Updated 3/31/2020 at 3:45 p.m. Updates in bold
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 email@example.com. Businesses can request a waiver from this order by emailing RAfirstname.lastname@example.org. Senator John Gordner’s office has asked to be copied on any requests at email@example.com. 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
– 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 firstname.lastname@example.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
Thursday, April 2, 9:00 – 10:30
Thursday, April 2, 9:00 – 10:30
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
- 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