Coronavirus Resources for Employers

Updated 5/10/2021 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

Restaurant and bar operations and gathering limits were eased as of April 4, 2021. Updated guidance for these businesses can be found here.

The Wolf administration, in coordination with the COVID-19 Vaccine Joint Task Force, announced that mitigation orders except masking will be lifted on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31 at 12:01 AM.  

This change means that on May 31st, 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. 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.   

Current guidance for businesses and gatherings is available here

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

 


Vaccination and Testing

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. Applications for certain eligible businesses are now being accepted by the SBA.

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 since funds may be quickly exhausted.

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; a 25% reduction in gross receipts in 2020 compared to 2019; and be located within Centre, Clinton, Columbia, Juniata, Lycoming, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, or Union counties.

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


Wolf Administration to Increase Indoor and Outdoor Events and Gatherings Maximum Capacity on May 17

The Wolf Administration today announced that event and gathering maximum occupancy limits will be increased to 50 percent for indoor events and gatherings and 75 percent for outdoor events and gatherings effective Monday, May 17 at 12:01 AM.

This update will not prevent municipalities, school districts, restaurants and venues from continuing and implementing stricter mitigation efforts. Based on current CDC guidance, social distancing is strongly recommended for municipalities, school districts, restaurants, and venues.

An event or gathering is defined as a temporary grouping of individuals for defined purposes, that takes place over a limited timeframe, such as hours or days. For example, events and gatherings include fairs, festivals, concerts or shows and groupings that occur within larger, more permanent businesses, such as shows or performances within amusements parks, individual showings of movies on a single screen/auditorium within a multiplex, business meetings or conferences, or each party or reception within a multiroom venue.

Face coverings are still 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. The current order requiring Pennsylvanians to wear masks will be lifted when 70 percent of Pennsylvanians age 18 and older are fully vaccinated.

Currently, maximum occupancy is 25 percent for indoor events and gatherings and 50 percent for outdoor events and gatherings, regardless of venue size and only if attendees and workers are able to comply with the 6-foot physical distancing requirement.

Company EITC Deadlines and Information

From The Foundation of the Columbia Montour Chamber of Commerce

If you are a current or past participant in PA’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program or maybe filing for tax credits for the first time, we wanted to share with you some timely information as we approach the application deadline of Wednesday, July 1st, 2020. Hopefully, this will clarify what can sometimes be a confusing process. Please see below
FILING DEADLINES:
If you are a current participant and you:
– Are entering year two of a two-year cycle, or
– Have just completed a two-year cycle and are applying for a new two-year cycle,
Your filing date for 2021 credits is Monday, May 17, 2021
(Normally, the early filing date is May 15th, but since that falls on a Saturday this year, DCED has extended the early filing date to Monday, May 17th.)

If you:
– Are entering the EITC program for the first time
– Have been past participants but have been knocked out of the program
– Are currently participating, but want to apply for additional tax credits above your current allocated amount,
Your filing date is Thursday, July 1, 2021

Pass-through entities, such as S-Corporations, Partnerships, LLCs, etc., can now apply the same day as C-Corporations. Applications must be submitted electronically using DCED’s Single Application for Assistance. Click here for the business application guide.

You may not file before May 17 or July 1 (depending on your status), but you may fill out the application ahead of time, save it, and then submit it any time between 12:00 am – 11:59 pm on the appropriate date. It’s important to file on those exact days. Please don’t be late!

VERY IMPORTANT COVID-19 UPDATES
Since Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 Disaster Declaration is still in effect, the rules that were put in place by SB 841 due to the pandemic ARE CURRENTLY STILL IN PLACE. Here is a summary of these changes:
– The 60-day requirement for making a contribution after receiving approval from DCED is now extended until the end of the business firm’s applicable tax year. However, once contributions have been made for the approved amount, businesses still must submit proof of such contributions to DCED within 30-days, as always.
– Businesses fulfilling the second year of their two-year commitment that are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic shall be permitted to receive a tax credit of up to 90% of the amount contributed in year two even if they are not able to contribute as much as the prior year. As part of this COVID-19 emergency relief, DCED is prohibited from reducing the credit authorized in year one of the two-year commitment if the year two contribution is less than that of year one.

