Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 1/26/2021 at 10:30 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

With the expiration of the time-limited orders on Monday January 4th, mitigation efforts reverted to orders in place on December 11th.

 – Geisinger has compiled resources and information for businesses including virus symptoms, safe practices in the workplace, and testing.


Safe Practices

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

Testing

 – The Columbia County Commissioners are offering COVID-19 Rapid Testing (15-minute results) for residents of Columbia County as well as those individuals that work in Columbia County at Susquehanna Valley Medical Specialties at 6850 Lows Road, Bloomsburg.

Potential candidates will need to live or work in Columbia County and be symptomatic in order to qualify for a test. Symptoms include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell or body aches.

Call 570-389-5737 (Monday – Friday) between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm to make an appointment. Saturday morning appointments are also available. There are limited tests available and individuals must have an appointment. Individuals will need to answer a few questions to make sure they are eligible for this test.

Vaccine Distribution

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has developed a 4-phase plan for vaccinations. Currently, we are in Phase 1A. Links to determine eligibility and find a vaccination site are also available.

Timelines and rollout details for moving to next phases are not yet available. 


Financial Assistance

The new, $900 billion federal relief package passed in December renews the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), Employee Retention Tax Credit, and SBA Loan Debt Forgiveness program. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has compiled an updated guide with FAQs for these programs. A webinar hosted by the U.S. Chamber to provide an overview is available here. Links to these programs will be provided in the coming days as they are reactivated.

A webinar hosted by McKonly & Asbury provides additional details.

 
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 through March 31, 2021 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.

The loan portal is fully open for First and Second Draw applications as of January 19th. Updated PPP Lender forms, guidance, and resources are available at www.sba.gov/ppp and www.treasury.gov/cares.

– The updated Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program will provide priority for the $10,000 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. If you meet this description and received a grant that is less than $10,000 you can reapply to receive the difference. 

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

Click here for a map of census tracts approved for New Market Tax Credits. 

Applications will be accepted through the U.S. Small Business Administration when the portal reopens.

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

Employee Retention Tax Credit program

The Employee Retention Tax Credit is extended through June 30, 2021. The prior credit was 50% on $10,000 in qualified wages for the whole year (or a maximum of $5,000 per employee). The new credit, beginning January 1, is 70% on $10,000 in wages per quarter (or a maximum $14,000 per employee through June 30th).

The new law also expands which employers are eligible. Prior to the new law, the employee retention tax credit applied only to an employer who experienced a decline in gross receipts of more than 50% in a quarter compared to the same quarter in 2019. Eligibility is expanded to include employers who experienced a decline of more than 20%.

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

Local programs

The Berwick Borough Council has allocated $55,799 of Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) program funding to assist restaurants that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. SEDA-Council of Governments and The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce will be evaluating the applications on Berwick Borough’s behalf.

For businesses to be eligible for funding assistance through this program, the recipient business must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Submit a fully completed BERWICK BOROUGH Small Business Support Grant Program application to Tyler Dombroski, SEDA-COG, by February 26, 2021; and
  2. Be a for-profit restaurant business located within the municipal limits of BERWICK BOROUGH; and
  3. Be an incorporated business in and/or registered to conduct business within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and
  4. Be negatively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic shutdowns; and
  5. Be able to meet one of the national objective requirements (primarily benefit to low and moderate income persons) of the CDBG-CV program.

Grants will be evenly distributed between all successful applicants. Successful applicants will need to provide demonstrable business costs for rent/mortgage, utility, staffing salaries, inventory/supplies, and/or marketing/advertising. Grants from this program cannot cover expenses already addressed through other financial assistance programs.

Applications for the grant are available here. Questions and applications can be emailed to tdombroski@seda-cog.org.

– 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.


 

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


Member News- January 27, 2021

Century 21 Covered Bridges Realty Donates to AGAPE

From Left to Right: AGAPE Executive Director, Eileen Chapman, stands with Century 21 Covered Bridges Realty’s Dorothy Rhone, broker owner; Sue Barchik, broker owner; Ruth Killian, Realtor, and Cary Smith, Realtor.

Century 21 Covered Bridges Realty recently donated $4,000 to AGAPE Love From Above to Our Community.  The realtors collected $100 from each of their closings in December. 

 

 

 


NEPIRC & IRC Network to Host Free Legal Aspects of COVID-19 Vaccination for Employers Webinar

In response to industry inquiries, the Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC) and the Industrial Resource Center (IRC) Network will host a no-cost “Legal Aspects of COVID-19 Vaccination for Employers” webinar for manufacturing firms of all sizes on Wednesday, February 10, 2021 from 10:00 AM to 11:15 AM. The live interactive webinar will be broadcast via Microsoft Teams and advance registration is required.

The webinar will be moderated by NEPIRC and the featured presenter will be James Devine, a partner of Cipriani & Werner – a nationwide legal firm that specializes in representing employers in this niche aspect of HR and employment law. Among other topics, the event will cover the legal ramifications of mandating vaccination for employees, how to address the concerns of workers opposed to vaccination, the extent to which employers can disclose the vaccination status of co-workers and similar topics.

