners with loans of $50,000 or less under the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); more information is available here. Business owners who borrowed $50,000 or less can fill out a simplified one-page form and can ignore some of the calculations required of other borrowers. A link to the Form 3508S is available at sba.gov.

– 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 details about the program and to apply. 

All available funds for the EIDL advance have been allocated. Loan applications are still being accepted.

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 program

– 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

– Grant programs provided by the County Commissioners for small businesses and non-profit organizations in Columbia and Montour counties are now closed.

– 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.

Private programs

 The nonprofit Pennsylvania 30 Day Fund was launched by business leaders throughout the Commonwealth. Forgivable loans of $3,000 are available.

Pennsylvania businesses that qualify for assistance from the Fund are:

  • Small businesses that employ three to 30 people;
  • Based in Pennsylvania and have been operating for at least one year;
  • Owned and operated by a Pennsylvania resident.

The funds dispersed to small businesses by the Pennsylvania 30 Day fund do not need to be repaid. Click here for details and to apply.

– 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.


 

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 has established 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 are 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.

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


Resources Available to Assist Businesses & Individuals with Substance Abuse

Area health and human service agencies are echoing national statistics that substance abuse is on the rise in the region. The COVID-19 crisis, combined with seasonal affective disorder, puts people at exceptionally high risk. The United in Recovery coalition provides resources to help employers keep their workplaces safe and employees healthy with educational and treatment information.

United in Recovery is coordinated by the United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties to end substance use disorder through education, enforcement, and treatment. The coalition meets monthly to share information and coordinate efforts in Columbia and Montour counties. The Chamber of Commerce has been a part of the coalition since it was created.

The United in Recovery webpage includes contact information for people in need of immediate help, long-term treatment, and support groups. A toolkit to help businesses develop policies and identify issues is also available. The site also includes a listing of recovery and other events, including details on a free weekly distribution of Narcan starting Wednesday, November 25th through the month of December at the United Way. Narcan is a brand name of naloxone that helps reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Details are available at https://cmcuw.org/events.

Columbia Commissioners Award Additional Small Business Grants

The Columbia County Commissioners have provided financial assistance to an additional 58 businesses impacted by COVID-19. A total of $399,026 in grants were awarded in the second round with funds provided by the CARES Act. Between the first and second rounds, 153 businesses received a total of $2,542,830 in assistance.

The Commissioners hired Harry Mathias, retired Central Columbia Superintendent, to develop recommendations for using the funds. The Chamber worked with Mathias to develop the program criteria for the small business grant program. “Kudos to the Columbia County Commissioners and Harry Mathias for allocating a significant portion of the County’s funding for small business relief,” said Fred Gaffney, Chamber president. “This program provided financial assistance at a critical time to help small businesses. The Central Susquehanna Community Foundation also did an outstanding job providing an online application process that was easy to use with a local contact to answer questions.”

ALTERA Life Showcases New Facility at Final 2020 Business After Hours

Chamber members enjoyed the evening catching up with business connections at the Chamber’s Business After Hours, at ALTERA Life in Danville on November 18th.  Attendees were able to take a tour of the new facility that is located at 453 Mill Street, see the various exercise stations, check out the wellness amenities while enjoying some delicious plant-based snacks on hand from fellow Chamber member, PB&J Bar, along with beer.  

ALTERA Life is a locally-owned nutrition and wellness consulting company that help its clients transition to and maintain healthy lifestyles through proper nutrition and physical activity. For more information on ALTERA Life’s products and services, visit its website.

Business After Hours provides regular opportunities to build business relationships while learning about the services offered by other Chamber members.  If your organization is interested in hosting a 2021 Business After Hours, please fill out an application. Applications to host a Business After Hours next year are now being accepted. We will then review all applications and finalize the schedule later in the month, with a goal of notifying all hosts by early December. Please email or call Allison if there are any questions about this process

Member News- November 18, 2020

Going Gold 2020 Raises Awareness and $6,500 for ThinkBIG® Pediatric Cancer Fund

During September, a number of local businesses, organizations and communities joined together to “Go Gold,” raising awareness about pediatric cancer and $6,500 to support the ThinkBIG® Pediatric Cancer Fund (ThinkBIG®). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Going Gold 2020 kick-off event and fundraisers were held virtually this year.

“ThinkBIG is again very appreciative to be the beneficiary of the Going Gold efforts this year,” said Colby Wesner, Founder, ThinkBIG® Pediatric Cancer Fund. “It was amazing to see this committee navigate these unprecedented times to still create a movement that was able to continue to bring more awareness to pediatric cancer and to help raise funds to support local families who are unfortunately battling the disease. ThinkBIG® is incredibly grateful for this support, especially during a year when it has been challenging to fundraise.”

