Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 4/16/2021 at 9:00 a.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

Restaurant and bar operations and gathering limits were eased as of April 4, 2021. Updated guidance can be found here.

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

 


Vaccination and Testing

Vaccine Distribution

All Pennsylvania adults are eligible to schedule vaccination appointments as of April 13th. Click here to find a vaccination site. 

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.

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

Testing

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


Financial Assistance

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has compiled an updated guide for the latest Federal programs. 

Federal programs

– The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides forgivable 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. Organizations with less than 300 employees can apply for a “second draw” of up to $2 million. Terms of the program are expanded to allow employers to claim eligible expenses over a period of 8 to 24 weeks and those expenses could include operations, property damage stemming from public disturbance not covered by insurance, supplier costs, and worker protection. The 60% payroll rule still applies. 

Small businesses with up to 500 employees can also apply for an initial PPP loan. 

Businesses in the restaurant and hospitality industries are eligible to receive loans of 3.5 times average monthly payroll, rather than 2.5 times for other businesses. 

Eligible organizations apply through their banking institution.

First and Second Draw applications are being accepted by local financial institutions through May 31, 2021. The deadline was recently extended from March 31. Updated PPP Lender forms, guidance, and resources are available at www.sba.gov/ppp and www.treasury.gov/cares.

Click here for a list of frequently asked PPP Loan questions.

– The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program provides priority for the $10,000 Advance grant to small businesses with less than 300 employees, located in census tracts approved for New Market Tax Credits, that have experienced a 30% reduction in gross receipts during any 8-week period between March 2, 2020 and December 31, 2021 compared to a comparable 8-week period before March 2. The U.S. Small Business Administration is contacting organizations eligible for the EIDL Advance. 

EIDL advances will not reduce PPP loan forgiveness and are not included in taxable income.

Small businesses and nonprofit organizations may qualify for EIDL loans with a 3.75% fixed rate for companies and a 2.75% fixed rate for nonprofits. 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. We application portal opened on April 8th but was quickly shut down due to high demand. The reopening date has not been announced. Click here for program details. 

– The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) will provide $28.6 billion in grants targeting hard-hit restaurants and bars. Affected entities will be able to apply for grants based on lost gross revenue between 2019 and 2020, with maximum grant sizes totaling $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups.

Similar to the SVO grants, RRF grants will be administered directly by the SBA. The application process is expected to open soon. The SBA recently announced that applicants will not need to register on SAM.gov or submit a D-U-N-S number.

Local programs

Businesses in the hospitality industry are urged to apply as soon as possible for the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP) grants since funds may be quickly exhausted.

Businesses can apply at the Community Giving Foundation’s website at www.csgiving.org until the funds are exhausted or June 15, 2021.

Grants will range from $5,000 to $50,000 and the funds will alleviate revenue losses and pay eligible operating expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible hospitality industry businesses include hotels, restaurants, bars, and taverns. These businesses must fall within eligible industry codes which include the Accommodations subsector NAICS code (721) or Food Services and Drinking Places subsector (722) found here:: https://www.naics.com/search/

Eligibility includes, but is not limited to, having fewer than 300 full-time employees; a net worth that does not exceed $15 million; a 25% reduction in gross receipts in 2020 compared to 2019; and be located within Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, or Union counties.

Priority will be given to businesses that did not already receive COVID relief funds; that were subject to closure following the disaster emergency declared by Gov. Tom Wolf on March 6, 2020; and had more than a 50% reduction in gross receipts from March 31, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. For a full listing of eligibility requirements and prioritization guidelines, visit www.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

 

 

 

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 businesses 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


Bloomsburg Mayoral Candidates to Share Views at Public Forum

Bloomsburg’s Mayor and another member of Council vying for that position will share their views during an upcoming candidate forum being co-hosted by The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Bloomsburg Inc. Incumbent Bill Kreisher and Justin Hummel are the only registered candidates and will be on the Democratic ballot in the May 18th primary. The candidates will meet Wednesday, April 28th at 7:00 p.m. at the Alvina Krause Theatre.

The format will be a modified debate. Each candidate will be presented with the same questions in rotating order with a set amount of time for each response. A limited number of questions from the audience will also be presented. Fred Gaffney, president of the Chamber of Commerce, will be the moderator. Candidates will also be given two minutes for closing remarks.

The public is invited to attend the event. Safety protocols, including physical distancing and masks, will be in effect.