Manufacturing sector managers, supervisors, HR professionals and executives desiring to register for the event should email CLICK HERE to immediately register. While the event is free to attend, electronic “seating” is limited to 250 attendees.


 

Webinar Provides Details on COVID-19 Relief Programs

On January 26th, the Chamber and McKonly & Asbury co-hosted a webinar to help businesses and non-profit organizations understand renewed Federal COVID-19 relief programs. McKonly & Asbury partners David Blain and Mark Heath discussed updates to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Employee Retention Tax Credit. Employers are now able to take advantage of both programs if they meet the criteria and are encouraged to explore both options. Details on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance have not yet been finalized. 

If you were unable to attend the webinar, a recording is available on YouTube

 

Applications for the “At Your Side” Small Business Grant Program Are Now Open

The National Main Street Center has teamed up with Brother International to provide a total of $75,000 in funding to brick-and-mortar small businesses in designated Main Street America districts and UrbanMain member corridors as they work to adapt to COVID-19 and prepare for the next phases of reopening across the country, while also helping to revitalize and strengthen older and historic commercial corridors.

Applications are now open here and will continue to be accepted through Thursday, January 28 at 7:59 pm.

Grants of $5,000 to $10,000 will be awarded on a competitive basis. Applicants must operate in a “brick and mortar” storefront located in an Accredited or Affiliate Main Street America (Danville Business Alliance is an Accredited Main Street America member; qualifying its businesses located in Danville) or UrbanMain member commercial corridor. You can find those programs here.

Please review the program website before completing an application. If your question was not answered there, or you have questions about your eligibility, please email atyourside@savingplaces.org.

Eligible Grant Expenses

Eligible grant expenses include but are not limited to:

  • Physical improvements to business space to meet relevant reopening requirements implemented because of COVID-19
  • Equipment to comply with public health and safety guidelines (i.e., touchless payment methods, automatic door open sensors, or disposable menus)
  • Fees associated with expanding the business to e-commerce sales
  • Other professional services, such as business plan modifications
  • Rent, payroll, and other operating expenses

Grant Application Judging Criteria

  • Feasibility of proposal
  • Extent to which grant will help address an acute business need or help a business owner implement innovative solutions to address COVID-19-related challenges
  • Opportunity for other businesses to learn from work
  • Business’ contribution to the local community
  • How the grant will help improve the viability of business
  • Strength of letters of recommendation and supporting documents

Utilizing Digital Tools in a Workplace Health Strategy

From My Benefit Advisor

The integration of digital tools in the corporate environment is moving at a rapid pace and changing the way companies implement their wellness strategies.  Employers and many of the insurance carriers they work with have inserted technology into their benefit offerings as a way for individuals not just to monitor their general physical fitness but also to address concrete wellness needs and improve health outcomes.

Through the use of these digital tools, employees are empowered to take greater control over their well-being through the tracking, managing and analysis of critical health data. Digital health tools also increase the efficiencies of healthcare by improving access, reducing costs, increasing quality of care and making medicine more personalized and precise.

Implementing digital health into your wellness strategy will usually include a variety of tools, including:

  • Health Information Technology… utilizing a platform or application to manage the exchange of health information between patients and medical personnel in a secure, computerized environment.
  • Mobile Health… allowing medicine and care delivery through mobile phones, tablets and other wireless technology.
  • Telehealth… providing the remote exchange of data and care between a patient and their medical advisor.
  • Wearables… clothing and accessories that integrate advanced electronic technologies to assist in providing more personalized health data.

My Benefit Advisor representatives can show how you can incorporate digital health tools into your company’s benefit programs to enhance employee morale, decrease claims utilization and allow your employees to take better control of their long-term well-being.

The Chamber offers a unique insurance platform called ChamberChoice. It offers members access to My Benefit Advisor as a solution for employee benefits. For more information about My Benefit Advisor, contact Jim Pitts at 610-324-6291 or email him at jim.pitts@mybenefitadvisor.com

Berwick Borough Offering Financial Assistance for Restaurants

The Berwick Borough Council has allocated $55,799 of Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus (CDBG-CV) program funding to assist restaurants that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. SEDA-Council of Governments and The Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce will be evaluating the applications on Berwick Borough’s behalf.

For businesses to be eligible for funding assistance through this program, the recipient business must meet all of the following criteria:

  1. Submit a fully completed BERWICK BOROUGH Small Business Support Grant Program application to Tyler Dombroski, SEDA-COG, by February 26, 2021; and
  2. Be a for-profit restaurant business located within the municipal limits of BERWICK BOROUGH; and
  3. Be an incorporated business in and/or registered to conduct business within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; and
  4. Be negatively impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic shutdowns; and
  5. Be able to meet one of the national objective requirements (primarily benefit to low and moderate income persons) of the CDBG-CV program.

Grants will be evenly distributed between all successful applicants. Successful applicants will need to provide demonstrable business costs for rent/mortgage, utility, staffing salaries, inventory/supplies, and/or marketing/advertising. Grants from this program cannot cover expenses already addressed through other financial assistance programs.

Applications for the grant are available here. Questions and applications can be emailed to tdombroski@seda-cog.org.