Member News – August 16, 2017

Member News

  • The Bucknell Small Business Development Center will host its next First Step Workshop tomorrow, Aug. 17, from 1-3 p.m. at its office inside the DeWitt Building (3rd floor), located at 416 Market St., Lewisburg. This workshop is intended for people that have considered and would like to start their own business but may have numerous questions, such as what types of forms and licenses that are needed, where to find financing, how to prepare a business plan and where to open. The first step to starting a successful new venture is to attend an SBDC First Step Workshop. Cost is $25. Register online or by calling Shelley Gadoury at 570-577-1249. 

 

  • Montour County Children and Youth Services will host a free training for individuals who are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse tomorrow, Aug. 17, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. The training program is put together by the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. Though this training is free, pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, fill out this form on the PFSA website. Those registering will receive an email once their registration has been processed, which will include the address for the training location. 

 

  • Help the crew at Wild For Salmon celebrate the return of its fishing team from its record-breaking season in Bristol Bay, Alaska as it hosts its annual Fishtival on Saturday, Aug. 19, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. outside its Bloomsburg store at 521 Montour Blvd. (Rt. 11). Owner Steve Kurian and his crew caught over 100,000 pounds of wild salmon during this year’s fishing season, and with harvest numbers so high, they want to share some with the public. There will be free samples of salmon cooked by Chef Josh and the Wild For Salmon crew, and several other visitors will be on hand to free tastings, including beer and wine samples from fellow Chamber members Turkey Hill Brewing and Freas Farm Winery. There will also be an educational booth this year discussing the importance of preserving the lifeblood of the business, Bristol Bay.

 

  • The Columbia County Traveling Library will host a New Bookmobile Celebration Picnic & Summer Reading Wrap Party this Saturday, Aug. 19, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the parking lot and lawn outside its offices at 702 Sawmill Rd., Bloomsburg. In case of rain, it will be moved indoors to the conference room by the library. The event will feature free hot dogs, hamburgers and other picnic food courtesy of the Friends of the Library, a petting zoo with animals, a bouncy slide, a performance by Beatrix Potter, police officer storytime, the Art Cart from The Exchange, and much more. There is no cost to attend, and all kids who participated in summer reading will be able to select their prize books. Every child that attends will receive a prize. 

 

  • Zydeco music innovator Corey Ledet and his band will kick off the Weis Center for the Performing Arts’ 30th anniversary season on Friday, Aug. 25, at 6 p.m. on the Weis Center Plaza.

    Zydeco musician Corey Ledet

    This family-friendly performance is free and tickets are not required. The rain location is the Weis Center Atrium Lobby. Patrons are encouraged to bring a lawn chair, blanket and picnic. A free pre-performance lecture and demonstration with the artist will take place the same day at noon in the Atrium Lobby. 

 

  • Co., a social and professional networking group that is run by the United Way of Columbia and Montour County, will hold its fall kickoff event on Wednesday, Aug. 30, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Farmhouse at Turkey Hill’s Greenhouse. Co. was founded to give area residents the opportunity to take advantage of all the great things this area has to offer. This group is for everyone, which means any age, ability, or area of residence. It holds multiple events each month. For more information about Co., including future events, visit its Facebook page

 

  • PA Careerlink will hold a free seminar on unemployment compensation titled Unemployment Compensation 101 on Wednesday, Aug. 30, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the PA CareerLink Columbia/Montour Counties, located at 415 Central Rd., Bloomsburg. To register, call Donna Eyerly at 570-387-6288 or email. The seminar will guide employers through the process of the opening of a UC claim through the PA Department of Labor & Industry’s UC Service Center by an employee who has been separated from employment, permanently or temporarily, or is working less than the employer’s established full-time work week. Important points that will be explained include:
    • What forms will the employer receive when a UC claim is open or reopened and how will the information requested be used to determine the claimant’s eligibility and protect the employer’s UC liability?
    • What steps are taken by the UC Service Center to determine a claimant’s eligibility for UC benefits?
    • What issues does the UC Service Center consider in determining a claimant’s eligibility?
    • The employer’s right to appeal a determination issued by the UC Service Center
    • Any addition forms that employer may receive related to the unemployment compensation

    

  • Members of the Danville Child Development Center’s Early Intervention team recently presented to Geisinger’s Reichart Road Pediatricians about the services DCDC provides children ages birth to three. DCDC’s EI team discussed the process of referring children to early intervention and how DCDC’s home-visiting model works to provide therapies to children with developmental delays or special needs. DCDC still has room for interested volunteers to get involved. Guest readers are always welcome in its classrooms. Email Michele Jenkins if interested and to set it up. Misc. projects are often facilitated by volunteers and can always use a helping hand. Contact Steve Bevans for such opportunities. There are also some vacancies on the DCDC board. Email Diana Verbeck if interested and for how to apply.