Virtually Help Local Students Explore Career Paths in Our Area

Do you want to connect with Middle and High School Students to come work for you someday? Do they know what your company does?  Do they know what opportunities exist with your organization? 

We are now officially recruiting businesses to participate in the 2021 Live Virtual Future Careers Expo Event.  This year the Chamber’s Foundation is partnering with Central PA Workforce Development Corporation (CPWDC) and PA CareerLink to bring a more robust virtual event aimed at educating students about the diverse paths to a successful career.  We hope that your business/organization will participate.  This is a wonderful opportunity for you to meet with students and share with them what types of work your business does, and what types of jobs make your organization work.  This is an educational opportunity and not a “job fair”.   We want students to walk away inspired to follow a career path that might lead to your company. 

Details of the event are: 

  • Date:  Thursday, May 6, 2021
  • Time:  10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Location: Online via Booth Central web platform
  • Hosted By: The Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, Central PA Workforce Development Corporation (CPWDC) and PA Career Link

 Participants:

  • Hundreds of students from at least 8 Area Middle and High Schools (Benton, Berwick, Bloomsburg, Central Columbia, Columbia Montour Vo-Tech, Danville, Millville, Southern Columbia)

If your business decides to participate in the Expo please do the following:

Register Here.  Once you have selected the purple “Register for event” button to the right, you will be directed to the event platform Booth Central. You will need to: 1) Select the red “Apply for a Booth button”. 2) Create an account through a simple process by clicking “Join now” found on the Hello screen. 3) Select “Join as Booth Host”. 4) Complete the form and select “Register”. 5) You will then complete the event registration form. Please contact BusinessSolutions@CentralPACL.org with any questions. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Equal Opportunity Employer/ Program.

There is no cost to you for participating.  You can request multiple booths per organization if you want to showcase different careers or business units to students.  Each virtual booth will need staffed during the live virtual event.

The goal of this event is to educate middle and high school students about the workforce opportunities in our area, including the types of industries available here, the skills and education needed for specific careers, future job openings, etc.  We hope to convince local students that there are many great career opportunities in our region.

Please register for the event no later than Friday April 30, 2021 if possible by registering at here.

For questions or additional information, contact Jeff Emanuel at the Foundation at foundation@columbiamontourchamber.com or 570-784-2522.

 

Geisinger Partners with Local Chambers of Commerce for Meals in Spring

Geisinger has partnered with eight local chambers of commerce to launch Meals in Spring and give back to the restaurants in the community hit hard by the pandemic.

As part of the program, more than 23,000 Geisinger employees can redeem a $10 meal voucher at more than 250 participating restaurants across 12 counties through June 30.

“Our local chambers of commerce were among the first organizations that came to us during the early days of the pandemic offering help,” said John Grabusky, senior director of community relations. “They collected N95 masks and gloves, organized sewing groups for homemade masks and they were behind many donations of pizzas, sandwiches, coffees and snacks that started to flow into our facilities. Now, it’s our turn to help them by supporting our local restaurants with Meals in Spring.”

Studies have shown that for every $100 spent at locally owned businesses, $68 stays within the community. By patronizing local restaurants, Geisinger employees are contributing to the local economy, which benefits their friends, neighbors, school districts and nonprofit organizations in their communities.

Participating chambers of commerce include Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce, Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce, Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce, Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce, Clinton County Economic Partnership & Visitors Bureau, and Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce.

Member News- April 14, 2021

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC) Promotes Marla Hager to Senior Business Advisor

The Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC) proudly announces the promotion of Ms. Marla Hager to the position of Senior Business Advisor. Ms. Hager joined NEPIRC in December 2016 and, since that time, has introduced small and mid-sized manufacturers throughout Luzerne and Columbia counties to consultative services, training programs and other resources that allowed them to create and retain 2,200 full-time manufacturing jobs while strategically investing more than $29.7 million in regional expansion and modernization. Over the course of her tenure with NEPIRC, Ms. Hager’s clients have increased their top-line revenue by nearly $45 million, retained $184.5 million of at-risk sales and recognized $13.5 million in operational savings as direct outcomes of the NEPIRC engagements that she facilitated on their behalf.

In her elevated role at NEPIRC, Ms. Hager will remain responsible for cultivating and maintaining positive relationships with new and existing NEPIRC clients across Luzerne and Columbia counties while also mentoring other members of NEPIRC’s Business Advisor team and playing a more active role in NEPIRC’s long-term growth strategy.

