Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 6/18/2021 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

All mitigation orders for businesses except masking were lifted on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31st.  

This change means that restaurants, bars, stores, salons, gyms, theaters, event venues, nightclubs, and other businesses can open at 100% capacity, and crowd-size limits will be lifted on all indoor and outdoor gatherings.

The current order requiring Pennsylvanians to wear masks will be lifted when 70% of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated or by June 28th, whichever comes first. Face coverings are required to be worn indoors and outdoors if you are away from your home. In accordance with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance,fully vaccinated Pennsylvanians are not required to wear a mask during certain activities. Businesses may still require masks for all employees and/or customers.

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

 


Vaccination and Testing

 

Vaccination

The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce is 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. 

Vaccine Distribution

All Pennsylvania adults are now eligible to schedule vaccination appointments. 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. 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

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. 

Funds through the PPP program have been exhausted. Some funds for minority and women-owned businesses may still be available. Check with your commercial lender. 

– 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. Click here for program details and to apply. 

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) provides funding to help restaurants, food trucks, caterers, bars, brewpubs, wineries, and other eligible businesses keep their doors open. Grants are based on lost gross revenue between 2019 and 2020, with maximum grant sizes totaling $5 million for restaurants and $10 million for restaurant groups. Recipients are not required to repay the funding as long as funds are used for eligible uses no later than March 11, 2023. The application portal closed on May 24th.

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.

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 and a 25% reduction in gross receipts in 2020 compared to 2019.

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


UC Bonuses Scrutinized as Workforce Shortage Continues

Edited from the PA Chamber of Business & Industry

A national workforce shortage is having a negative impact on businesses struggling to recover in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.  With unemployment rates higher than pre-pandemic levels, several states are choosing to withdraw from a federal unemployment compensation benefit enhancement program in order to incentivize more individuals to return to the workforce.  Notably, last week, Louisiana became the first state with a Democrat governor to pull back from the federal program.

In a statement, PA Chamber President and CEO Gene Barr called the current workforce shortage a “crisis” for the business community and urged Pennsylvania to scale back its participation in the federal benefit enhancement program.

“As evidenced by Louisiana’s recent decision to withdraw from the federal program, this isn’t a partisan issue,” Barr said.  “It’s simple math.  The private sector cannot compete against federal benefit enhancements that are in many cases paying individuals more than what they made in wages.”

A recent U.S. Chamber survey found a significant number of respondents – more than half – are not in a hurry to return to work and 16 percent say the money they are receiving from unemployment benefits and other government programs makes it ‘not worth looking for work.’

House Bill 508 would phase out Pennsylvania’s participation in the federal unemployment compensation enhancements and implement a Back-to-Work Bonus Program to incentivize individuals to return to work. The bill has passed out of committee and is currently awaiting consideration by the full House. While the PA Chamber is supporting the legislation, the Board of The Columbia Montour Chamber is opposing back-to-work bonuses as inappropriate and unnecessary.

Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce Participates in Annual Chamber Day

With businesses across the Commonwealth continuing to struggle as the economy re-opens, more than 35 local chambers from across the state joined with the PA Chamber for the 2021 Chamber Day. The annual event, which is co-hosted by the PA Chamber of Business and Industry and the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals, provides a forum for constructive dialogue between local chamber officials and state policymakers on issues important to the state’s business community.

“State government has never had more of an impact on business operations than over the past fifteen months,” said Fred Gaffney, Chamber President and chair of the Chamber Day Committee. “We were glad to provide members the opportunity to hear from legislators and the Governor about the issues we’re working on. Clearly, Governor Wolf needs to hear directly from the business community about the challenges employers are facing.”

 In a departure from past Chamber Days, this year’s event was held virtually.  Over the course of two days, participants met with several state elected officials, including: Governor Tom Wolf; Senate Majority Whip John Gordner, R-Columbia; House Majority Whip Donna Oberlander, R-Clarion; Senate Majority Caucus Secretary and Prioritize PA leader Sen. Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster; House Majority Caucus Chair George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland; House Democratic Transportation Committee Chair Mike Carroll, D-Luzerne; Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee Chair Gene Yaw, R-Bradford; House Economic Recovery Task Force Leader Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-Luzerne; and Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Greene.  Panel discussions also included representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office and the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors.