 

  • From the Bucknell Small Business Development Center: Students enrolled in a Markets, Innovation and Design course this fall at Bucknell University are offering to design websites free of charge for local businesses and organizations during the fall semester. The web design project will provide a hands-on learning experience for the students while benefiting local organizations. Recent examples of their work include Amami, West Branch Brewery and Beer Barn. If your business or organization would like to be considered for a free website design or redesign this fall, fill out an application to be considered. The application deadline Thursday, Aug. 31

 

  • SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) has earned two 2017 Innovation awards from the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Research Foundation. Each year, the Innovation Awards program honors NADO members for their creative approaches to advancing regional community and economic development and improved quality of life. These projects have made significant impacts on their regions and demonstrate the diversity of services and program delivery provided by regional development organizations across the country. The 2017 award recipients consists of 80 projects spanning 21 states.SEDA-COG’s awarded areas are for economic development in a coal-impacted region and flood mitigation and resiliency planning. SEDA-COG coordinated the project that now provides flood protection for Autoneum and the former Windsor Foods facility in Bloomsburg. 

Philadelphia Federal Credit Union Cuts Ribbon on New Bloomsburg Branch

Last Thursday, Aug. 10, representatives from the Columbia Montour Chamber joined with representatives from Philadelphia Federal Credit Union to cut the ribbon on PFCU’s new Bloomsburg branch, located at 1615 Columbia Blvd. (Rt. 11) in the new Route 11 Marketplace. The new branch replaced PFCU’s previous longtime location next to Renco Ace Hardware a little further up Route 11. 

Before the ribbon cutting, representatives from both the Chamber and PFCU made brief remarks focusing on PFCU’s commitment to the local community and the significance of this new facility to that commitment. That was then followed by three hours of a well-attended public open house that featured giveaways and food. 

(L-R): Jim Moore, PFCU regional branch manager; Colleen DiPietro, PFCU Bloomsburg branch manager; Bernard Lester, PFCU board chair; Matt Beltz, Columbia Montour Chamber director of marketing & communications; Anna Bailey, PFCU vice president of member services; Fred Gaffney, Columbia Montour Chamber president; Karen Wood, Columbia Montour Chamber board vice chair.

Summer Town/Gown Report Contains Assessment of 2017 Block Party

The Bloomsburg Town/Gown Relations Committee presented its 2017 summer report at the Bloomsburg Town Council meeting on Monday evening, Aug. 14, and it contained an assessment of the 2017 “Block Party.” Regarding Block Party, the committee made the following comments:

This year’s annual “Block Party” event took place over the weekend of Saturday, April 21, 2017. Occurring at various off-campus properties, Bloomsburg University and the Town of Bloomsburg share concerns regarding safety, the large number of attendees, the number of out-of-town individuals participating in the event, and the reflection it has on both the university and the community at large.

The Town/Gown Relations Committee spearheaded two new initiatives during this year’s event: on-campus parking restrictions and university residence hall visitation restrictions. These initiatives were aimed at curbing the number of individuals attending the event who are not affiliated with either the town or the university. A joint town/university press release was written and distributed on March 22, 2017 detailing these restrictions as well as other general safety reminders ahead of the event.

Both the on-campus parking restrictions and university residence hall visitation restrictions were successful and resulted in an event that was more controlled, attracted far fewer visitors to campus, and yielded less citations. The committee recognizes that more work remains and intends to continue assessing new ideas, deepening our partnership with students, and building on this year’s progress.

The Affordable Care Act, Law of the Land – Still

From ChamberChoice

In the early morning hours of July 28, 2017 the Affordable Care Act withstood another effort by the Republicans to repeal and replace it. Opposition to the “Skinny Bill” won during the most recent Senate action, and so, repeal and replace appears to come to a halt. The bill was referred to as “skinny” as it would have eliminated the individual mandate penalty and temporarily repealed the employer mandate penalty and medical device tax.

So, the question now becomes, what next? Below are some of the issues that our lawmakers will be taking into consideration:

• Take steps to ensure the stability of the individual insurance market; or
• Pursue strategies that will quicken the demise of the ACA (such as destabilizing the insurance market;
• Stop payment of the Cost Sharing Reduction (these are funds the government provides to insurers to help cover out-of-pocket expenses for low income individuals);
• Further advocate “State Innovation Waivers” which allows states to implement their own innovative ways to provide quality, comprehensive and affordable health while maintaining basic protections under the ACA; or
• Enforcement of both the individual and employer mandate penalties through a separate Executive Order overriding the Order issued on January 20th suspending ACA-implementation.

Although it appears that the Affordable Care Act is in a state of flux, for employers it could not be further from the truth. The ACA remains the “law of the land”, employers need to stay the course with their ACA compliance priorities until further notice. The employer mandate requires “applicable large employers” (ALEs) to offer minimum essential coverage that is minimum value and affordable to 95 percent of its full-time employees and their dependents. Failure to offer such coverage can result in penalties. The associated ACA reporting requirements are also still effective, ALEs who failed to provide Form1095-C to its full-time employees, or Form 1094-C to the IRS should discuss this issue with their legal counsel. The penalty for failing to issue a 1095-C is the same as failure to provide a W-2; $250 per failure in 2016 and $260 per failure in 2017. However, there is another jolt to this point, since the 1095-C is required to be provided to the employee and to the IRS, those penalty amounts would be doubled. An employer’s determination of being an ALE is based on having an average of 50 full-time/full-time equivalent employees in the preceding calendar year. 

