Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 3/31/2020 at 3:45 p.m. Updates in bold

Business Resources

Governor Wolf’s order that all “non-life-sustaining businesses” in the Commonwealth close their physical locations is “until further notice” (unless a waiver is granted.) The updated guidelines are available here

If there are questions about whether an organization needs to close, they should contact the Department of Community and Economic Development at ra-dcedcs@pa.gov. Businesses can request a waiver from this order by emailing RA-dcexemption@pa.gov. Senator John Gordner’s office has asked to be copied on any requests at jfunk@pasen.gov. Businesses can also complete an online form. The administration has also developed a FAQ for businesses with questions about the governor’s order. One of the most common questions we’ve received since the order was issued is from small business owners. 

Q. May non-life sustaining businesses which are required to suspend in-person operations retain essential personnel to process payroll and insurance claims, maintain security, and engage in similar limited measures on an occasional basis?

A. Yes, but telework (i.e. working from home) should be employed whenever possible, and social distancing must be observed.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s website provides updated information about cases in Pennsylvania, and direction for individuals to protect themselves from getting the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control is offering advice to employers on how to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in the workplace. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also offers advice on policies and workplace practices in planning and responding to the virus.

Employment Related Issues

Workers in Pennsylvania who are impacted may be eligible for Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation benefits. The PA Department of Labor and Industry provides UC guidance for employers and sole proprietors.

Pennsylvania’s Shared-Work Program is a voluntary program that provides employers facing a decline in business with an alternative to layoffs.
• Shared-Work preserves employees’ jobs and the employer’s trained workforce during disruptions to the firm’s regular business activity by allowing the employer to reduce the work hours of a group of employees as an alternative to a layoff.
•Employees covered by an approved Shared-Work plan receive a percentage of their normal UC benefit while they work the reduced work schedule, assuming they are otherwise eligible for UC.

An overview of benefit-related issues that may arise as a result of layoffs or reductions of hours is available here.  

Employees may also be wondering whether there is coverage for testing and care under their medical plan and whether they can take a leave of absence. The attached document provides some high level information intended to address these inquiries. This information is subject to change.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed on March 18th, addresses Paid Sick Leave, Paid Family and Medical Leave, and Unemployment Insurance for workers displaced by the ongoing outbreak.  Furthermore, it includes provisions to provide diagnostic testing for coronavirus, and bolsters Medicaid and nutrition programs for at risk populations.  Click here for a summary from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 

The U.S. Department of Labor has released a required posting and FAQ regarding the FFCRA which goes 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

Financial Assistance

– 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.

– The Central Susquehanna Community Foundation is now accepting applications for its Disaster Relief Fund to support 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Lower-Luzerne, Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union Counties. The Foundation is specifically interested in helping organizations maintain their operations and respond to increased demand from clients during this critical time.

Grant requests ranging from $500-10,000 are currently being accepted. Additional funding may be considered on an individual basis. The Foundation expects to award two rounds of grants over the coming months to account for immediate and long-term needs.

Guidelines and the online application are at www.csgiving.org. Grant requests must be submitted by 11:59pm on Thursday, April 9, 2020.

For grant-related questions, contact Christine Orlando, CSCF Senior Program Officer, at corlando@csgiving.org.

– Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA) will provide loans of up to $100,000 to for-profit businesses with 100 or fewer full-time employees. The interest rate for the program is 0% except for agricultural producers in which case the interest rate is 2% fixed for the life of the loan. Loan terms are three years with a 12-year amortization. In addition, 1) No payments will be due and payable during the first year, 2) Principal and if applicable, interest payments will be due monthly for years two and three, and 3) A balloon payment will be due and payable at the end of the third year. 

Loan applications for businesses in Columbia and Montour counties can now be submitted through SEDA-COG.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocates $349 billion to help small businesses, including sole proprietors and self-employed individuals, as well as some non-profit organizations, keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payroll during this emergency. These loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward. The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship has developed a FAQ document to help small businesses learn more about the program. The administration soon will release more details including the list of lenders offering loans under the program. 