The primary purpose of the legislation is to extend the timeframe in which to make a contribution and not penalize companies in Year Two of Two who cannot make the same contribution as in Year One due to the pandemic. We understand that many companies will have no idea of their tax liability this year, but we encourage you to still apply for credits. If you miss filing on May 17th, you risk being dropped from the program and losing your early filing status.

The Governor’s Disaster Declaration could be lifted at any time which would nullify SB 841 and return the EITC giving deadlines and contribution requirements to their normal parameters. However, this would most likely require legal action to determine how and when the normal pre-COVID EITC program could be phased back into its normal pre-COVID status.

As things develop, we will attempt to notify you of any changes as soon as they become available, but we encourage you to watch closely for the lifting of the Disaster Declaration and contact DCED personally to make sure you are fully aware of the changes. The key is to maintain your credits and early filing status.

General Information
For those of you who support Educational Improvement Organizations (EIOs) like the Foundation for Free Enterprise Education, you know that this side of the program has been oversubscribed for many years. Most likely, this means that if you are entering the program for the first time, applying to get back into the program, or applying for additional credits, the $37.5 million in available EIO tax credits may be exhausted by your filing date of July 1. However, we encourage you to still apply for EIO credits because businesses drop out of the program every year and there may be EIO credits available. There is no penalty or obligation for applying.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE TAX CREDITS?
All businesses authorized to do business in Pennsylvania and who are subject to one or more of the following taxes:
• Personal Income Tax
• Capital Stock/Foreign Franchise Tax
• Corporate Net Income Tax
• Bank Shares Tax
• Title Insurance & Trust Company Shares Tax
• Insurance Premium Tax (excluding surplus lines, unauthorized, domestic/foreign marine)
• Mutual Thrift Tax
• Malt Beverage Tax
• Retaliatory Fees under section 212 of the Insurance Company Law of 1921

WHY SHOULD I APPLY?
When you donate to an approved EIO or Scholarship Organization (SO), you will receive a credit on your Pennsylvania tax liability in the current fiscal year. If you participate for one year, your tax credit is 75 percent of your contribution up to a maximum of $750,000 per taxable year. If you make a two-year commitment, your tax credit increases to 90 percent of your contribution, again up to $750,000 per year.

For contributions to Pre-Kindergarten Scholarship Organizations, a business may receive a tax credit equal to 100 percent of the first $10,000 contributed, and up to 90 percent of the remaining amount contributed up to a maximum credit of $200,000 annually.

FINALLY…
If there are other people in your organization who manage the EITC program, please forward this email to them, and if possible, share their contact information with us so we can reach the proper people in the future.

WHAT PROGRAMS CAN BE IMPACTED?
Currently, The Foundation has the following Programs approved as an Education Improvement Organization (EIO):

• Classroom in the Hospital
• Classroom on Main Street
• What’s So Cool About Manufacturing
• STEM Magnet Program in partnership with Bloomsburg University
• Annual STEM Competition
• Tech Theatre in partnership with Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble
• Educator in the Workplace
• Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW)
• PFEW’s Stock Market Game
• EVERFI Financial Literacy

We are currently developing additional programs for approval by PA DCED that include a youth leadership program and additional Classroom in the Workplace programs like Classroom in the Courtroom.

FINALLY…
If there are other people in your organization who manage the EITC program, please forward this along to them, and if possible, share with us their contact information so we can reach the proper people in the future.
For more information on the EITC program, click here.