The event featured policy discussions on a variety of critical topics, including: the upcoming 2021-22 state budget; Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic; transportation funding and energy policy on both the state and federal level.

Maintaining Status as an Employer of Choice

From My Benefit Advisor

Employees and those looking for work in today’s environment have more options at their disposal than perhaps ever before.  There exists a wide range of occupations, employer locations, industry types and work arrangements available to each worker.  This allows an individual the ability to be more selective in choosing where they will work, why they want to work there and how long they plan to stay there.  And although each individual’s criteria is often unique and varied, there are many common concerns that tend to be shared among workers.  Understanding these common issues is a critical component of creating a workplace that attracts and sustains a vibrant and growing workforce.

The term “employer of choice” is often used to describe such a company and for the employer, achieving such a status can be very advantageous.  The benefits can include increased productivity, the ability to attract and retain top talent and a healthier workplace culture, all of which can help improve the company’s bottom line.    To become an employer of choice, the company leader(s) should fine-tune their corporate culture, branding, recruitment and retention strategies by targeting several of the following key aspects to set them above their peers:

  • Job Security…employees want to be sure that their employer is in a sound financial condition and that they don’t need to worry about layoffs or downsizing.
  • Opportunity for Growth…by helping employees map a strategic career path, employers of choice encourage their staff to develop their skills and careers by providing them with performance development planning, training opportunities and the resources needed to advance.
  • Respect and Fair Treatment…It is not reality to expect employees and their employer to agree in all matters, but their differences of opinion should always be respected.  Employers should develop policies with fairness in mind, treating everyone equally and without bias.
  • Recognition of Performance…employers of choice provide employee recognition to employees achieving performance successes and for those exhibiting positive, desired behaviors.
  • Employee Input and Empowerment…Employees are more apt to feel invested in a company when they feel that leadership values their input into company processes, policies, and allow them to control their choices and make decisions.
  • A Well-Rounded Benefit Package…The impact of the COVID pandemic has caused many employees to reconsider their priorities when it comes to choosing benefits.  Employers who have offered traditional benefit packages until recently are finding they may no longer be the employer of choice with an outdated benefit portfolio that doesn’t meet the evolving needs of their workers.  Inclusion of income protection (short- and long-term disability coverage), critical Illness and hospital indemnity programs, an expansion of mental health coverage and financial wellness programs could go a long way in helping your business stand out.

It’s no easy task to continually maintaining these programs while staying within budgetary restraints, but the employer who does so will not only win the loyalty of their employees, but better position themselves as an employer of choice going forward.

The Columbia-Montour Chamber of Commerce offers its members access to My Benefit Advisor as a solution for employee benefits, including voluntary offerings. For more information about My Benefit Advisor, visit our website at cmcc.mybenefitadvisor.com or contact Tanya Ruiz at (800) 377-3539.

Member News- June 16, 2021

United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties Will Launch Day of Action

HOW DOES IT WORK?

United Way of Columbia and Montour Counties reached out to local Partner Agencies to see where they needed support, and if we could fulfill any “wish lists” for their organizations. Seven nonprofits responded with twelve different projects they are looking to complete. The projects range from planting and weeding gardens, sanding, staining, and painting projects, building planter boxes, organizing storage units, and even some longer-term data entry projects.

Just use our sign-up form below:

Select the areas where you would like to help, and we will match you to a project!

WHAT DAYS CAN I VOLUNTEER?

Our Days of Action will take place the 3rd weekend in June. You are welcome to volunteer for one or all of the days depending on what works best for your schedule. Children under 14 years of age are welcome to participate but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

  • Saturday, June 19th, 2021

  • Sunday, June 20th, 2021

  • Monday, June 21st, 2021

WHAT IF I HAVE QUESTIONS?

