Member News – November 14, 2018

Member News

  • The Penn State World Campus has a few upcoming information webinars during the month of November for those interested in learning more about classes and degrees from Penn State’s online classes. Today, Nov. 14, from 12-1 p.m., there will be a webinar to learn more about the Master’s in Professional Studies, applied demography degree. It will focus on how the program is designed for working professionals, and how it focuses on concepts, measures, data, software and analytical skills used in the public and private sectors. Finally, tomorrow, Thursday, Nov. 15, from 12-1 p.m., there will be a Master of Science in Nusing (MSN) informational webinar for those interested in the nurse administrator or nurse educator options of Penn State’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program. As a reminder, employees of all Columbia Montour Chamber members, their spouses and dependents are eligible for a 5% discount on tuition through the PSU World Campus. 

 

  • The Montour Area Recreation Commission (MARC) is creating a new development advisory committee to advise and assist MARC with fundraising for MARC’s long-term general operations and site specific needs at the Montour Preserve, Hess Recreation Area, North Branch Canal Trail, Hopewell Park/Danville Borough Farm Trail System and other sites. The committee will begin to meet in January 2019 on a schedule to be determined by committee members. Committee members will serve on an unpaid volunteer basis. Letters of interest are now being accepted from community members with a background in fundraising and a demonstrated commitment to supporting outdoor recreation in and around Montour County. Interested individuals are asked to provide a brief one to two-paragraph statement of their background, skill set and willingness to serve. Information should be emailed to Bob Stoudt, MARC director, by email no later than Friday, Nov. 16. Candidates will be considered by MARC’s board on Monday, Nov. 19, during MARC’s regularly scheduled meeting. MARC anticipates appointing up to eight community members to this committee.

 

 

  • Pretty Petals & Gifts by Susan, located at 158 East 9th St., Bloomsburg, as well as at 1168 State Route 487, Paxinos, is celebrating the first anniversary of its Bloomsburg store this month by offering a chance to win free flowers every month for a year. Stop in the store anytime during November and register to win. No purchase is necessary and the winner will be drawn on Nov. 30, which is also the first day of its two-day Holiday Open House (not to be confused with the Chamber’s Holiday Open House on Dec. 13). On Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and on Saturday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., stop in the store for refreshments and numerous gift ideas. There is no cost to attend and no purchase is necessary. For more information, check out the November ChamberPack flyer

 

  • NEPIRC will conduct a free leadership training seminar titled “Leadership Development Essentials” on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. at the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation, located at 725 West Front St. (Rt. 11) in Berwick. This program is intended to help individuals become stronger, more impactful leaders. While joining other managers and supervisors to discuss workplace challenges, attendees will explore topics that include self-awareness, power & authority, risk & failure and leadership style. Using self-assessment tools and experiential learning, attendees will examine their strengths and weaknesses while exploring best practices of exceptional leaders. Register via the NEPIRC event website

 

  • Wild For Salmon will host a holiday tasting event at its retail store on 521 Montour Blvd. (Rt. 11) in Bloomsburg on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. There is no cost to attend. Much like its other public tasting events throughout the year, this event will feature some dishes specially prepared by Wild For Salmon’s in-house chef featuring salmon and other seafood for attendees to taste, only this time, there will be a winter and holiday theme to the menu selections. 

Penn State (and World Campus) committed to supporting military students and families

From Penn State World Campus

Note: Employees of all Columbia Montour Chamber members, their spouses and dependents are eligible for a 5% discount on tuition through the PSU World Campus. 

Military students face unique challenges when transitioning from service to college, and Penn State is committed to providing the necessary resources and support to help them succeed in and out of the classroom.

That’s the goal for Eugene McFeely, Penn State senior director for Veterans Affairs and Services.  

“Student veterans are adult learners, have typically been away from school for a long period of time, and may have families, work a full-time job, or deal with issues that come along with service and deployments to combat zones,” said McFeely, a retired Air Force colonel. “We provide the resources to help students navigate and overcome challenges they may face and also build a sense of community where student veterans, who have already made the transition to college, help those who are new to Penn State.” 

More than 5,600 Penn State students have direct military ties as either an active-duty service member, a reservist, veteran or military dependent, across all of the University’s campuses, including Penn State World Campus.