As to what will happen in the future as to any repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act remains to be seen. However, unless and until official guidance to the contrary is provided, ongoing compliance with the law is required.

Health Insurance Summary Plan Descriptions: Fact or Fiction

From ChamberChoice

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for established retirement and health and welfare plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans. ERISA requires plans to disclose certain material, including reports, statements and documents to participants and beneficiaries. One of the most important documents participants must receive when becoming covered under a health plan subject to ERISA is a summary of the plan document, referred to as the Summary Plan Description (SPD).

The SPD is probably one of the most misunderstood ERISA required disclosure documents. This misunderstanding can put an employer subject to ERISA at risk to costly problems and potential penalties. This article addresses some of the misunderstandings that some employers maintain regarding the SPD.

The information provided by insurers is an SPD: Fact or Fiction?

Fiction: The Department of Labor considers the SPD as one of the most important documents required by ERISA. Its importance stems from its role as being the primary informational document provided to participants to inform them of their rights and obligations. The SPD describes how the plan works, what benefits the plan provides, how the plan is funded, and how the benefits are obtained. While the Certificate of Coverage, Benefit Booklet, or Summary of Benefit that an insurer provides may meet some of the required information in an SPD, such as covered or non-covered benefits, it does not include all of the required provisions that must be included in an SPD. Some of those provisions are information regarding the plan sponsor/plan administrator, participation and termination requirements and a participant’s ERISA rights. Therefore, if just providing these insurer’s documents an employer will not be compliant with meeting the SPD requirement.

The SPD must actually be distributed to plan participants: Fact or Fiction?

Fact: Many employers mistakenly believe that the SPD only must be made available upon request. However, every plan participant who is entitled to benefits under the employer’s plan subject to ERISA is entitled to receive an SPD. The SPD must be distributed in a manner reasonably calculated to ensure actual receipt by plan participants. Therefore, the most acceptable means of delivery would be hand delivery or first class mail. Second or third class mail is acceptable if return and forwarding postage are guaranteed. An employer should always maintain documentation of who received the SPD. Therefore, merely posting the document or leaving it in a location where it can be picked up is not enough.

An employer can also deliver the SPD electronically, as long as certain DOL electronic delivery requirements are satisfied. Electronic delivery of documents can be by email or by attachment to email, use of a company website for posting of documents, and provision of documents on magnetic disk, CD-ROM, or DVD. The key issue remains, even with electronic delivery, the plan administrator must ensure actual receipt of the document. Some ways to ensure electronic receipt of an SPD would be to use return-receipt or notice of undelivered or unread email features, or conducting periodic reviews to confirm receipt. Other steps that must be taken by a plan administrator when delivering an SPD electronically are: notice must be provided to each participant at the time the document is provided of the significance of the document; and, the participant must be advised a paper copy will be furnished upon request.

My insurer, broker or Third Party Administrator is responsible for an SPD: Fact or Fiction?

Fiction: Under ERISA, the plan administrator is responsible for the SPD and any other disclosure requirements. This is true even where another party prepares or distributes the SPD and where that other party has contractually obligated itself to perform such services. Generally the DOL defaults to the plan sponsor, who is the employer, as the plan administrator. Thus, it stands to reason that the employer, and not the insurer, broker or TPA will be responsible for furnishing SPDs and will be liable for failure to furnish adequate SPDs.

There are consequences for failing to provide an SPD: Fact or Fiction?

Fact: There are no specific penalties in the statute or regulations for failure to prepare or furnish a required SPD. However, under the general enforcement provisions of ERISA, a participant may bring a suit against the plan administrator to enforce the requirement. Likewise, as part of a DOL investigation, the investigator is likely to require the plan sponsor to immediately produce and distribute any required but missing SPDs that are currently applicable. Furthermore, if a participant requests in writing to be provided an SPD, and the plan sponsor fails to provide it within 30 days, the plan sponsor may be charged $110 per day.

Finally, the greatest risk to a plan sponsor in failing to distribute SPDs arises when a participant makes a claim for a benefit based on a faulty or nonexistent SPD. This type of dispute can be extremely costly due to exposure for unanticipated benefits in connection with such claims, and court costs in defending such disputes.

Conclusion

ERISA has been the law of the land since 1974. Although amended several times in the last 40 plus years, it remains the main employee benefit law. Two key requirements for an employer/plan sponsor are the reporting and disclosure requirements. The main disclosure requirement is providing a Summary Plan Description to plan participants describing their rights and obligations. Failure to comply with this ERISA disclosure requirement can result in costly consequences. Thus, prompt production and distribution of SPDs is an often overlooked but crucial aspect of ERISA compliance. Contact your JRG Advisors representative for assistance with an SPD.