Updated 3/28/2020 at 8:00 a.m. Updates in bold
The Wolf administration has issued guidelines related to the order for all “non-life-sustaining businesses” in the Commonwealth to close their physical locations. The updated guidelines can be found here. Enforcement actions against businesses that don’t comply with the governor’s order began at 8 a.m. on Monday, March 23.
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 businesses which are required to suspend physical operations maintain limited in-person essential personnel for security, processing of essential functions, or to maintain compliance with federal, state or local regulatory requirements?
A. Yes. Businesses suspending physical operations must limit on-site personnel to maintain critical functions, and in all cases follow social distancing and COVID-19 mitigation guidance provided by the PA Department of Health and CDC.
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.
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.
Many employers are without choice and needing to terminate, lay-off and/or reduce hours for their employees. Linked is an overview of benefit related issues that may arise.
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 required postings and FAQs regarding the FFCRA which goes into effect April 1. Below are links to the model posters that will be needed:
• Employee Rights: Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave under The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
• Federal 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.
– 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 $350 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. A guide from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is available here. 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
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.
Monday, March 30: 9:00 – 10:30
Tuesday, March 31 9:00 – 10:30
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