– The U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides businesses with less than 500 employees working capital loans of up to $2 million. The interest rate is determined by formulas and is fixed for the life of the loan. The maximum interest rate for this program is 3.75 percent. Terms can be a maximum of 30 years and will be determined by the SBA based upon the financial condition of each borrower. Click here for additional details about the program. 

Businesses needing assistance in applying for an SBA loan can contact the Small Business Development Center network.
Columbia County businesses – wilkes.edu/sbdc
Montour County businesses – bucknell.edu/sbdc

A growing number of companies are offering their online tools, classes, and 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.

Upcoming Educational Opportunities

The SBA is offering daily webinars from Noon -1:30 pm. https://score.zoom.us/j/723846010

The SBDCs are also offering seminars regarding disaster assistance.  
Wednesday, April 1 9:00 – 10:30
https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/26686

Thursday, April 2, 9:00 – 10:30
https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/26687

Thursday, April 2, 9:00 – 10:30
https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/26688

Remote Work Resources

Compiled below are some resources to help organizations maintain their productivity while employees work remotely.

15 Questions About Remote Work, Answered from Harvard Business Review
Free LinkedIn Learning Courses for Remote Working Strategies
Free Grow with Google Remote Work Hub
New to Working Remotely? These Resources Can Help
26 Easy Ways to Make Your Online Meetings, Workshops, and Programs a Success

A Virtual Private Network (VPN), provides remote workers the ability to access their employer’s network, while providing extra protection from online threats.  The attached document provides some insight on VPN remote access and cyber security. 

Work/team collaboration resources:

  • Conference call services
    FreeConferenceCall.com

  • Video conference services
    GoToMeeting – offering 14 days free  
    Cisco Webex – has a free option with basic functionality and offering 90 days free for higher-level options
    Zoom – has a free option with basic functionality and higher-level options
    Google G Suite – Google Hangouts is free with additional collaboration tools on a paid subscription basis

  • File sharing/collaboration
    Google G Suite– Google Drive is free and G Suite offers additional collaboration tools on a paid subscription basis
    Microsoft Office Teams

Internet Availability

  • PenTeleData is allowing anyone use of their community Wi-Fi locations for the next 60 days.
  • Atlantic Broadband has opened up its Wi-Fi hotspots so that the public has free access. A user within range will see the “AtlanticBB Free WiFi” option and will not need to provide any credentials to access.

Welcome State Farm- Laurie Powell

More than 430 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and the region. Increased membership allows the Chamber to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives. The Chamber welcomes State Farm- Laurie Powell to help us fulfill our mission.

Loacted in Berwick, State Farm- Laurie Powell provides insurance for: auto, home, business, property, life, health & more.  For more information, visit their website

Support Local Businesses without Leaving Home

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, non-essential businesses have been ordered to shutdown in Pennsylvania. Many of these businesses that are affected are small businesses.  The Chamber has created a website to sell gift certificates on behalf of members, with no cost or fees to the business. This website will provide a way for people to support our local businesses now despite them being closed or only partially operational. Participating members will receive funds for gift certificate purchases on a weekly basis. We hope to launch this website later this week with just a few members signing up. The attached FAQ sheet provides more details about the program.

If a member would like to have gift certificates available for purchase on the website, please email certificates@columbiamontourchamber.com.  

In addition to the purchasing of gift certificates, the Chamber is encouraging the public to support local restaurants that are still offering take-out or delivery service.

Bloomsburg University Classes Online for Remainder of Semester

From President Bashar Hanna
Bloomsburg University will deliver academic courses online for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester, beginning March 23. We will allow students to continue to retrieve belongings from residence halls and academic buildings this week, through Saturday, March 21, with the knowledge that they should remove all their belongings. Students will have an opportunity to move out at a later date if they choose not to do so this week.

We are certain there are many questions regarding refunds and other financial matters. University leadership is working on a solution and will communicate the decision as soon as it becomes available.