You can reach out to Danielle Velkoff at (570) 360-5009 or via email at info@cmcuw.org.


Bason Coffee is Turning 10!

June is Bason Coffee‘s birthday month and they want to give back to its customers to say THANK YOU! Thank you for your support through the past 10 crazy years. Whether it be supporting Bason Coffee at the Lewisburg Market, the Bloomsburg Fair or just being a regular at the store in Danville.

On June 19, Bason Coffee will have a parking lot event with food, beverages and fun for everyone. 

With that being said…. each Saturday in the month of June they will be doing something outside or in store.

June 19~ Parking Lot Event! Come enjoy a grilled cheese from the Grilled Cheese Cafe 2, grab a sweet treat from Four Girls Bakery, have the kids enjoy an activity from the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum, and for the parents enjoy a nice drink from Rock God Brewing. It will be a fun day for sure… did I mention anyone who shops in the store that day will be entered to win some prizes too?!

June 26~ Danville Downtown Spring Fling, come visit Bason Coffee down on Mill Street and see many other vendors as well. The Danville store will be open from 8:30a-3p.

What a whirlwind it was on Saturday, June 12 as they gave away 200 Chicken BBQ dinners for the community in 40 minutes with the help of Friendship Fire Company Station 10. The Chicken BBQ took place in Bason’s parking lot with Friendship Fire Company serving the meals. Friendship Fire Company also was fortunate to have folks make generous donations towards their new ladder truck.

Bason Coffee is celebrating its 10th birthday this month by finding ways to say thank you to all of the amazing customers. Come join the festivities this weekend and next as they continue to celebrate with its customers and community.


Bloomsburg Town Park Announces its 2021 Summer Concert Series

Wednesday, June 16 McNett Country- Traditional and Contemporary Country Music
Wednesday, June 23 Greenwood Valley Boys- Traditional Bluegrass music
Wednesday, June 30 Coast Two Coast- A trio playing music from the 50’s to the present
Wednesday, July 7 Memory Lane- Music of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s
Wednesday, July 14 BC Combo*- Bringing 30 years of experience & passion to Blues, Jazz, Swing, Folk, R&B & Soul
Wednesday, July 21 Clickard Consortium- A 10-piece ensemble playing swing to modern jazz
Wednesday, July 28 Gift, Troutman and Gift- vocal harmonies from the 40’s to the present
Thursday, August 5 64th Annual Ice Cream and Cake Festival with the Catawissa Military Band. Come and enjoy
this traditional community event with food, games, music, entertainment and fun for all!
All concert times are 7:00 – 8:30
* Sponsored in part by The Exchange


 

Legislation Would Extend Benefits for Restaurants and Bars

On Tuesday, June 15th, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration certified the results of the May primary election, resulting in the end of the disaster emergency declaration in Pennsylvania. While the Legislature has extended some regulatory waivers until September 30th, benefits afforded to establishments with liquor licenses, including drinks to go, have now ended. Three bills are now being considered in the Senate that would extend these benefits. The Chamber’s Board of Directors is supporting all three of the original House proposals.

  • House Bill 1154 would allow licensed establishments to sell prepared beverages and mixed drinks for off-premises consumption permanently. The bill was introduced by Representative Kurt Masser and co-sponsored by Representative David Millard. It passed the House by a vote of 187-14 and Governor Wolf stated he would immediately sign the version passed by the House. A Senate committee added language that has now jeopardized the Governor’s support.
  • House Bill 425, co-sponsored by Rep. Millard, would allow a licensed premises to be extended to outside serving areas that are immediately adjacent to or within 1000 feet of the licensed building through 2022. This bill passed the House unanimously and the language has now been incorporated into H.B. 1154.
  • House Bill 427 would increase the discount of liquor to licensed establishments to 15% for a period of three years following the end of the disaster declaration. This legislation was also co-sponsored by Rep. Millard and passed the House unanimously.