Nearly 15,500 children in the United States are diagnosed with cancer every year. ThinkBIG® is dedicated to minimizing the stress families battling pediatric cancer experience, by providing financial support for everyday cost of living expenses and unpaid medical bills. Since 2014, this organization has allocated over $715,000 to help local families; over $190,000 in 2019 alone.

“While we look forward to the day when we can come together again in-person to help raise awareness, the support the Going Gold virtual events received was overwhelming,” said Bill Lavage, President/CEO, Service 1st. “Thank you for joining us and supporting this year’s fundraisers. Your support is making a difference and touching the lives of local families.”

In addition to an online t-shirt sale and raffle, Marley’s Brewery & Grille, Bloomsburg and Old Forge Brewing Company, Danville collaborated on this year’s Gold Dust Pale Ale, donating $1 per pint sold throughout September. Jackass Brewing Company in Lewisburg donated $1 per 16 oz. of “Isn’t that Peachy” Peach & Ginger Sour to benefit ThinkBIG® as well.

In 2015, Woody Wolfe approached Old Forge Brewing Company and Service 1st Federal Credit Union and asked, “Why not go gold?” Going Gold soon grew into a month-long awareness effort. Each year, support continues to expand as additional communities and organizations join the fight against pediatric cancer.

This was the sixth consecutive year for the Going Gold initiative. To date this initiative has raised over $66,500.

For more information about Going Gold, call Service 1st Federal Credit Union at 800.562.6049.

Scholarship Fund Established by Aunt to Honor Local Surgeon

The Central Susquehanna Community Foundation is pleased to announce the creation of a new scholarship fund in honor of local surgeon and Berwick native Dr. Mark C. Pyles. While looking for a way to honor Dr. Pyles and his work, Helen F. Pyles (Fort Wayne, Indiana) realized that starting a fund at the Foundation was the perfect way to recognize her nephew’s service in the community while benefitting future professionals.

“I am very proud of Mark—the commitments he has made to his community and the goals he has reached in his medical profession,” explains Ms. Pyles. “I have no idea how many people have been served by his knowledge and skill, but I know each patient was able to enjoy better health as a result. If this scholarship can help students reach their life goals through medicine, we are all winners.”

The Dr. Mark C. Pyles Scholarship Fund was established by Ms. Pyles on her birthday in September, and will provide an annual scholarship to a graduating senior from Berwick Area High School pursuing a certification, associate, or undergraduate degree in a health-related or medical field.

Dr. Pyles was a graduate of Berwick High School and demonstrated interest in the community through volunteerism and extracurricular activities like the Boy Scouts. After completing his medical education and training, Dr. Pyles returned to his hometown and established a medical practice as a general surgeon serving the greater Berwick area.

“When I went to college, I was awarded a local scholarship through the Berwick High School. That support helped propel me forward, and I knew I wanted to return to my hometown and give back to the community through my professional career. I hope that this scholarship will have the same effect for a deserving student, and maybe even influence them to come back to benefit the community in the future,” comments Dr. Pyles.

Contributions can be made to the Dr. Mark C. Pyles Scholarship Fund online at csgiving.org (click Donate and search “Pyles”), or mail to the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, Attn: Pyles Scholarship Fund, 725 West Front Street, Berwick, PA 18603.

SEDA-COG Broadband Project Awarded Largest Grant in 12 States

SEDA-Council of Governments’ (SEDA-COG) four-county broadband project earned the highest POWER grant award in 12 states by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), along with securing or partnering on two other POWER grants.

The ARC recently awarded $43.3 million across 51 projects in 12 states to support economic diversification in coal-impacted communities. More than half of these investments will support recovery-to-work efforts or strengthen broadband infrastructure.

In Pennsylvania, SEDA-COG’s project award also was the highest of 12 awarded projects.

SEDA-COG’s broadband effort was awarded $2.5 million for internet expansion to underserved areas in Clinton, Lycoming, Northumberland, and Union counties. This project will reach over 1,500 households, including over 20 businesses. Union County served as the main applicant.

Mike Fisher, SEDA-COG assistant executive director, said the grant award shows how powerful projects can happen with a regional effort.

“We are honored that our efforts earned the largest POWER grant award in the entire multi-state ARC region,” Fisher said. “This shows how vitally important it is for our counties to have better broadband service. It also demonstrates the collective power of our counties working together for the betterment of our communities and businesses.”

The grant will supplement $4 million of SEDA-COG’s revolving loan funds. The selected internet service provider will match these funds with $1.5 million of private investment funds.

SEDA-COG will provide funding through reimbursable grants and low-interest loans to incentivize an internet service provider to expand internet service into unserved and underserved rural regions of the four counties where traditional buildout is otherwise economically infeasible. 