For the complete application guidelines, click here.
You can always call or email Jeff Emanuel, Director of The Foundation with questions at 570-784-2522 or foundation@columbiamontourchamber.com

Cyberattack Causes Fuel Pipeline Disruption

From World Kinect Energy Services

A cyberattack forced the largest US fuel pipeline to shut down on Friday, May 7th.  The Colonial Pipeline system spans more than 5,500 miles and transports about 45% of all fuel consumed on the East Coast. It transports 2.5 million barrels per day of gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and home heating oil.  The disruption has already impacted the rate of shipments in the eastern United States, driving benchmark petroleum prices to a 3-year high.

Restoring the network to normal operations is a process that requires the diligent remediation of the systems, and takes time. In response to the cybersecurity attack on the system, certain systems were switched offline to contain the threat, which temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of the IT systems. 

While this situation continues to evolve, the Colonial operations team is executing a plan that involves an incremental process that will facilitate a return to service in a phased approach. This plan is based on a number of factors with safety and compliance driving our operational decisions, and the goal of substantially restoring operational service by the end of the week.

Actions taken by the Federal Government to issue temporary hours of service exemption for motor carriers and drivers transporting refined products across Colonial’s footprint should help alleviate local supply disruptions. However, businesses are encouraged to monitor fuel usage closely and take fuel savings measures over the next several days. Prices are likely to vary significantly over the next few weeks. 

U.S. Chamber Calls for Ending $300 Weekly Supplemental Unemployment Benefits

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April jobs report, which highlighted a growing shortage of available workers, and an unexpected increase in the employment rate, amid other findings.

In response to the jobs report, U.S. Chamber executive vice president and chief policy officer Neil Bradley released the following statement calling for an end to the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefits to address these labor shortages:

“The disappointing jobs report makes it clear that paying people not to work is dampening what should be a stronger jobs market. We need a comprehensive approach to dealing with our workforce issues and the very real threat unfilled positions poses to our economic recovery from the pandemic. One step policymakers should take now is ending the $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit.  Based on the Chamber’s analysis, the $300 benefit results in approximately one in four recipients taking home more in unemployment than they earned working.”

Active Shooter Preparedness Webinar

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Region 3 (DC, DE, MD, PA, VA, WV) invites you to join a two-hour security webinar to enhance awareness of and response to an active shooter event. The webinar will be held on Thursday, May 20th from 9-11 am.  Preparing employees for a potential active shooter incident is an integral component of an organization’s incident response planning. Because active shooter incidents are unpredictable and evolve quickly, preparing for and knowing what to do in an active shooter situation can be the difference between life and death. Every second counts.

THIS IS NOT A TACTICAL TRAINING COURSE

Objectives:
-Discuss the elements of active shooter incident response planning with guidance from expert instructors.
-Describe common behaviors, conditions, and situations associated with active shooter events.
-Discuss how to recognize potential workplace violence indicators.
-Provide information about best practices, communications protocols, and resources that will assist stakeholders to develop or enhance their emergency planning, preparedness, and response to active shooter incidents.

Understanding Liability and Risk Exposure:
The webinar focuses on providing awareness training that supports the development of emergency action planning capabilities. These capabilities may better position organizations in receiving important legal liability protections from the DHS Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act of 2002. To learn more about the
SAFETY Act and the types of products, services, and layered security programs that have received protections, visit
www.safetyact.gov.

Who Should Participate?
Private and public organizations
Corporate and facility security professionals
Supervisory first responders
Human resource managers
Community response officials
Health organizations
Faith-based leaders
School administrators and security officers
Homeland security representatives

DHS Resources REGISTRATION:
Products and information can be requested by contacting the Active Shooter Preparedness team at ASworkshop@cisa.dhs.gov.

For more information and resources on Active Shooter Preparedness visit: cisa.gov/active-shooter-preparedness.

Note: An email with information to connect to the webinar will be sent the day prior to the event.

Registration for this event is free.
Register here.  Registration is limited to 300 participants and will close as soon as it reaches capacity or no later than May 19, 2021 at noon.