Penn State has consistently been recognized as a military-friendly school for the many academic programs and support resources available to active-duty, veteran and ROTC students. In 2018, Penn State World Campus was ranked as a top online school for military and veteran students by Military Times and U.S. Veterans Magazine.

There are several benefits and programs for the military community at Penn State:

— Penn State aids student veterans’ transitions from service to college by providing a host of programs, including a peer-to-peer sponsorship and mentoring program run by current student veterans; veteran student clubs and organizations; and a veteran-only first-year seminar class, “Transition is the Mission,” where veterans can learn about transitioning to college, maximizing GI Bill benefits and other career and academic success aids. Penn State also offers student veterans priority registration, and there are more than 50 Penn State scholarships with either a military or veteran preference stated as part of scholarship award criteria.

— Veterans using any chapter of the GI Bill, and dependents receiving Chapter 33, Chapter 35 or Fry Scholarship benefits, are eligible for in-state tuition regardless of residency. Veterans who are not using GI bill benefits should contact their campus certifying official to determine requirements to establish eligibility for the in-state rate. All active-duty military and Department of Defense employees, along with their spouses and dependent children, receive in-state tuition provided they are stationed in Pennsylvania, or enrolled in the World Campus.

— Military students may be eligible to earn Penn State credit for educational experiences and for Military Occupational Specialties, Navy Enlisted Classification, Air Force Specialty Codes, Marine Corps Enlisted Rating, and Coast Guard Rating. Credits will be considered based on a transcript from the American Council on Education (ACE) College Credit Recommendation Service. Members of the military applying for admission can have an ACE transcript sent directly to the Undergraduate Admissions Office for evaluation of transferable credits.

— Active members of the armed services and veterans are classified as adult learners at Penn State, and as part of that population, have access to a number of resources unique to the needs of adult students.

— Penn State’s Office of Veterans Programs provides services in outreach, certification, mentorship and general counseling to veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs benefits recipients.

— The Penn State Law Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic provides students hands-on experience representing veterans and current service members in some of the unique legal issues they encounter. Under the supervision of a faculty member, clinic students help fill the critical gap between the demand for this specialized legal assistance, and the limited supply of such services in the state and the nation. The clinic focuses its work in three areas: veterans’ benefits appeals, veterans’ rights cases, and state and federal policy.

— Penn State World Campus has aligned its online degree and certificate programs, student support services, and policies to address the unique needs of military and veteran students. World Campus also has an academic military support team, representing every academic and support unit within the University, to help facilitate student success and achievement.

— Military Grant-in-Aid is an undergraduate program that brings the tuition rate closer to the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program cap, making a World Campus education more affordable to military students and spouses. The grant-in-aid is offered to all members of the U.S. armed forces, including Guard and Reservists, and their spouses, for all branches of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard under the Department of Homeland Security.

— Penn State also partners with the U.S. Army for the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy Fellowship Program, providing scholarships for sergeants majors to enroll in the online master of education in lifelong learning and adult education degree through Penn State World Campus. Students finish the degree within a year and go on to teach the academy’s Sergeants Major Course, which educates the military’s enlisted leaders to operate on all levels of leadership.

— The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness is a valuable, interactive and comprehensive resource for professionals working with military families. Its staff engage in applied research and evaluation, implementation science, education, and outreach to advance the well-being and health of military families.

Visit the Office of Veterans Programs website for more information.

Note: 

Welcome Hibu

More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Hibu, to help us fulfill our mission. 

Hibu is a digital marketing agency and one of the largest providers of digital marketing services across the United States and the world. Formerly known as Yell until 2012, Hibu’s custom marketing solutions include digital listings management, business website development and management, search marketing and optimization, online and mobile display advertising, social media marketing campaigns and online reviews. Locally, Columbia and Montour counties are served by a rep based in the Hazleton area. Local sales rep. Will Dynarski can be reached at 570-790-6468 or by email. Also, visit Hibu’s website

PPL Electric Utilities grid reliability in top 10 percent nationally

A PPL Electric Utilities lineworker installs smart grid equipment on distribution lines.

From PPL Electric Utilities

Electric service reliability for PPL Electric Utilities customers is ranked in the top 10 percent nationally and first in the Mid-Atlantic region, according to a key reliability measure from a national engineering association.

Figures for 2017 performance from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) show PPL in sixth place nationally among 93 utilities when measured on the frequency of outages on its system.