OTHER SEDA-COG POWER GRANTS

 SEDA-COG also is part of a statewide broadband initiative in a separate grant and is a partner in a workforce grant.

SEDA-COG was awarded a $108,125 ARC POWER grant to expand internet service in the Snow Shoe Township area in Centre County. SEDA-COG will match the ARC POWER grant with the same amount, offering a $210,000 grant to incentivize internet service providers to provide high-speed internet in the area.

The grant is part of a statewide $1.2 million ARC broadband grant award to the seven Local Development Districts (LDDs) that serve 52 of Pennsylvania’s counties. The LDDs are organizations through which member counties share information, address common concerns, and develop regional responses to critical issues. SEDA-COG is one of the seven LDDs and serves 11 central Pennsylvania counties.

Additionally, SEDA-COG is a partner in a $1,018,500 recovery-to-work POWER grant awarded to the Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation (CPWDC) and Geisinger.

SEDA-COG and the PA CareerLink® Business Service Teams will identify employers that are “recovery friendly” and assist other businesses to become recovery friendly to increase their pool of workforce talent. To accomplish this, SEDA-COG will work with their extensive business service provider network to power this initiative through education and information. Geisinger will focus on expanding telemedicine to broaden access to specialized services, like addiction treatment, in underserved rural areas. SEDA-COG will receive $18,500 for its partnership efforts.

Betsy Lockwood, SEDA-COG grants manager, described the void the initiative fills.

“Removing barriers to recovery has been a longstanding issue for people, and workforce issues have plagued businesses. Employers need staff and people need jobs, especially with the effects of the pandemic. By expanding the workforce toward those in recovery, we fill a valuable workforce need while providing someone in recovery a job that can help them remain in recovery,” Lockwood said.

SEDA-COG Board President Rich Ridgway said as an 11-county community and economic development agency, SEDA-COG is recognizing and meeting needs.

“We know the hardships our residents and businesses are facing. We are working hard to alleviate the most acute pressure throughout our counties, particularly with high-speed internet access,” Ridgway said.

As a community and economic development agency, SEDA-COG enhances the quality of life and economic advantage for residents and businesses in 11 central Pennsylvania counties through its vital partnerships and initiatives. SEDA-COG also is an advocate for the interests of its communities at the state and federal levels. For more information, visit www.seda-cog.org.

Montour Area Recreation Commission 2021 Lawn Care Invitation to Bid Application Terms and Conditions

Sealed bids for lawn care at the various properties managed by the Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC) will be received by MARC at any time until 11:00 am on Monday, November 23, 2020. Bids will be publicly opened and read aloud during MARC’s regular November 23, 2020 meeting at 7:00 pm through the Zoom online meeting platform.

Specifications and bid forms may be obtained online at www.MontourRec.com or by submitting a request in writing or by telephone or email to:

Montour Area Recreation Commission PO Box 456, Danville, PA 17821 570-336-2060 or RStoudt@MontourRec.com

Each bid must be enclosed in a sealed envelope, plainly marked with ‘2021 Lawn Care Bid’, and mailed via the U.S. Postal Service to MARC at the address listed above. Sealed bids may also be hand-delivered to MARC on Monday, November 23, between 8:00 am and 11:00 am, at the Montour Preserve visitors’ center, 374 Preserve Road, Danville, PA 17821.

Bids may be withdrawn by bidders for any reason for a period of forty-eight (48) hours after the time of bid opening. After forty-eight (48) hours from bid opening, bids may not be withdrawn for a period of sixty (60) days.

WHLM Parade of Lights

PennDOT has approved the permit for the WHLM Parade of Lights so it will be held Friday, November 27th at 6:00 p.m. Registration is not required this year. The 2020 WHLM PARADE OF LIGHTS will illuminate Downtown Bloomsburg with classic cars, floats, boats, fire trucks, thousands of Christmas lights, and usher in the Christmas season when Santa Claus comes to the only Town in Pennsylvania! The parade route forms at 4:30 PM at the Geisinger Bloomsburg parking lot on Lightstreet Road, then moves at 6 PM down Main Street to Market Street, and ending at the Bloomsburg Firehall.

Additional details are at https://www.whlm.com/whlm-parade-of-lights

 

2020 Holiday Open House Updated Details

The Chamber’s Holiday Open House, sponsored by Geisinger, is quickly approaching Wednesday, December 2nd. Out of concern for the health and safety of members, the format of the event has shifted. 

Begin with a drive through Knoebels Joy Through the Grove display. Then, proceed to the tent at The Nickle Plate Bar & Grill. A contactless pick-up of your food and other items will take place with attendees remaining in their vehicles.  

Register on our website or by calling the Chamber at 570-784-2522.  Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Contact Allison at the Chamber at aturayev@columbiamontourchamber.com or by phone if you’re interested in helping to make this event a success and gain visibility for your organization.