We strongly discourage students from remaining in off-campus housing through the rest of the semester.

We implore students to take this situation seriously and to heed the guidance from public health officials.   
Thank you for your e-mails and questions as they assist us in identifying information you’re requesting.  While it is impossible to respond to the volume of individual e-mails at this time, we will do our best to include answers in these broader communications. This daily communication serves as the University’s official method of sharing updates relating to the Coronavirus. 

Coronavirus: Health Coverage and Employee Leaves of Absence

As the new coronavirus disease 2019 (“COVID-19”) continues
to spread, many employees are wondering whether there
is coverage under their medical plan and whether they can
take a leave of absence. The following provides some highlevel
information intended to address these inquiries. This
information is up to date as of March 9, 2020, is general in
nature, and subject to change.  

Link to the PDF.  

Member News- March 11, 2020

  • Bloomsburg University Extends Spring Break Due to Coronavirus Concerns
    Bloomsburg University students are on Spring Break the week of March 9-13. As of Tuesday, March 10th, the University does not have any reported or confirmed cases of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).  However, over health and safety concerns for campus and the surrounding community, spring break for students is being extended by one week, with classes anticipated to resume on Monday, March 23.  During this extension, faculty will be provided training, both locally and remotely, specific to online course delivery methods.  This will enable continuity of instruction if further delays of students’ return to campus become warranted.
  • Bloomsburg SYKES 4th Annual Easter Egg Hunt
    Bloomsburg SYKES will be hosting their 4th Annual Easter Egg Hunt on April 11th, at 11am at Columbia Park in Lime Ridge.  This is a free event, with 4 different age group areas (0-3, 4-6, 7-9 and 10-12). All the candy is donated by Sykes 100+ employees and the prizes are bought from fundraisers that are done with the reps. 

  • Bucknell SBDC, DRIVE, and Merck for a Ribbon Cutting for Startup Danville
    Please join the Bucknell Small Business Development Center, DRIVE, and Merck for a Ribbon Cutting for Startup Danville on March 18, from 4pm – 5pm at  418 Railroad St, Danville, PA 17821  

    Startup Danville is a business incubator empowering entrepreneurs creating health, wellness, and technology innovations for the community. This project is supported by Merck’s Neighbor of Choice program, and partners Bucknell University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and DRIVE in providing programming, services, and space to startup firms.

    This ribbon cutting and grand opening event will feature media, elected officials, economic development partners, funding stakeholders, and is open to the public.

    Facebook event – https://www.facebook.com/events/1418953954943303/  

    SBDC RSVP – https://pasbdc.ecenterdirect.com/events/26596

  • Grant Opportunities for Local Nonprofit Organizations Serving the Greater Bloomsburg Area
    The Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation announces grant opportunities for local nonprofit organizations serving the greater Bloomsburg area. Grants will be awarded from the Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation Fund and the Hartman/Robbins/Stroup Fund. This competitive grant round begins now and will continue into July. Approximately $10,000 is available.

    Only 501(c)(3) nonprofit and governmental organizations are eligible to apply and 100% of requested funding from the above noted funds must be invested within Bloomsburg and surrounding areas. Individuals are not eligible to apply.

    Grant applications must be completed and submitted through a web-based program. Prior to beginning the grant application process, applicants are encouraged to watch a short tutorial. Interested applicants can find the tutorial and instructions for completing grant application online by visiting www.csgiving.org, clicking on “Receive” and then “Apply for a Grant”. Look for information under the heading “Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation”.

    Grant requests must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. on May 28, 2020.

    The Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation was created in 1996 from the interest paid back on a loan borrowed by Magee Industrial Enterprises from a Federal Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG). The Town of Bloomsburg invested this interest to create the Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation.

    The Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation is affiliated with the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation (CSCF) and their grant process is administered by the CSCF. For more information, please contact Christine Orlando, CSCF Senior Program Officer, at 570-752-3930, ext. 2 or corlando@csgiving.org.