“A combination of investments in smart grid technology, in upgrading power lines, poles and other equipment, and in comprehensive tree trimming and clearing have paved the way for this continued improvement,” said PPL Electric Utilities President Greg Dudkin. “We continue to use technology to help us work smarter and more efficiently, whether it’s using big data to help drive improvements or studying how best to approach the growing appetite for distributed energy resources like solar, the customer experience remains our focus. The communities we serve depend on us. Our job is to keep delivering for them.”

The average PPL customer saw well below one power outage of five minutes or more over the course of the year. Last year was the most reliable in PPL’s history. Compared to 2007, PPL customers experienced a total of 550,000 fewer interruptions in 2017.

Power quality and reliability are top factors in customer satisfaction. Among large utilities nationally, PPL Electric Utilities ranked third in customer satisfaction on that topic, according to a recent national survey.

PPL Electric Utilities provides electric delivery service to more than 1.4 million homes and businesses in Pennsylvania and ranks among the best utility companies in the country for customer service and reliability. PPL Electric Utilities is a major employer in the communities it serves. It is a subsidiary of PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL). For more information visit PPL’s website

Benefits Open Enrollment 2019: What You Need to Know

From ChamberChoice

Open enrollment can be a complicated process, especially if decisions surrounding the employee benefits plan selections are delayed. To make matters more interesting, there are legal changes affecting the design and administration of benefits for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019, says Aaron Ochs, managing consultant at JRG Advisors.

In addition, if any changes are made to your company’s health plan benefits for the 2019 plan year, those changes should be communicated to plan participants through an updated Summary Plan Description or a Summary of Material Modifications. Employers should confirm that open enrollment materials contain the required participant notices, when applicable. Some participant notices also must be provided annually or upon initial enrollment.

With the assistance of a knowledgeable benefits professional, employers should thoroughly review plan documents to confirm they include any required changes in adherence to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Smart Business spoke with Ochs about a few important plan design considerations to carefully review at open enrollment.

What’s important to understand about grandfathered status, the ACA affordability standard and out-of-pocket maximums?

Grandfathered plan status — If an employer has a grandfathered plan, it needs to determine whether it will maintain its grandfathered status for the 2019 plan year. A grandfathered plan’s status affects its ACA compliance obligations from year to year. If an employer’s plan will maintain its grandfathered status, then the Notice of Grandfathered Status should be provided in the open enrollment materials. If the plan is losing its grandfathered status, the employer should confirm that the plan includes all of the additional patient rights and benefits required by the ACA.

ACA affordability standard — Currently under the ACA, an applicable large employer’s health coverage is considered affordable if the employees’ required contribution does not exceed 9.5 percent of their household income for the taxable year. For plan years that begin on or after Jan. 1, 2019, the affordability percentage is 9.86 percent. Employers should ensure that at least one of the health plans offered satisfies the ACA’s affordability standard. Since the percentage increases from 2018, employers could have additional flexibility to increase the employee share of the premium while still avoiding a penalty under the pay or play rules.

Out-of-pocket maximum — Employers should review the out-of-pocket maximum of their health plan to ensure that it complies with the ACA’s limits for the 2019 plan year. The limits for 2019 are $7,900 for self-only coverage and $15,800 for family coverage.

It is important to remember that a high deductible health plan (HDHP) must be compatible with a health savings account (HSA), and the out-of-pocket maximum must be lower than the ACA’s limit. The out-of-pocket maximum for HDHPs beginning in 2019 is $6,750 for self-only coverage and $13,500 for family coverage.

If the employer’s plan utilizes multiple service providers to administer benefits, it should ensure that the plan coordinates all claims for essential health benefits across the plan’s service providers, or that the plan divides the out-of-pocket maximum across the categories of benefits, with a combined limit that does not exceed the maximum for 2019.

How are the HDHP and HSA limits changing?

The IRS limits for HSA contributions and HDHP cost sharing are increasing for 2019. The HSA contribution limit increases from $3,450 to $3,500 effective Jan. 1, 2019. Effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019, the HDHP maximum out-of-pocket limit increases from $6,650 to $6,750 for self-only coverage and from $13,300 to $13,500 for family coverage. Employers should review their HDHP’s cost sharing limits and determine if an adjustment is required to meet the 2019 limits

If an employer communicates HSA contribution limits to its employees as part of the open enrollment process, the enrollment materials should be updated to reflect the increased limits that apply for 2019.