Ms. Hager holds a Bachelor of Science degree in finance from the University of Scranton. 

Clients wanting to congratulate Marla on her achievements, and manufacturers wishing to connect with her to discuss how NEPIRC can grow their business, can contact her at Marla@NEPIRC.com or 570.819.8966 x 122.


Retention Numbers Climb Nearly 20% for Bloomsburg University Act 101 Students

Students in Bloomsburg University’s Act 101 program have seen increasingly strong retention numbers over the last several years. Since 2017, Act 101 students have increased their first to second year retention rates by nearly 20 percent (45 to 63.7 percent).

The Act 101 Program is a comprehensive academic support program targeting first-generation, low-income Bloomsburg University students. Act 101 students are provided intensive, engaging, and enriching opportunities to develop the skills to help them achieve academic excellence. Students in the program come from households with incomes of double the federal poverty level or lower.

Ralph Godbolt, director of the Office of Access and Success and interim dean of students, has put a lot of hard work into helping the students.

“Our team here works hard to give these students a chance to be successful,” Godbolt said. “We provide to them the academic, cultural, and social interaction they need.”

Participants of the Act 101 program are strongly encouraged to participate in the Emerging Scholars program, a program developed and implemented by Godbolt. “The Emerging Scholars Program is a comprehensive academic support program targeting first-generation BU students who are demonstrating risk factors that will increase the likelihood of not completing a four-year college degree,” said Godbolt. “Through the Emerging Scholars Program, we provide opportunities for students to develop the skills that will assist them in achieving academic success. The success of the Emerging Scholars Program directly impacted the strong first to second year retention rates of Act 101 students.”

As part of the Emerging Scholars Program, Godbolt and his small team provide eight hours a week of study hall time, compassion-centered academic advising, and community engagement opportunities. They also provide opportunities to engage in yoga and mindfulness activities and weekly ‘rap sessions,’ where students engage in intense conversations about ongoing matters in their lives.

“The rap sessions help in building a close relationship between the student and counselor,” Godbolt said.

The Office of Access and Success oversees the Act 101 program. The office develops and implements academic, social, and cultural programming designed to assist students to develop the skills necessary for college persistence and graduation.

Programs of the Office of Access and Success include Act 101, Emerging Scholars, the Office of Diversity and Retention, Board of Governors, SEE Yourself Healthier and Happier, and the Out of the Classroom: Into the Community initiative.


Open Letter to Chamber Members from 1847Financial and The Fluffy Sheep

Chamber Members Mark Lupashunski from 1847Financial and Jackie Dietz from The Fluffy Sheep wrote open letters to the Chamber and its members:

I have been in the insurance and Financial Services business since 1990.  The last 10+ years renting office space in Berwick with my business partner, Andrea Empie.  We had been looking to find new space to move our business closer to downtown Berwick.  One day Andrea told me that she saw a building for rent at 109 N. Mulberry Street in downtown Berwick. 

Once I saw the building I remembered going there as a patient of Dr. Ali Alley many years ago.  When I called the phone number on the sign, Mrs. Alley answered and I was surprised to hear that the Alley family still owned the building.  They were pleased to hear that a native to Berwick was interested in the renovation of the old building.  We came to terms and signed a sales agreement in January 2020 and were supposed to close on the building in 6 weeks.  Then everything was put on hold due to COVID-19.

We finally were able to finalize the sale in late May.  The building had been rented to various businesses over the years and was in need of renovation.  After 4 months of demolition and hard work by many local contractors, we were open for business on October 1st.

The building had more space than we needed for our practice so we were able to make some space available for another business.  We put an ad in the local paper and the first called happily agreed to lease the space to start her new business, The Fluffy Sheep.  

We are happy to join the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce and are glad to be able to open our business in downtown Berwick during some very difficult times to do business and are looking forward to a bright future.

Sincerely,

Mark C. Lupashunki

The Fluffy Sheep aims to be more than just a yarn shop.  By offering a selection of locally made products, we support the endeavors of our local economy & community.  We look forward to offering classes and a regular open craft night in the near future.

Sincerely,

Jackie Dietz


 

PA Unemployment System Poised for Long-Awaited Update

The Pennsylvania unemployment claim system will be taken offline for 2 weeks in June to update 40-year-old structure.  The new system should be more intuitive for users with a familiar web design and will allow for more self-service options, meaning there should be less need to contact unemployment center staff.  Find out the details here.